Saturday, January 14, 2017

Virtual Field Trips For Middle Schoolers

Budget cuts. This time they hit you personally. Those fabulous field trips your students used to look forward to are now off the table. How are you going to replace them?

Thankfully, we live in the digital age. Virtual field trips are not a new concept, but the options and availability are growing and changing as I type this. As a thrifty homeschooling parent, virtual field trips have always been a part of my teaching world, but I realize that the idea may be new for some. SO. How about I share with you 3 of my top picks for virtual field trips perfect for Middle School classrooms. I also am just learning how to use Google Earth to create my own virtual field trips that I can share with my tutoring students, so I'll share what I've learned so far. 

Oh, and btw, this post is linked with a little group of teacher bloggers who are all sharing fresh ideas for teachers, and we are giving away a camera to one of our readers to use in his/her classroom!
1. History/Geography: Beringia

7th and 8th grade students across the country learn about the Beringia Land bridge and how it allowed the first people to find the North American continent. But it seems like ancient history, and no one cares! At least that was the song my 8th graders were singing this year. What if we could bring them there today? What if they could interact with the people and see their customs? Ok, we know we can't, but we can bring the Iditarod Dogsled Race to them!

Start the field trip off with a little geography overview, and add in a little math while you're there!
Under the "Curriculum" drop-down menu, you chose which direction to take this field trip. Learn how the Iditarod race route has been changed and shaped over time by selecting "Breaking the Trail." Help your History students connect their geography brain to their math brain by clicking "Fastest Team Ever." Or, you may want to help your students personally connect by discovering how people develop a connection to their homeland, by choosing "A Sense of Place."

Each of the pages under Curriculum will provide questions for discussion and extension activities, projects, or videos to help your students dive right into the subject.

2. STEM: Architecture and Design

Students of all ages constantly bemoan math, wondering, "When will I ever use this?" A virtual field trip into the world of various designers and architects quickly answers the question and may open students eyes to some interesting careers. 
You can organize this journey in a number of ways. I start off on the road, at This interactive website allows students to explore several careers, but it also provides teachers with tools to promote discussion and extend the experience with activities. Once you've "entered the building" you can decide whether to view videos (each are around 4-5 minutes, covering careers such as a cake designer, sculptor, architect, urban planner, and landscape architect), or try your hand at designing either your own park or environmental center. 

3. Geology: Explore the layers of the Grand Canyon

Our budding scientists either love geology or hate it, I haven't figured out why but there doesn't seem to be much middle ground. Bringin the layers of rock to life will help those disconnected students engage, if even only for a few minutes at a time. And being right there at the base of a 3,000 foot cliff will no doubt encourage your geology-loving students to dig deeper.
This interactive virtual tour offers 3 options. Each option includes pictures, video, and audio. The two guided tours also included quiz-like questions along the way.

DIY with Google Earth

There is a definite learning curve to using Google Earth to create your own virtual field trip. I already said I am just figuring this out, so I'm not quite there yet, I will absolutely share with allI learn along the way!

The first thing I've discovered is that it's really all about the story. The "tour guide" really has to have a definite plan, and be willing to spend some time recording ahead of time. A key component to setting up your virtual field trip is knowing where you want to "pin" your images. There's a tool that looks like the Pinterest pin (only it's yellow), and when you insert the pin you are given a box to label and describe the location. You can include as many images as you'd like at that location. 

Once you've added all of the locations, you can reorganize them into the desired order, and then start moving along the route. As you move along the route, you'll record your commentary (if you want to include it in the tour). As I was playing around with this, creating a field trip of a recent vacation I wanted to share with my extended family, I thought that this might be a great way to prepare for a lesson you really want to teach, but know you'll be unable to teach yourself. A homeschooling, tutoring momma has no need for sub plans, so if any of you have ever done this, or venture in this direction, I'd love to hear all about it!

Mrs. Russell's RoomELA BuffetKirsten's KaboodleAmy MezniCinnamon's ClassroomThe Room MomStudy All KnightBrittany WashburnInteractive Learning with Miss StefanyMeredith AndersonImage HTML map generator

Do you have a favorite virtual field trip you've used before, and plan to use again? Please share it with the rest of us in the comments below.


  1. Awesome ideas! My students do learn about the land bridge, so I'm going to investigate the virtual Iditarod trip.Thank you for sharing the idea!
    Darlene Anne
    ELA Buffet

  2. I am going to save these for my son. When he gets antsy with homeschool, maybe we could take a "field trip" to some of these places.

  3. Thanks for sharing this! My students love virtual field trips, and I am always looking for new ideas for this.

  4. Virtual field trips are great!! Students benefit from them so much! Thank you!

  5. I have never used a virtual field trip before.

  6. I've always wanted to try a virtual field trip with my students. I'm glad I found your post!


Most Popular Posts Lately