By Danielle Barfoot, mom to a boisterous teen and freelancer who writes about parenting and education. She writes regularly for Impaq Education, a curriculum provider for home, tutor and school education.
Field Trips have just become so much more awesome! COVID-19 has undeniably changed life as we know it, presenting new opportunities and challenging the norm of many industries. So while we are afraid to venture out for a traditional school outing, bring back the fun with a virtual tour!
Virtual field trips are an exciting way to visit places around the world, at any time, without leaving the comfort of the couch or classroom. It creates an interactive, stimulating, and enriching learning experience. Learn about history, discover science, appreciate art, and even explore space using technology.
Why would you rather go on a virtual tour
- Brings learning to life
Learners may forget an article they read about space, but they are less likely to forget watching interviews with astronauts, touring the International Space Station, or roaming the surface of Mars.
- Broadens horizons
A virtual tour enables learners to explore places and ‘meet’ people that they might not have been able to visit or meet otherwise. Unlike traditional field trips, it exposes them to places outside their geographic region.
- An unlimited resource
Distance, time, and money are irrelevant as learners can virtually visit anywhere and can instantly access current, applicable, and detailed information related to their ‘trip’.
- Interactive experience
By offering a bird’s-eye view or a 360-degree rotation of a location, a virtual tour creates a highly interactive experience that gives learners the freedom to discover and learn at their own pace.
Virtual field trips cater to all learning styles – while audio-visuals and narratives guide auditory and visual learners, kinaesthetic learners can benefit from manipulating and moving objects by clicking on them.
Where to go for your first virtual tour
Keen to plan your first virtual field trip? Several museums, zoos, historical sites and natural wonders around the world offer virtual tours – many even include related information and educational projects and activities. Here are a few suggestions:
The zoo’s website contains videos, activities, and games, plus they have live cameras on 11 different animals. Children can check in on the elephants and giraffes or take a peek at what the penguins and koalas are up to. Visit now
Fun fact: The San Diego Zoo houses over 3 700 animals of more than 650 species, and was a pioneer in the concept of open-air, cageless exhibits that recreate natural animal habitats. It is one of the few zoos in the world that houses and successfully breeds the giant panda.
WildEarth offers live ranger-hosted sunrise and sunset safaris from Djuma Private Game Reserve in The Sabi Sands, and Beyond Ngala Private Game Reserve close to the Kruger National Park. Visit now
Fun fact: You can send in questions, which the guides will answer live during the safari.
If learners are curious about fossils, ancient mammals, dinosaurs, or just about anything else, then let them (virtually) step inside the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, which boasts more than 500 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils, minerals, rocks, meteorites, and human cultural artefacts. Visit now
Fun fact: The museum features a collection of 46 complete dinosaur specimens, including complete skeletons of a T-Rex, a Megacerops and a Triceratops.
Children can immerse themselves in art and history at what is arguably the most famous museum in the world – no plane ticket to Paris or passport required! Visit now
Fun fact: The Louvre is the biggest museum in the world. If you were to spend 30 seconds on each piece of art in the Louvre, it would take 100 consecutive days to get through them all – without sleep, breaks, or mealtimes.
China’s most famous attraction is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It boasts a history of over 2 000 years, making it one of the most impressive ancient structures on the planet. Visit now
Fun fact: The Great Wall of China is the longest manmade structure in the world, with a total length of approximately 21 196 km.
Learners can explore the surface of the planet with NASA’s camera on Mars. During the trip, learners will find out how the rover got to Mars, and they will learn about the rover itself and how it walks across the planet’s surface. Visit now
Fun fact: Mars, also known as the Red Planet, is the fourth planet from the sun and is named after the Roman God of War.
This engaging and in-depth interactive journey, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, will let learners explore one of the greatest wonders of the natural world. Visit now
Fun fact: The Great Barrier Reef makes up 2 300 km of Australia’s coastline and is home to 1 500 species of fish, 600 coral species, and 30 different whale and dolphin species.
Also read: Plastic-free July: get rid of the big four
You don’t need a time machine to discover Ancient Egypt! This virtual field trip enables learners to explore the magnificent structures of Ancient Egypt, including pyramids, sphinxes, and temples. Visit now
Fun fact: The Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, it is the oldest of the Ancient Wonders of the World and the last one still mostly intact. It was the tallest manmade structure in the world for more than 3 800 years.
Focus on nature and conservation
For virtual field trips specifically focused on nature and conservation, check out Nature Lab. It offers several virtual excursions that allow learners to do everything from exploring a coastal rainforest while in a canoe to unlocking the secrets of coral reefs. Every virtual tour contains a video, teacher guide, and educational activities. The site is also a fantastic resource for any lessons relating to nature, conservation, and the environment.