Monday, June 9, 2008

Field Trips without the Fuss

With the high price of fuel and distances separating schools from ideal locations, online field trips offer solutions. Virtual field trips have gained in popularity as more places of historic, scientific, geographic, and artistic significance now offer the alternative online field trip.

The recent issue of Christian Science Monitor (June 6, 2008) posted a story about places visited virtually. One seventh Stockton, CA class watched elephant seals 100 miles away on the coastline and listened as a field guide explained their behavior. Virtual field trips also prepare students for the real experience in advance of taking the trip.

The Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC), which organizes online field trips, boasts delivering more than a million trips. Visits have span the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to the Bronx Zoo.

For teachers who prefer the real trip, virtual field trips offer one-of-a-kind collaboration with experts. After Pluto was demoted as a planet, one third-grade teacher arranged for her students to interview a NASA expert.

Read the Christian Science Monitor story for additional details. Post your comments about possibilities you envision. Imagine students in Connecticut going on a guided tour of Glacier National Park without leaving their classroom. What about getting up close and personal with zoo animals? How do virtual field trips extend the curriculum? What would be your ideal virtual school field trip?

Photo of Glacier National Park from
Source: Arnoldy, B. (2008, June 8). Now students take field trips online. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved on June 9, 2008 from


Jennifer G said...

The students in my computer class are learning about webcams and I was just looking at webcam views inside the panda cages at the National Zoo! What a great way to expose kids to technology while going on a "field trip"!

Judy said...

I just posted this blog. Wow, are you fast, Jennifer G. I hadn't even finished the editing and the sourcing, and you had posted. I bet online field trips are wonderful for the youngsters you work with and extend their world significantly. I can imagine the look on their faces seeing the pandas at the zoo. It makes me want to go along.

Nicki said...

I love virtual field trips. They are the greatest way to show kids things that we would never get out to see but that directly relate to what is taught in the classroom. As a homeschooler we use these to preview some of the things that we might see while we travel during the summer and I use some of these to determine where I would like to travel to next so that I can bring them back to the classrooms.

Meg said...

Wow! What a fantastic way to expose children to things they wouldn't typically be exposed to. So, many of our children today are lacking exposure to things like zoos, farms etc. Many parents are just too busy to take them to these places. As educators, if we can provide chidlren with these experiences without having to leave the classroom then this is a winner for both the students and the school district!

michele said...

I agree with everyone's comments. This is a great way to expose students to places without geographic boundaries. While I was student teaching my students were able to "visit" the Anne Frank house in this way. It is not the same thing as an actual field trip, as mentioned by the teacher in the article but I don't think that most teachers view it as one. It is another learning experience that offers additional opportunities to expand students' horizons.

Sherree said...

I hate to be the party pooper, but I don't think that virtual trips are all that they are cracked up to be, at least in the science field.

I think back to the many Project O trips I took in school on Long Island Sound. I learned SO much about marine biology by riding the boat and actually handling the wildlife. I got much more out of the experience than watching camera shots under water or of someone else holding the animal. (I can even get that in a video; I could show Bill Nye and get the same effect.)

The actual sensory experience is what we are going for when you think of a field trip. With the Project O trip, you have the cold water, the salt smell, the warm sunshine, the great picnic lunch, the sounds of the sea gulls, etc. These are things that you can't get from a website, and because all of the senses are not included, learning in a virtual way is less effective.

I realize that most trips are not feasible, such as a tour of the Anne Frank house. (But think about what it would be like to stand there- the erie quietness, the feeling of family unity, etc.) However, I think that the example of the Bronx Zoo was silly, at least for us in CT. Instead of watching the animals in a 2 dimensional way on the computer monitor (or TV), you can scale down the trip to a local zoo, an aquarium, a farm, or even a pet store! Three dimensional, hands-on learning is so much better!

Mary Ann said...

I agree with Sheree about hands on learning being a better option as far as learning is concerned. I still remember my zoo field trips and how excited I was to see the animals as well as feed them. I think virtual trips can be a good alternative for kids or schools that can not go on a field trip. I would rather see children have experieces outside of school. The online trips can teach students about a variety of topics enhancing classroom activities.

I would love for my students to view some of the places I have seem like Bryce Canyon or Zion National Park. It makes me sad to know that some of my students have never left Connecticut. If virtual field trips could expose them to life outside of CT, then I think it can be benefical.

Jennifer said...

I do not think virtual field trips are the end all be all solution. But, they do offer students a chance to see things in real time that they may never have a chance to see. Exposure is key as Meg mentioned-especially in the younger grades when the teacher is constantly bulding background knowledge!

Bob said...

In these hard economic times “Virtual Field Trips” may become the norm; but I struggle with this. I am a rabid traveler and spend as much time exploring my world as possible. During my travels I have learned more than all the classrooms and courses I have been in and taken, combined; there is no substitute. However, I recognize that not everyone can or will make the choices or sacrifices I have made to see the world. As a teacher of a conceptual science I am constantly at odds with a curriculum that can bore a student to tears, and the marvels right outside my window and beyond. But the barriers can be overwhelming; time, costs, resistance from administrators, parental/student fear, and the liability of leading field trips never go away. This makes taking virtual trips with a webcam/Skype set-up more appealing, but clearly less educational. I have know idea what to do, but worry the path will not create life long learners.

Tina said...

I agree with Sherree and MaryAnn. I do think that virtual field trips have a place in the classroom especially with the cost of field trips,but the sensory piece is so important to learning. Without using all of your senses, you really don't get to experiece the thrill of "being there". This is a great way to expose children to new places and cultures. It may motivate them to see these places and experience these adventures at another time.

Melissa said...

Our District has taken a lot of our money away for Field Trips and the prices just keep going up. What a great way to have students experince things that they might not be able to do otherwise. I also like how we can show students things like pandas at the zoo to really look at from a Science point of view. What a great idea.