If I’ve learned anything in all my years of classroom instruction it’s one thing – field trips are a must! There is only so much you can learn sitting behind a desk staring up at a chalkboard or burying your nose in a book. Students need to get out and explore new places and experience new things. But that’s easier said than done, or is it?
One of the joys of homeschooling is the freedom to take field trips whenever you want and to go wherever you want. But let’s be realistic, you can’t really go wherever you want. A field trip to the desert is not practical if you live in Minnesota. You can’t visit the space museum in a day if it’s eight hours away. An educational tour of the local factory will never happen if it’s not open to the public. No matter how deep your pockets or how good your connections you simply can’t see it all. But what if you could? – Introducing virtual field trips!
Virtual field trips are just what they sound like – harnessing the power of the web to bring new places and experiences to your students in your home. You can take your children on an adventure anywhere through the use of online resources.
The steps in planning a virtual field trip are the same as planning a physical field trip, but in many ways easier. Here are three simple, yet essential, steps to consider when planning your first virtual field trip.
Select Your Streaming Video Destinations
With the web, your possibilities are virtually limitless. Studying ancient cultures in history? Visit Machu Picchu. Learning about the solar system in science? Travel across the galaxy with pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope. Researching the great artists of the Renaissance? Visit the Vatican to see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.
One helpful resource we use is the new online video library CuriosityStream. CuriosityStream is a streaming video service for adfree, quality programs that educate, inspire and entertain. (Think Netflix for documentaries.) It delivers high quality documentaries and series created by the most accomplished producers from around the world, whenever and wherever you want to watch. The videos are categorized by topic so you can quickly discover something within your desired subject and they range from a few minutes in length all the way up to an hour and a half. You can sign up for a free, thirty-day trial to see if the more than 1000 streaming videos on CuriosityStream are worth adding to your homeschooling library.
Make Trip Preparations & Build Anticipation
What good is a virtual field trip without some guidance and direction? Your little explorer is going to learn a lot more from their experience if they are on the lookout for a few facts or bits of knowledge. Take some time to review the documentary before hand and write out a handful of questions. Mix in some true or false and multiple choice. Have them draw a picture of something new they learned or write a short poem with some new facts. Just a little preparation on your part will go a long way toward a successful and educational virtual field trip.
Don’t forget to create some anticipation the day before by giving your child a ticket to your destination or, better yet, give them clues to where they are going. Learning about great artists? Set out some paints and brushes. Taking a trip to Mars? Give your kiddo a ticket to Mars and a Mars candy bar. How about this idea? You could surprise your kids with something you’d never let them do – take a field trip in their pajamas! Make some special snacks and really set the stage for them. Think outside the box to make it a memorable experience.
Another way to make the experience memorable is with a creative craft. Since we were learning about the space shuttle program I thought it would be fun to design our own space craft. We created a space shuttle out of some common items you may already have at home. For step-by-step instructions see this post.
Embark on Your Educational Trip
Finally, you’re ready to explore. Clear some space for your student to be able to focus in on their “trip.” Give them a comfortable chair in front of the computer or a cozy spot on the couch and away you go. You might want to pause the video occasionally to make sure your child is hearing the answers to their guiding questions. Take a minute between videos to talk about what your favorite parts were or what new things you learned. You’re on this virtual trip with them after all. Take your time and enjoy the experience.
We had a blast on our most recent virtual field trip with CuriosityStream. We experienced space travel aboard the shuttle as we watched Cosmic Front: Space Shuttle. I took some time to preview the episode and wrote a few questions to guide my young astronaut. We continued our journey by traveling toward the sun as we watched Cosmic Front: Our Extraordinary Sun. The first few minutes of this documentary covered the basic information my second-grader is learning about the sun’s chemistry and function. We concluded with Curious Minds: What’s It Like to Walk in Space? and Returning to Earth where we heard from a real astronaut about their experiences in space travel.
Taking a virtual field trip is something anyone with an internet connection can do. There is virtually no limit to where you can go and what you can see. With a little preparation your first virtual field trip can be a memorable experience for the whole family.
Where will you go on your field trip?
Find out More About CuriosityStream
Experience CuriosityStream for yourself at a discounted price. Sign up now.
New users need to head to curiositystream.com and click on the “Start your free month” button. On the next page, select preferred plan (SD or HD), input email information, and create a username and password. Once that is complete you will be prompted to input the payment information and will get the option to fill in a promo code box. Enter homeschool to receive your first month free plus 15% off the next two months. Expires 11/1/2015. The discount is valid on either plan:
- Standard Definition (regularly $2.99) will be reduced to $2.50 each month for two months after the free trial month (total charge $5).
- High Definition (regularly $5.99) will be reduced to $5.09 each month for two months after the free trial month (total charge $10.18).