There’s no doubt the effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic are far reaching and the trickle-down impact will be felt throughout our lives for years to come. Despite those impacts having varying degrees of severity throughout our everyday lives depending on where you live and work, the educational arena has easily been one of the most dramatically changed.
While some schools have remained closed since last March, even schools that have gone back to in-person learning during the pandemic are doing so with major changes in place and daily schedule that are far from normal. Gone, but hopefully not forgotten, are the days of mass recess, crowded cafeterias, and the good ole fashioned class field trip.
Going Virtual Outside the Classroom
Luckily, the Internet is here to rescue us as always! When the initial COVID shutdowns went into place, many tourist destinations, museums and zoos went online to find brand new ways to stay engaged with the masses and we’ve compiled a list of some of the best virtual field trips for kids.
Whether you’re desperately in need of some online learning resources or just looking for an educational trip around the world, we’re confident your school age kids (and even some adults!) will enjoy these virtual field trip experiences.
Virtual Zoo Field Trips
Every kid loves going to the zoo! The sights and sounds of animals from around the world all in one spot are just one of the many things that make these trips exciting. Thanks to the pandemic, some of the best zoos around the country went virtual, with exclusive behind-the-scenes videos, educational material and once-in-a-lifetime experience.
San Diego Zoo Live Cam
The San Diego Zoo has provided access to over a dozen live cams for some of the coolest creatures on the planet. The live streams are available during daylight hours – 7:30AM to 7:30PM Pacific time. The warmer California weather allows for more animals to be out and about throughout the day so there is always something different to tune-in for.
Exhibit cams include the only platypus in the country, koalas, burrowing owls, the African Plains, and 9 elephants! Each live cam includes additional learning resources so that you child can learn as they observe. And with multiple live cam exhibits available, this virtual field trip can be extended for an entire week.
Cincinnati Zoo Home Safari
The Cincinnati Zoo has been well-known for decades, but recently made a splash with its adorable new addition, Fiona, the prematurely born hippo who has been featured in books, news programs and even ice cream. In the early days of the pandemic, the Zoo featured many of its local favorites during Facebook Live videos, giving everyone a chance to see some of the most unique and beautiful animals up close and personal.
Today, the Cincinnati Zoo provides access to nearly 100 home safari resources, complete with videos, learning resources, craft ideas and more! Choose your favorite animal friends to learn more about or create your own virtual field trip with these fantastic videos from the Cincinnati Zoo.
Historical Virtual Field Trips
Most kids believe history can be a little bit of drag and the idea of learning about something potentially … boring … can be hard to sell. Fortunately, these virtual field trips of historical landmarks and museums aren’t just more exciting, but actually make the boring parts a little less, well, boring!
Let’s be honest, beyond its historical significance, a trip to see the Liberty Bell is a little underwhelming. This virtual view actually gets you closer than you can in person and includes a bevy of historical videos and fun facts to engage your young learner. So while it may not come with a Philly cheesesteak or trip to the Rocky steps, it does provide an interactive perspective on one of the nation’s most historical landmarks.
National Museum of History
The National Museum of History is a highlight of any field trip to the nation’s capital, but their online tours make for perfect virtual field trips for anyone in the family. The Museum provides six different tours to choose from including current and past exhibits as well as fully narrated videos, and even includes some behind-the-scenes photos of their research area not commonly see when visiting in-person.
The interactive map helps you easily navigate the Museum as if you were really there. As you virtually travel through time, you’ll enjoy the ability to “super zoom” in on artifacts thanks to the high resolution giga-pixel images used to compile the tour.
Grab your three cornered hat and saddle up for virtual field trip back to the early days of America! The Colonial Williamsburg virtual tours are one of the best interactive sites we came across, complete with tours of Capitol, Art Museum, and Governor’s Palace.
The high-resolution photos make you feel like you’re really there and the interactive tour allows you to learn via short, well produced videos, complete with Colonial-themed music. A common theme among these virtual tours is the access provided to the viewer, allowing you to view places not typically seen during in-person visits.
After you’ve completed your historical journey, be sure to tackle the virtual scavenger hunt by finding objects located within the Art Museum and check out the live web cams located throughout the colony.
Outdoor Virtual Field Trips
One of the best parts of taking a virtual field trip is the ability to enjoy the wonders of the world without even leaving your house! For those of you who wouldn’t exactly call yourself “outdoorsy” a virtual trip is the perfect way to experience the sights and sounds of Mother Nature without experiencing the weather, dirt, bugs and more! So leave the sunscreen behind and dive into some of these amazing outdoor virtual field trips.
The Great Lakes
Dive into the Great Lakes with this virtual field trip put together in conjunction with PBS. This virtual trip is just one of many resources available to help your middle school student or future conservationist experience the wildlife and wonder of the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world.
The three-part field trip explores the Coastal Wetlands, Great Lakes Algae and the Lake Sturgeon, and how each makes the Great Lakes a wonderfully unique area of the country.
For those looking to take a deeper dive into learning more about the area, two in-depth lesson plan collections are available to explore the entire Great Lakes Region as well as the current threats they are facing. Armed with almost 30 individual lesson plans, this virtual field trip is sure to be a highlight of an entire week of learning about HOMES.
The Frozen Tunda
One of the few things in life worse than being miserably is being uncomfortable cold. Luckily, Discovery Education is here to take you to the frozen tundra, from the comfort of your own home. The Tundra Connections virtual field trips explores the natural habitat of the beloved polar bear with two age-based virtual experiences.
The Frozen Tundra experience is just the tip of the iceberg (get it?!) with dozens of amazing resources available through the Discovery Education platform. A school login is required to access the virtual field trips, but we highly recommend reaching out to your child’s school to encourage them to partner with this great organization.
Every avid outdoorsmen is likely to have a trip to Yellowstone on their bucket list. The beauty and wonder of the natural area make it an absolute must-see, but even those fortunate enough to visit the park in person likely haven’t been able to see every inch of its beauty.
The variety of Yellowstone Park virtual field trips are perfect for kids and parents alike. Enjoy four peaceful walking tours as well as 7 map-based tours of some of the parks’ most beautiful areas. These interactive maps can also help you plan for that “someday” trip to one of the nation’s most iconic natural areas.
Just For Fun: M&Ms Factory Virtual Field Trip
After a full day of virtual learning and exploring some of the most popular field trip destinations in the country, we think it may be a good time to take a break and enjoy a more whimsical and fun virtual field trip!
The Food Network has you covered with a virtual tour of the M&Ms factory that shows how one of America’s most recognizable and delicious candies gets made with a 360-degree view of the factory. You know you’ll enjoy knowing just how much time and efforts goes in to creating something that takes just a few seconds to devour and enjoy.
Let’s Hit The Virtual Road
As you can see, the COVID pandemic doesn’t have to prevent you and your family from seeing some of the coolest pieces of history, nature and more. For some people, these virtual solutions may be the only way they’ll be able to see these amazing sites, and for that reason, we’re hopeful these virtual field trips stick around for years to come for everyone to enjoy.