Opinion
Teaching Opinion

Virtual Expeditions Highlight Culture, Nature, and Museums

December 10, 2015 6 min read

Money, time, buses—all the reasons that field trips are being cut across the country. But Kristin Stayer, Executive Chef of the BOOST Breakfast Club Blog, BOOST Collaborative, shares that virtual expeditions can bypass all of these constraints. Asia Society and BOOST Collaborative are partnering to create a series of blogs on global learning. This entry was originally posted on BOOST’s Breakfast Club blog.


By guest blogger Kristin Stayer

“Adventure Learning is an educational approach that provides learners with opportunities to explore real-world issues through authentic learning experiences within a collaborative online learning environment,” says Aaron Doering, associate professor University of Minnesota and a co-founder and director of the Learning Technologies Media Lab. Today, there are many options for online global learning, including virtual field trips. If the many listed below are daunting, try starting with one of the global trip ideas and a complementary activity.

Cultural Expeditions
Google has worked to create Google Expeditions with more than 100 immersive trips that let teachers bring a lesson to life and allow students to experience places outside of the textbook. Teachers use their tablets to guide classes around their destination, sending images to students’ cardboard viewers. At any time, a teacher can pause the trip and interact with their students about the 360 degree images in their viewer. Google is currently piloting the program and is taking requests from schools and afterschool programs for a visit.

If you can’t wait for Google Expeditions to be available to all schools and afterschool programs, there are other options for group cultural expeditions. One resource is Online Expeditions, hosted by Global SchoolNet. Students act as detectives by asking questions, searching for facts to prove or disprove their theories, and learning across the curriculum. To incorporate storytelling and culture, build your own tour with Google Tour Builder or visit tours created by others from around the world through images, videos, and descriptions.

For literary connections, visit Google Lit Trips, which allows students to travel the journey that storybook characters took, connecting them to the wider world.

Global Trip Idea:
A trip to Machu Picchu. If your school isn’t on Google’s pilot program list, you can work toward planning a Google trip for the future. In the meantime, you can use these sites to visit Machu Picchu: Panoramas of the World, You Visit, and the Seven Wonders of the World. These sites offer students the chance to see this wonder in 3D 360 degree panoramas and videos.

Complementary Activity:
EDSITEment, a part of the National Endowment for the Humanities, has a four-part lesson geared toward 3rd - 5th grade students that could be used for art, culture, history, and/or social studies lessons. Students have the opportunity to explore maps, discuss communication issues, and discover geography of the area, all while learning about the Incan culture.

Nature Expeditions
How about exploring nature and ecosystems while virtually going around the world? There are the virtual trips available through Nature Works Everywhere (a project of The Nature Conservatory): Gardens as Models for Natural Systems, The Deserts and Grasslands of Africa, Wild Biomes, and Coral Reefs of Palau. A new virtual field trip to China’s Great Forest was recently released. Download a teacher’s guide that includes discussion questions for students to use before, during, and after the trip and additional activities and resources.

Another great virtual trip is to the Finnish Forest, hosted by the Biofore UPM Company. Through sights and sounds in the forest, students will learn about wildlife, humans, machines, and plant life. This trip complements lessons about sustainability, forestry and global business practices, and renewable materials.

Global Trip Idea:
The Coral Reefs of Palau. Take students to this remote underwater area of the Pacific Ocean so they can learn about ecosystems, organisms, and how coral reefs provide nutrients and medicine to marine life and humans.

Complementary Activity:
“The Need is Mutual” lesson plan is designed for 6th-8th grade students and focuses on the topic of biological interactions. Visit this link for a short follow up video and downloadable lesson plan on the right side of the page.

Museums Expeditions
There are many resources online for trips to a variety of museums. Educators can plan for a museum visit once a month or visit four museums during one virtual trip—that is the beauty of going virtual—no travel time! The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History invites guests to travel through the exhibits and suggests hotspots where the zoom feature allows a very close view of an exhibit. The Louvre features tours of exhibit rooms and galleries. Once in the museum virtually, students can click on different art pieces and exhibits for detailed information. The Field Museum brings science to life through live video broadcasts with a museum staff member and supplemental resources for the class. Google Cultural Institute has a compilation of exhibits from museums and collections from around the globe. Educators can choose which galleries to highlight for ease and preparation and add them to their own gallery.

Global Trip Idea:
Take a trip to Egypt. Visit the second floor of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and have students explore the exhibit in detail and make observations about what they see and learn. Next, head over to Eternal Egypt, which has a great collection of art, history, people, places, myths, and religions that can be explored through technology, such as animations, virtual environments, and remote cameras. Take a guided tour or choose one of the many selections such as watching an animation of pyramid construction and then stopping over to Qait Bay through a webcam.

Complementary Activity:
For 6th grade and older, this Egyptian cartouches art activity will allow students to experiment creatively with hieroglyphics.

There are several other virtual trip resources worth noting:


  • GoNorth! Adventure Learning hosts Polar Husky, a k-12 grade curriculum and online technology to virtually take students to the Arctic and learn about the culture, life, natural resources, and social sciences there.
  • Global Trek puts together online travel trips for students, and they record their findings in journals as they explore.
  • Skype in the Classroom allows students to take virtual field trips, bring experts into the classroom, and connect with travelers, educators, and authors. The Around the World with 80 Schools and Learn NC blogs give a great overview of using Skype in the Classroom for virtual global learning.
  • In Google Earth Moon view, students can see spacecraft and sites of moon mission landings in 3D mode, and more. NASA has developed an interactive multimedia platform for education that showcases areas on Earth that have been identified as analog sites to regions on Mars. For exploration of the Solar System, be sure to visit NOVA’s interactive database.

Don’t let budget and classroom walls stop the adventure and learning that can take place through a virtual field trip!

Follow Kristin, BOOST, Heather, and Asia Society on Twitter.

Image credit: www.photopin.com

The opinions expressed in Global Learning are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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