10th May 2021
Virtual Field Trips – An Accessible Alternative To Traditional School Trips
Field trips are a rite of passage for all school children. For many of us, trips out of school for the day, or even better, a few days and nights, are one of the most memorable events of our school life. For children and young people attending school during the pandemic, it’s been one of the events that have had to be put on hold.
Over the last year, school activity centres, museums, zoos, and a huge array of attractions that would normally benefit throughout the school year from organised trips, have had to come up with innovative ways to connect with school children. The Virtual Field Trip is a relatively new idea, but we think it’s an excellent temporary alternative for the traditional school trip. Whilst Virtual Field Trips will never have the excitement or anticipation that school trips tend to garner, they are still a fantastic way of inspiring your pupils on a particular subject or location.
What Are The Benefits Of Field Trips?
In the traditional sense, school trips have been an important part of the curriculum for years. They offer a break from the routine of school life, an exciting change of scenery and the opportunity to introduce young people to new environments, concepts and people. Extra stimulation in new environments can be especially beneficial to SEN pupils or those that learn through touch, movement or visual stimulation (probably most of your class!)
There are some obvious benefits to learning outside the classroom:
- Increase excitement and anticipation around learning
- The opportunity for hands-on, interactive learning
- Improve understanding of taught concepts in a real-world setting
- Correct management of school trip activities can develop skills such as creativity, critical thinking, teamwork and communication
- Create excitement and fun around learning
- A break from routine to have fun, expand social relationships in the class and importantly, have fun together!
How Do Virtual Field Trips Work?
A Virtual Field Trip is an interactive event that offers your pupils a new way of visiting an attraction or relevant location. The great difference is, your pupils won’t be leaving the classroom. Although this poses its own issues, such as making the definition between the field trip and your everyday teaching, there are also some real benefits! There’s no need to get parental permission for your pupils or worry about spending money. Virtual Field Trips are accessible for all types of learners and they are totally COVID safe.
Many places of interest have put together their own version of a Virtual Field Trip, often supported with lots of printable resources for teachers and pupils that can be tailored to reflect your current learning objectives or topic. Quality varies – it’s very important to review the contents of any Virtual Field Trip that you are planning to make sure it’s relevant and appropriate for your class.
Plan Your Virtual Field Trip
Below, you’ll find a list of some of the best Virtual Field Trip offerings for teachers. Many of them have been produced to a very high standard and offer lots of interactive learning, discussion points and ideas for teachers to add more hands-on activities in the classroom. If you know of a great Virtual Field Trip, or have produced one yourself, we’d love to hear about it – drop us a note on twitter.
Many castles and other similar historical attractions in the UK already have comprehensive virtual tours available online. We like these tours and virtual activities for Warwick Castle, a staple school trip destination. Leed’s Castle run live virtual trips for Primary pupils and provides loads of fun teacher and pupil activity ideas! If you are studying Scottish history, you can find virtual tours of Edinburgh Castle and lots of other historical areas of Edinburgh here.
Visit English Heritage for a huge range of virtual trips like this fantastic Stonehenge 360° tour!
It’s worth getting in touch with your local historical attractions to see if they are running something similar or may have live virtual tour options!
Both the Science Museum and The Natural History Museum have produced exciting in-depth virtual tours with lots of resources. Put together your own Virtual Field Trip with this immense collection of videos, workshops and 3D scans from the Science Museum. Or visit The Virtual Natural History Museum here for lots of interactivity to try with your class! Stellarium is a wonderful resource for pupils of all ages – pop in your location and let your pupils immerse themselves in the wonders of the cosmos! We also love this virtual tour of the ISS.
Nature.Org have put together Virtual Field Trips for all Key Stage groups here too – we especially love the interactivity of these videos!
Many zoos have produced complete virtual tours of their animals as well as access to live webcams. ZSL, who manage both Whipsnade and London Zoo, are offering digital outreach workshops for schools even as they reopen . Find out more and see if they could be right for your class here.
Or, since you don’t have to travel there to make your trip happen, why not visit San Diego zoo through their Virtual Education Programme? There’s loads of resources for teachers and fun classroom ideas too.
Top Tips For A Successful Virtual Field Trip
- Plan, Plan, Plan – let your pupils know what’s coming too – build anticipation with a countdown to the day or by involving them in the planning
- Think Outside The Box – You’ll need some creativity to make your Virtual Trip different to sitting your class in front of a video. If they are young enough, why not do a simulated bus ride, with lined up chairs. You could source some cheap pencils for ‘souvenirs or ask pupils to bring a snack to eat whilst exploring your location.
- Change The Rules – School trips are fun because they offer a less rigid, more social way of learning. Bring elements of that to your virtual trip by letting your pupils chose their groups
We hope you’ve found some great ideas here! If you want more, check out our Pinterest board filled with Virtual Field Trip ideas:
Teachers come first!
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