There are tons of virtual field trip options available to students worldwide. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic began and the number of online field trips available in all subjects and for students of all ages greatly increased. Virtual explorations are a great way to engage students in topics they learn about in class from a safe distance. They allow students to explore areas that are far and near from their school with minimal risk. This is my top five list of science and social studies field trips available through world wide web. I have been a lower elementary school teacher for five years. I have used these resources with children in grades kindergarten to second grade, but most of them can be used with older populations too.
Cincinnati Zoo’s Daily Home Safari
The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens has YouTube videos available on over 90 animals and exhibits at their zoo. Each video is 10-20 minutes long and discusses specific topics that relate to the creature or exhibit that is featured.
The zoo also has a recommended art project that relates to each video. For example, the zoo suggests making a blue penguin after watching their video on blue penguins. They provide instructions for an ostrich egg craft to go with their ostrich video.
Teachers looking to explore habitat, animal behaviors, eating habits, and more with their students should look no further. The Cincinnati Zoo’s Daily Home Safari is a great resource for classes of all ages.
National Geographic typically offers programs throughout the country and world led by explorers each year. Unfortunately, not all schools are located within a reasonable distance from one of these programs and they have a cost associated with them. National Geographic has an alternative to those that cannot make it to one of these unique program.
Explorer Classroom is National Geographic’s live programs that reach classrooms from a distance through YouTube or Zoom. Information can be found here for them: Explorer Classroom | National Geographic Society.
These programs are on a variety of topics including oceans, pollution, bats, bees, and more. National Geographic’s virtual trips are best for grades k-8. They are categorized by grade to allow teachers to enroll their classes for at-level learning opportunities that can be aligned to the standards and topics covered in class.
If you are looking to explore specific habitats or functions found in the animal kingdom, I suggest checking out National Geographic’s online field trip options through Explorer Classroom. They also offer several pre-recorded YouTube videos on various topics, for students that cannot attend one of the Explorer Classroom programs at its scheduled times.
NASA offers classes of fifteen or more students in grades K-12 options for live virtual field trips from the NASA Wallops Flights Facility Visitor Center in Virginia. These trips must be scheduled in advance. If you are interested in having your class attend a virtual exploration with NASA, you should look into a time now. They take reservations up to 90 days in advance.
NASA’s programs vary by grade. They all relate to a topic in space that can be easily aligned to grade-level standards. Below is list of programs.
k-2nd Grade: Our Neighbor the Moon
3rd-5th Grade: Moon to Mars
6th-8th Grade: Mission Explorers
9th-12 Grade: Explore Flight
Each program is scheduled for a full hour and NASA provides a hands-on follow up activity for students do after the program in your classroom or at home.
You can visit Virtual Field Trip Opportunities | NASA for more details on each program. This website helps you schedule your trip.
The Best Free Virtual Field Trips for Lower Elementary School Students in Science and Social Studies Topics
Discovery Education is a great resource for taking students on a field trip virtually. They offer programs in all areas of education. This includes areas such as SEL, STEM, Agriculture, and more. They have programs listed for grades k-12, with a variety of resources for teachers to use to encourage students to think deeper on the given topic, following their exploration of it through Discovery Education.
The direct link to Discovery Education’s programs is Interactive Virtual Field Trips | Discovery Education. As you explore the available programs, you will notice that clicking on the programs often takes you to an outside organization’s website where the actual program, activities, and additional resources can be found.
I have only used Discovery Education on a couple occasions. I really like their “51 Ways to Earth Day” and “How Nature Inspires 3M Science” programs. These are just two of many though. Discovery Education’s links for virtual learning are fabulous for almost any area of study. Check them out for yourself today.
Explore.org is the last website I greatly appreciate online for students. I have found it especially helpful in for habitat explorations and animal behavior observations. The website allows students to journey all over through the click of a button. They provide access to live webcams of creatures near and far daily. I love watching the Eagle Cams during the spring with students. We have often observed eagles watch over their nest, waiting for eggs to hatch. Once they hatch we love seeing these birds of prey care for their young.
Eagle Cams are not the only live webcams offered to viewers. Explore.org has webcams covering grizzly bear activity in Alaska, alligator swamps in Florida, and even elephants in Africa. No matter what animal you are studying, Explore.org likely has a link to a video or webcam for you to use to observe that animal in action with your students.
I love in-person field trips. They are not always possible. Virtual explorations have allowed my students to make local to global connection, compare and contrast, and dive into topics in ways that were not possible when I was a student. If you are looking to get out of the classroom, from the comfort of your classroom the list above is a great resource.