In 2004, I was about to start my first teaching job. That’s when I got introduced to the world.
I went on a 10-day mission trip to Uruguay. We drove the streets of Montevideo, a world capital that reminded me a lot of life in the United States. We walked through centuries-old Colonia del Sacramento, with its historic lighthouse and bullfighting ring.
We ate milanesas and empanadas and drank yerba mate — none of which I was used to having in the United States. We stopped on a country road at night and saw the lights of two world capitals — Montevideo and Buenos Aires — in one spot.
During that trip, my eyes were opened to how big the world was and how small my home state of Indiana was. I remember wishing that family and friends could have experienced what I did.
Thankfully, now we have a way to help others experience the wonder and amazement of experiencing the wide world around us.
Video call tools like Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime and others let us reach out to anyone around the world as easily as reaching someone in the classroom next door. Virtual field trips let us take students to places they likely wouldn’t visit otherwise — and often for free.
No matter what you teach, there’s someone in the world with experience, expertise or perspectives that your students can benefit from.
Here are 10 virtual field trips you and your students can take for free. They were suggested by Skype Master Teachers Dyane Smokorowski, Mike Soskil, Andrea Friend, Beth Heidemann, Gina Ruffcorn and Kyle Calderwood.
Note: Most of these virtual field trips can be found at SkypeInTheClassroom.com and utilize Skype. If you don’t find the kind of virtual field trip you want below or at SkypeInTheClassroom.com, there’s nothing stopping you from contacting the right person or organization directly to set up a call yourself. And feel free to use whatever video call platform you and who you’re calling prefer — Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime or anything else. Some virtual field trips are seasonal and others are available year-round.
1. Penguin Breeding Colony in Antartica — Visit McMurdo Research Station in Antartica and see Adelie penguins from November to January during breeding season. Your students can send a flag to fly at the field station in Antartica or get a postcard from Antartica.
2. Yellowstone National Park — Classrooms can Skype with a Yellowstone National Park ranger to learn more about geology (geysers, hot springs, volcanoes), ecology (fire, wildlife — bears, bison, elk, wolves and more), or cultural history (Native American, world’s first national park, tourism).
3. Edison National Historic Site — Students can learn how products come to be with a visit here. They’ll visit the Edison’s research and development lab in West Orange, New Jersey.
4. SANCCOB saves African seabirds — Take students to SANCCOB, an organization that saves African penguins and other seabirds in South Africa. Students will get to meet penguins and learn about SANCCOB’s efforts to protect these endangered animals.
5. Learn about Asian Elephants — The Center for Elephant Conservation will take your classroom on a journey to meet one or more of their 40+ elephants and talk to elephant handlers about their habits and habitat, elephant care and herd dynamics.
6. Meet the Night Zookeeper: Creative Storytelling — Want to unleash creativity in your students? Night Zookeeper is a digital learning tool that inspires children to create their own characters to live in a magical world. It’s also a school project that sparks imagination and develops children’s literacy skills.
7. Aviation Science — Students can visit the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City to discuss the parts of a plane and how nature influences shape and design. They can also explore the aircraft carrier Intrepid and examine the machinery that makes flight at sea possible.
8. Virtual Tour of World War II Bunkers — Take your students to Alderney, the third largest of the Channel Islands. It was occupied on July 2, 1940, during World War II. Students can take a live tour of World War II bunkers on the island and see how soldiers lived their lives there.
9. The human impact on the environment (Point Lobos State Nature Reserve) — The reserve is a wild place perfect for experiencing our human impact on the natural environment. Weather and conditions permitting, students can take a kayak in Whalers Cove to explore a kelp forest up close.
10. Mount Rainier National Park Distance Learning Programs — Connect with the park to visit an active volcano, an old growth forest, or the nation’s fifth national park. Virtual visits with Mount Rainier National Park are free and are aligned with national teaching standards.
Looking for more resources to get started? Check these out:
- Virtual Field Trips: Quick Start Guide — This page gives you some first steps to participating in Skype virtual field trips.
- Skype Master Teachers Tips — In this video, several Skype Master Teachers share tips for connecting your class globally.
- Skype Master Teachers session from the Ditch That Textbook Digital Summit — These are notes from a presentation on getting your class connected globally from the Ditch That Textbook Digital Summit in December 2016.
Question: Have you ever participated in a virtual field trip or connected your class globally? Share your experience! If not, what has you excited about the possibility? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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Interested in having Matt present at your event or school? Contact him by e-mail!
Matt is scheduled to present at the following upcoming events:
|Date||Event / Event Details||City / More Info|
|+|| 03/01/2018||Kids ROE||Loves Park, IL|
|+|| 03/07/2018||Delaware Association of School Admin|
|+|| 03/16/2018||Lake Shore Central School||Angola, NY|
|+|| 03/30/2018||Taylorville CUSD||Taylorville, IL|
|+|| 04/21/2018||Great Expectations||Edmond, OK|
|+|| 06/01/2018||MSD of Martinsville||Martinsville, IN|
|+|| 06/04/2018||Granbury ISD||Granbury, TX|
|+|| 06/05/2018||Columbus City Schools||Columbus OH|
|+|| 06/07/2018||School City of Mishawaka||Mishawaka, IL|
|+|| 06/13/2018||InnEdCo||Keystone, CO|
|+|| 06/21/2018||Barr-Reeve Jr/Sr High School- Washington Community Schools||Washington, IN|
|+|| 08/09/2018||St. Joseph Grade School||South Bend, IN|
|+|| 08/14/2018||Tech Camp||Portage, Michigan|
|+|| 08/15/2018||St. Anthony de Padua Catholic School||South Bend, IN|
|+|| 09/24/2018||Alliance for Curriculum Enhancement||Billings, Montana|