With counties and towns around Northern California ordering people to stay home amid the coronavirus outbreak, schools are closed and parents might be wondering how to fulfill their new roles as teachers.
We will need to keep the kids busy so we can get some work done, too. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d let my kids watch too much Netflix or play too much Minecraft, but there are still a lot of hours in the day.
Maybe it’s time for a virtual field trip.
“Virtual field trips are the next best thing to getting out of the house. Kids can see the world, learn a thing or two, and have fun doing it. I love that there are options for nearly all of the subject areas,” said Rebecca Lugo, an 18-year veteran teacher from New York. “We have been put on the spot with this concept of distance learning, but my colleagues and I are taking this opportunity to think outside of the box, and I’m sure many of us will be sending our students on some digital field trips over the course of the next few weeks.”
Online, kids can move through exhibits at their own speed, unlike a traditional field trip where they need to move at the pace of their group. Kids can follow their interests and expand on their distance learning. Plus, these are just fun. I might need to lock myself in my room and go on one or two of these myself. Every site listed here is free to access.
The San Diego Zoo. The zoo has a great site just for kids. It’s full of games, activities, stories, videos, and information on every kind of animal at the zoo. The layout is easy for even young kids to navigate. Kids.sandiegozoo.org
The zoo also has a lot of live cams on polar bears, penguins, giraffes, elephants, tigers and more. zoo.sandiegozoo.org/live-cams
Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s closed to visitors, but the live cams are rolling most of the day. From sharks to sea otters, there are 10 different live streaming options. www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams
The Houston Zoo. This zoo has six different animal cams available. Check out rhinos, chimps and even leaf cutter ants. www.houstonzoo.org/explore/webcams
The Georgia Aquarium. The aquarium has eight webcams on sea creatures like jellyfish, piranhas and California Sea Lions. georgiaaquarium.org/webcam/ocean-voyager
Yellowstone National Park. There is nothing quite like driving through a bison traffic jam in Yellowstone National Park. For the next-best thing, check out the virtual tours on the National Park Service’s site. Learn about Fort Yellowstone, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs, mud volcanoes, geysers and more. All without the sulfur smell or wondering if you are 25 yards from that elk. Younger kids might need assistance getting through the site, but it’s a good one to do together as adults will enjoy the live cam action. https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/photosmultimedia/virtualtours.htm
Also check out nps.gov for virtual tours at many other National Parks by searching “virtual tours.”
Land on Mars. See photos of the real Mars surface, and learn about the Mars Rover. They are updating this site, so it may be slightly limited for now. Accessmars.withgoogle.com
Great Wall of China. This one allows you to click arrows to take you through different sections of the wall with 360 degree, breathtaking views. www.thechinaguide.com/destination/great-wall-of-china
Somewhere cool. “No permission slips required.” Discovery Education offers virtual field trips on the tundra, how science powers us, and other STEM related topics. These in-depth lessons even include resources and activities. www.discoveryeducation.com/community/virtual-field-trips/
Down on the farm. This site offers many different tours of different kinds of farms. It has the added bonus of working with VR headsets. This very easy to use site offers a look at Canadian dairy farms, apple orchards, grain farms and more. www.farmfood360.ca
Explore Art and Museums
Museum of Modern Art. New York’s top art museum has an interactive site geared toward younger kids. The MoMA tour is combined with activities to help kids explore modern art. Requires Flash. www.moma.org/interactives/destination
Louvre. No passport or French speaking needed to tour the Louvre. Select the tour you want to take and a map on the lower left of your screen will help you move around the museum. Flash required. www.louvre.fr/en/visites-en-ligne
Asian Art Museum, San Francisco. This critical NorCal museum has more than 18,000 objects to view online. collections.asianart.org
The Smithsonian. It is the largest museum system in the U.S., with 19 museums. You can search art and design, history and culture, or science and nature. You can wander through their collections for days in your pajamas without going to Washington, D.C. Explore by collection, interest, or museum. Or through their Open Access system you can search and download from millions of images. www.si.edu