My STEM Units

Monday, September 23, 2013

National Parks: Treasures for Teachers - Virtual Field Trips and Other Online Opportunities

I remember the first time I saw Star Trek.  As Captain Kirk talked "face to face" with others on a big screen in real time, I thought it would never be possible in my lifetime.  Yet, now we have Skype, FaceTime, and other video chat apps.  National parks are using this technology to bring the park to your classroom.    

What sort of virtual field trips are available?

Currently, there are 53 virtual field trips offered nationwide.  Some national parks have one virtual field trip which highlights their entire park.  Some have multiple virtual field trips.  For instance, Grand Canyon has nine such virtual field trips, intended to teach students on various science and social studies concepts.  The field trips are aligned to state standards by grade level.  One such field trip examines fossils and rock layers in the canyon.

Other examples of virtual field trips include visiting Ellis Island, exploring the Great Depression and New Deal, or a live dive into the kelp beds of the Channel Islands.   

How much do these virtual field trips cost?

Many workshops have no fee.  Your tax dollars have already paid for the computers, cameras, and software required.  However, some virtual field trips do have a small fee.  For instance, this summer, a classroom in our district went on a virtual field trip 2,000 miles away.  The location mailed a huge, plastic box (similar to a Traveling Trunk) filled with rocks, fossils, and magnifying glasses. Our small fee paid for the shipment of the box back and forth.    

How can I find virtual field trips?

LearnNPS is a very helpful website to find most information.  Start your search by clicking "Distance Learning" on the left margin.  You can search by park or by state.   

For instance, if you are interested in virtual field trips for Grand Canyon National Park, click here for a detailed list of programs available. Their 9 programs target grades preschool through high school. On this site, you can also download the application.

What other online opportunities are available for my classroom?

NPS also has a wonderful WebRanger program.  Students can play with interactive games to learn about the science behind our national parks.  Some national parks have virtual hikes.  Students can even earn virtual badges!  

National Parks: Treasures for Teachers is a five part series.  We will explore the resources for teachers (most of which are free!). Read on and experience your America in a new way.

  1. Teacher Workshops
  2. Traveling Trunks and Materials on Loan
  3. Virtual Field Trips and other Online Opportunities
  4. Teacher-Ranger-Teacher
  5. Field Trips and Institutes

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