11 Free Virtual Field Trips for Touring the World From Home

These virtual experiences can closely connect to the curriculum, whether that means chatting with an astrophysicist or visiting the Schindler factory in Poland.

school bus in collage with landmarks

Field trips have long been a seminal piece of the educational landscape. They allow teachers and students to cement concepts in real time, making learning relevant to future endeavors and lending weight to classroom concepts. However, field trips are also difficult to arrange, expensive, and often exasperating to schedule in a testing-driven environment. Fortunately, many organizations have moved their field experiences online, while others have created new virtual journeys to explore everything from shipwrecks to great works of literature.

Virtual field trips are great options for students attending school from home, without the equipment usually available through the library. The opportunities here are entirely free and do not require any special technologies. These 11 engaging tours can closely connect to the curriculum, helping students to broaden their world from home.

Synchronous

Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants This site offers a variety of field trips live via YouTube Live, and students can ask questions of featured speakers via the comment bar. Sign up in advance to be a featured classroom and learn about all types of exploration professionals, from astrophysicists to shipwreck explorers.

NOVA In addition to fantastic educational programming, PBS offers free virtual field trips a few times per month via their Facebook page. Polar scientists, forest rangers, and paleontologists hop online to talk about their work and answer questions live.

Skype in the Classroom Skype connects classrooms with experts on a variety of subjects from around the globe. By pairing with an expert, students can learn from maritime ecologists about the Florida waterways or the Verkhoturye Museum in Russia. Use the filtering tools on the left side to find some amazing field. Lengths available of sessions vary.

Asynchronous

American Jazz Museum Available through the enormous collection at Google Arts and Culture, the American Jazz Museum centers on the neighborhood of 18th and Vine in Kansas City, MO, the center of black culture during the eras of reconstruction and segregation. The virtual field trip walks you through the history of jazz in Kansas City with objects of interest including original maps of the area, jazz programs, Bettye Abel’s stunning cloche hat, and even Bill Clinton’s saxophone. The collection also features an immersive 360-degree tour of the museum proper.

Google Lit Trips Google Lit Trips are fantastic for building background knowledge around novels. The trips are primarily focused on the canon, with a variety of modern and diverse titles including Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan and A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. There is also a mechanism to request that a trip be created, which could build a more representative body of titles. Google Lit Trips also offers an opportunity for students to create their own trips in response to readings. They are sorted by grade level, and the database is searchable. The interface is a little complex to navigate, so younger students may require some help from an adult.

The Louvre A perpetual leader in virtual tours, the Louvre Online allows students to navigate the various galleries. By clicking on the magnifying glass and then the question mark, visitors can take a look at anything from Renaissance art to ancient Egyptian artifacts and also explore the history of the remarkable building.

MARS Google has put together a great interactive 360- degree experience to explore Mars. Don’t skip the opening, and click on the “Learn” markers to find out details about our mission to the red planet via the Mars Rover and what mankind has learned.

The National Parks Foundation The National Park Service offers field trips to several national parks in a variety of formats. Videos, guided tours, 360 videos, 3-D models, and live webcams are all freely available.

The Nature Conservancy The Nature Conservancy offers free virtual field trips through a variety of landscapes. Closely tied to curricular standards, these field trips use academic language when touring sites including coastal temperate rainforest, coral reefs, and West Virginia wind farms. Teacher guides that include graphic organizers, rubrics, and extension materials for a variety of standards and grades are also available.

Smart Guides The Smart Guides Travel Audio Guide app is perfect for social distancing. The app uses GPS to take you on walking tours of thousands of towns, cities, and landmarks. You can walk around your own town, learn about the legislative branch by walking though the Congressional District in Washington D.C., or travel (virtually) to Krakow, Poland, to tour Schindler’s factory. Smart Guides would be a great accompaniment to a local or state history curriculum.

DIY Tours

Documenting our own time and place is a great way to get kids outside (once social distancing requirements lift) and engaged from home.

Echoes This web tool allows students to create GPS-triggered audio tours of any location, be it their neighborhood, their apartment, or a local landmark. It’s also an amazing tool for creating primary source documents.

Google Tour Creator This tool allows anyone to create a tour, either using photographs from Google Earth or by uploading your own. Students at my school used Google Tour Creator to publish their research about the slave quarters at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Plantation. Documenting local history is made easy with audio and text captioning.

A 20-year veteran of Albemarle County Public Schools, IdaMae Craddock, M.Ed is the librarian at Albemarle High School in Charlottesville, VA.

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