Field trips have been a staple of public education for decades. Who didn’t look forward to escaping from the classroom to spend a day at a local zoo, museum or nature preserve? Like many other aspects of public education, however, funding for field trips has seen reductions recently. Some districts have cut field trips out of their budgets completely. With resources becoming more scarce, schools are looking for other ways to get the field trip experience without the expense and hassle of transportation and entrance fees.
Virtual field trip programs, like the one offered by the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, gives students a chance to gain new learning experiences without busting a school’s budget. Using video conference technology and classroom software, students can be exposed to the museum’s resources and staff expertise, while never setting foot outside the classroom.
The museum has offered these interactive classes for about ten years, but recently expanded the program and now runs 15 to 25 sessions each week. Students can learn about a wide variety of topics, covering anything from the moons of Saturn to the digestive system. The experience is designed to be interactive, so students can engage the museum guide and ask questions.
Many cost effective alternatives
Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA) in Washington state has gotten a lot of bank for their buck using virtual field trips. The school has gone on 10 in the past years, virtually sending students to the New York Hall of Science, the Toledo Zoo and the Royal Botanical Gardens in Ontario. The average price for these ventures is $150 per session – a much cheaper alternative to hiring a fleet of busses and buying passes for hundreds of kids.
ORLA teacher Erin Curtiss confirmed that, in light of budget restrictions, this edtech was providing a welcome alternative to traditional field trips.
“They’re learning and doing something,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of opportunity for field trips, and this is a great replacement.”
Sometimes it can be helpful for students to be presented with an alternative learning experience than what can be offered in the classroom. Field trips have always filled that role, but with budget cuts making them more costly than ever, cash-strapped schools should consider virtual solutions.
Do you think virtual field trips are can replace the real deal? Should schools forget about field trips and focus on learning in the classroom? Tell us what you think in the comment section below and send us a message on our Facebook page!