The part that always struck me as a teacher was that, on the first day or school (or even in the summer before), I was constantly having to keep the very last day of school in mind. I had to set my targets for where I wanted my students to be come May and June, and then keep reevaluating how I was going to get them there. One of my favorite ways to teach was through large, cross-curricular, ongoing projects, where students would work toward a single goal throughout much of the quarter or semester. Oftentimes, we would take the students on a field trip to kick off or accompany their project, something I always looked forward to. For example, one year students worked on a project centering on The Great Chicago Fire. We took the students to the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago to learn how to use the library for research (they were AWESOME) and the Chicago History Museum to learn, hands-on, about the Chicago Fire and Chicago history (we even had a docent come visit our class!). When we got back, students worked on researching and writing their paper in their technology classes and my ELA classes while focusing on a special Chicago history unit in their social studies classes. The projects turned out great, but what kept resonating, long after they were graded and passed back, was that they learned more from those field trips than they did in any of their research.
This only supports my love for field trips. I think they are some of the most important learning experiences we can provide for our students. I have always been fortunate enough to work in schools where funding for these special opportunities was available, however I know this is not always the case for many teachers out there. Not having the funding, however, does not necessarily mean you can’t get some of those same hands-on learning experiences, though! With a little bit of “Internet Magic” you and your class can go on virtual field trips all over the world – check out some of the possibilities below!
- AfriCam: Live video feeds from various game reserves and safaris across Africa. Since it is live, there are not always animals present, however you can even sign up to be alerted via Twitter, Facebook, or RSS when animals appear. Also includes some articles and discussion forums relevant to the topic of wild animals.
- The China Guide: offers a 360 degree tour of the Great Wall of China, even allowing visitors to “move” about the wall as if they were walking it themselves.
- Google Cultural Institute: gives access to thousands of classic paintings from all over the world and all throughout history. By searching, you can find specific artist or paintings and can even access individual museums, which you can then tour, as you would tour a city in Google Earth.
- Google Earth: Google Earth and it’s map/tour building features offer teachers the ability to easily create their own globe-trotting field trips. Whether it is scouting the location where a novel is set or taking a virtual tour of Auschwitz, Google Earth offers limitless opportunities.
- Google Moon: Do you use Google Earth? If yes, then you already have this function! Simply choose “moon” from the top toolbar to begin exploring the moon as you would the earth in Google Earth.
- Google Treks: visitors can explore unique and exotic locations using Google’s StreetView technology. My personal favorite is their Trek of Darwin’s Gallapagos Island. You can click your way all throughout the island, and even take a “swim” with the sea lions off the coast. It is truly one of the most unique web experiences I have ever seen.
- Google World Wonders Project: The real power of Google Earth is seen here. Visitors are able to explore dozens of historical sites and Wonders of the World with just a few clicks. Wonders are sorted by location and by theme, making it easy to skim the globe in seconds.
- Inside the White House Interactive Tour: regularly updated with new content, this tour gives visitors an inside look to the historic White House with pictures, videos, and articles.
- International Spy Museum: 360 degree views of special exhibits at this unique museum located in Washington DC. Also allows visitors to take closer looks at certain artifacts within the exhibit.
- Louvre: 360 degree views of special exhibits allow users to visit this historic museum, located in France. A tip: the website is in French, so open with Google Chrome, which will automatically translate it for you.
- National Museum of the National AirForce: 360 degree views of the entire museum, as well as additional article and pictures for various museum “hotspots”
- National Naval Aviation Museum: 360 degree views of the entire museum located in Pensacola, FL, as well as additional article and pictures for various museum “hotspots”
- National Park Service WebCams: live feeds from 18 national parks across the country. You can also search additional webcams by searching for the individual national park’s profile on the site.
- Polar Husky: classrooms can follow along in real time with research and dog teams in the Arctic. Expeditions begin throughout the year
- The Sistine Chapel: a must see, 360 degree panoramic tour. The site allows visitors to explore the chapel, zooming in and out, in order to better see the intricacies of the paintings (especially those on the ceiling!).
- Smithsonian Natural Museum of History: complete panoramic views of the entire museum, all of their collections, and even some past/”archived” collections
- U.S. Capitol Virtual Tour: offers an interactive tour of several main government buildings along the Mall. Visitors can “hop” from building to building, viewing 360 panoramic views, and learning about their unique histories.
- Wieliczka Salt Mine: Explore this beautiful salt mine located in Poland using Google’s Street View. Visitors can click through various rooms of the mine, including a chapel, as if they were there exploring it themselves.
Do you know of any that I missed? Let me know in the comments section below!