March 17, 2020….when you read that date do you think St. Patrick’s Day or the first day that ALL Illinois Schools would be required to be closed due to the Coronavirus Pandemic????1 Everytime I hear March 2020 or see it written, I unconsciously take a deep breath. It was then, on March 17, 2020 that I decided (or was I forced?) to put my teacher hat back on to be the best kindergarten mom/teacher I could be to my daughter. I immediately went into our attic and pulled out all the manipulatives I had saved from when I taught first grade, created a weekly lesson plan template (see image) that I would fill out every Sunday that my husband and I could follow for the week, and planned a virtual field trip to a museum our family would explore (together) on the weekend. Yes, clearly the Type A personality in me totally kicked in. I was determined that not only would my family survive quarantine and the CoronaVirus, but we would thrive, so that worked out…..until week 4 hit!!
So clearly I was a little over-ambitious about what my family’s reality would be in quarantine. Two working adults and an only child with Zoom meetings that sporadically were scheduled didn’t leave much time for my amazing schedule I had all mapped out. We did our best week 4 and beyond, we made sure we read to our kiddo and she read to us daily and sprinkled in real world math scenarios in between work and Zoom meetings (hers and ours). But now that it is a year later and I’m breathing a bit lighter I am saddened that I didn’t do virtual field trips I had set out to do as a family a year ago. So, with Spring Break only two weeks away and social distancing still required, I have decided my family will go traveling this spring break…..virtually!!!
Virtual field trips are something I struggled to implement when I was a teacher, I could find a plethora of places to visit but struggled to make the trip meaningful and engaging. So, to be sure that my daughter’s virtual spring break travel experience was not only fun but educational and something she would look forward to each day I have curated some ideas and tips below that you can use to help implement virtual field trips into your curriculum:
- Make it an experience – If we were going on a “real” vacation or if your students were going on a “real” field trip there would be excitement in the air! Permission slips would be shared, information in newsletters would go out, etc.. We need to spark the same excitement with our virtual field trips as well, but how??@SlidesManiaSM has the perfect solution, create a virtual or printed Passport for each of your students.2 Students can collect badges or stickers as a way to celebrate and keep track of their travels! Click here to get your own copy of @SlidesManiaSM’s Passport Template!
- Provide choice – Of course there will be situations where you will want to plan a specific virtual field trip directly connected to a unit and/or topic you are studying in class; but if you are like me, and are looking to implement self-directed, virtual field trips as a meaningful way to expose students to new experiences/locations, spark interests, explore different cultures, or allow for independent learning and exploration, then allowing students to choose from a menu of locations is a great way to tap into their natural curiosity! A simple Google search of virtual field trips will yield you with an overwhelming amount of options, however, this list of over 25 locations from @WeAreTeachers will take students on a virtual journey not only across the globe, but in oceans, space and even the past!
- Make it meaningful – As I mentioned before, I struggled to implement virtual field trips in my classroom because (in my mind) it required so much preparation on my part. However, as I plan my virtual spring break we are keeping it simple! Obviously, if students are taking time to go on a virtual field trip we need to ensure it is educational, but educational doesn’t mean finding and listing facts about each location they travel to. My suggestion would be to provide open ended questions and reflection questions that students can respond to in any location they travel to! Depending on the age of the student you can also come up with a bank of mapping tasks they can do regardless of where their travels take them. Monica Burns (@ClassTechTips) suggests asking questions such as: What do you see? How far away are we from this location?3 What have you learned today? What surprised you about today’s trip? I also suggest keeping a field trip journal for students to utilize as a reflection of their travels!
It is crazy to think of how much the world changed a year ago. But here we are, hopefully breathing a little lighter. I hope this spring break finds you time to relax, catch up on some much needed self care, and maybe even travel…we might not know where the world will take us in 2021, but you are in charge of where it takes you virtually…happy travels!!
1“Coronavirus Closings: Gov. JB Pritzker Orders All Illinois Schools To ….” 13 Mar. 2020, https://chicago.cbslocal.com/2020/03/13/coronavirus-governor-jb-pritzer-illinois-schools-closing-covid-19/. Accessed 14 Mar. 2021.
2“Free Passport template for virtual field trips or to collect badges or ….” https://slidesmania.com/free-passport-template-for-virtual-field-trips-or-to-collect-badges-or-digital-stickers/. Accessed 14 Mar. 2021.
3“Virtual Reality Discussion Prompts for Students – Class Tech Tips.” 27 May. 2018, https://classtechtips.com/2018/05/27/virtual-reality-discussion-prompts/. Accessed 14 Mar. 2021.
Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning