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Virtual Fieldtrips: Connecting students to culture, geography and the world

April 23, 2012
at 5:00 am PST

Ah, the fieldtrip! Brings back memories, doesn’t it? Well, actually, the memory I always recall is not entirely a happy one. Sure the zoo was fun, but what I remember most was the bus breaking down, the monkey hitting my friend in the eye with a butterscotch candy and a dark-haired boy promptly throwing up when we walked into the hippo area. It was still fun, though, to get out of school for the day and explore what we were learning hands on. An opportunity for real-life engagement in the learning process. Unfortunately, with budget struggles, time constraints and often just a school’s rural location, fieldtrips are few and far between for many schools.

More and more schools, however, as I’ve written before, are finding ways to take virtual fieldtrips (or VFTs) allowing students to participate in the same live, interactive experience without bus rides, transportation costs and loss of instructional time.

For example, the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC), a clearinghouse of organizations and institutions offering distance classes using Telepresence and other collaboration technologies, helped connect a 9th grade geography class at St. Thomas Aquinas High School (STA) to West Africa this last fall. The students participated in a long-distance interactive lesson on West African dance taught by Marc Kotz, owner of Born 2 Move Movement Adventure in Wisconsin. The class was able to discuss the geography and culture of Africa, and the group proceeded to enthusiastically engage in a “harvest dance” demonstrated by Kotz thousands of miles away.

Other virtual fieldtrip examples include students experiencing careers on and off the football field with the Professional Football Hall of Fame, a video conversation with a student and parent who recently visited the Great Barrier Reef, and even trips to visit with other students like the example of two New Jersey Middle Schools connecting to discuss a book they all read.

Have you been involved in any interesting fieldtrips lately?

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