Trips Go Virtual
The virtual field trip has finally come of age, and
if you haven't yet taken one with your students, now is the time. Whether
you are studying the geology
of the Galapagos Islands or learning about the Dead
Sea Scrolls at the Library of Congress, there is bound to be a museum
or organization that has set up a Web site that enhances your curriculum.
In some cases, the exhibits have been long gone, but online visitors still
have the opportunity to visit the exhibition on the Web.
Many reputable museums and organizations have created
online exhibits that allow students to learn in an online multimedia environment.
The experience might include still photographs, audio clips, streaming
video, text, or interactive games.
Like any worthwhile instructional activity, arranging
and conducting a virtual field trip requires planning. Here are a few
basic guidelines that may help you make your virtual field trip a success.
1. Unlike a regular field trip, your worries about
students running off in all directions and getting lost are diminished,
but not gone. Be sure students know the URL they need to be on and that
it is not acceptable to leave the site.
2. Complete your own research before attempting to
lead students on the field trip. Spend time at the site or exhibit yourself
and get to know it thoroughly. If there are external links (links that
go to other sites), follow them to make sure they are appropriate for
3. Build excitement around the virtual field trip.
Like a regular field trip, students should look forward to visiting the
exhibition. Prepare students with background information about the subject
area, including key vocabulary and concepts. Try to come up with a mystery
or riddle that students will solve once visiting the online exhibit.
4. Provide goals for students to reach while on the
field trip. If computers are limited, divide students into groups and
have them complete a treasure hunt. As with all lesson plans, consider
how long it will take for students to accomplish the objectives.
5. Provide activities that engage students and extend
learning. These activities can include an analysis of data, identification
of patterns, or comparing and contrasting information.
6. Create follow-up activities that students must
complete after they have left the exhibit.
So get online and start researching your next virtual
field trip today—it's the next best thing to being there.
Virtual Field Trip Ideas
The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. is the world's largest
museum system. Funded by the federal government, it includes 15 complete
museums covering everything from art, design, and culture to history,
science, and technology. Their Web site is one of the most thorough on
the Internet and worth more than one visit.
Yet another rich Web site managed by a prominent federal institution,
the Library Congress has a wealth of online exhibits to use in the classroom.
At last count there were more than 40 exhibits online. Here you can find
historical documents, videos, and images collected by the library of congress.
Museum of Science, Art, and Human Perception
Astronomy, biodiversity, and DNA are just a few of the fascinating subjects
taken up in the online exhibits available from the Exploratorium. One
of the first online science museums in the world, the Exploratorium has
over 16,000 Web pages that explore a wide variety of topics.
Tour of the White House
Avoid the long lines that string outside the White House every muggy August
day and get an insider's look at the White House. This site includes information
about the history of the White House, its collections of art and furnishings,
games and puzzles, as well as virtual video tours given by the President,
First Lady, and others.
U.S. Capitol Virtual Tour
Visit the U.S. Capitol Web site for a virtual tour. This site includes
extensive historic information and interactive images that can be viewed
Mathematics exhibits can be somewhat more difficult to come by, but this
wonderful site from Surrey University provides a fascinating exploration
of the Fibonacci Numbers, the Golden Mean, and their relevance in nature,
science, and art.
From the Sierra Club, the John Muir exhibit contains a staggering array
of information about the life, writings, and interests of John Muir. The
exhibit is well-organized, and teachers can choose to focus on a number
of different aspects of Muir's life.