Homeschooling: The Importance of Virtual Field Trips

By Crystal Ladwig, Ph. D.
Mom and daughter on computer together

One of the best things about homeschooling is our ability to travel. Since we can learn from anywhere, trips to the beach, local springs, the Santa Fe Zoo or trips with our spouses all lend themselves to learning on the go. Yet, for most homeschoolers, some trips are a bit out of reach. Thankfully, virtual field trips help solve that problem.

What is a Virtual Field Trip?

A virtual field trip is more than simply visiting a website or looking at pictures of a destination. It’s meant to be more immersive and experiential. It’s a collection of websites, videos and virtual reality experiences that help our kids dive deeper into a place or activity. That’s especially meaningful to most homeschoolers who enjoy the ability to support their children’s interests in specific topics. You might be surprised at just where you can go!

Bring Science, History and Literature to Life

Some virtual field trips are designed specifically for exploration. For example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “MetKids” website includes an interactive map so kids can walk through the museum and stop to view specific exhibits. Or, perhaps, you’d like to walk through the White House or Smithsonian museums to see priceless artwork as you tour the halls of history. Other sites use YouTube or live webcams to provide on- demand access to places your child may dream of going. For example, your child may go on a virtual walk through the Grand Canyon or see the sights of Paris.

These trips are not limited to your computer. Many apps also allow you to explore your world. Stellarium works well on computers and phones to explore the heavens. This program allows you to see the stars in your area, track satellites and zoom in on distant stars. Many others include virtual experiments in science labs.

Planning for the Future

Kids naturally think about their futures. From their earliest years, people ask them what they want to do when they grow up. As they age, the question shifts to thinking about what they want to do after high school. Virtual field trips help kids learn more about the jobs and careers they’re interested in. Amazon offers career tour, farmers demonstrate what life on a farm is really like. See what it’s like to work for an airline. The possibilities are endless!

Incorporating Virtual Field Trips into Your Lessons

Like any field trip, virtual field trips work best when they’re linked to something else your child
is studying. These links can occur at the beginning of a new topic of study to set the stage for what’s
to come, during a study to gain more depth of knowledge and understanding, or at the end to help bring it all together.

As you select virtual field trips for your children, consider your child’s interests, learning styles
and the larger lessons you want to teach. Preview possible virtual field trips with your child in mind. Can they go on the field trip independently? Will you be there to “guide” them? What do you want them to learn when they’re done? Considering these as you plan will help you incorporate virtual field trips into your lessons in meaningful ways.

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