I am always on the lookout for ways to bring social studies education to life, and I am strongly convinced through student and teacher feedback that virtual field trips are a must-add activity to your lessons! If you are on the fence about adding virtual field trips or are new to the whole concept of virtual field trips, then I'm so excited that you're here!
Make Social Studies an Experience
Are you using an outdated textbook? Well, it's time to put the textbooks aside! I know that if I'm bored when teaching a lesson, then most likely my students are bored too. I've found that one powerful way to bring history to life is through experience. If social studies become more than just words on a page, if we can spark curiosity and if our students make meaningful connections, then our students understand social studies and its importance to them. Virtual field trips take learning to a whole new level, because our students can partake in a virtual learning experience of places around the globe! Using Google Earth, students can view ancient sites, geographic locations, and more using the amazing 360-degree views. Students can experience history up-close and personal in new ways than just one photo on a textbook page.
Build Background Knowledge
With distance learning, it's likely that your school or district may be pushing the focus to the teaching of math and ELA. But new research from the Fordham Institute released in September 2020 found that "instead of devoting more class time to English language arts (ELA), we should be teaching elementary school children more social studies—as in, rich content about history, geography, and civics. That may seem counterintuitive, but that’s the key takeaway of this groundbreaking study."
If we want our students to become better readers, then we need to build background knowledge. A student may be able to sound out or decode the words "Great Wall of China," but if they have no background knowledge or context to even know what the passage might be alluding to, then reading comprehension goes down. Virtual field trips that incorporate informational text align with the research because the integrated visuals, exploration, combined with reading provide a way for students to build a deeper understanding of what they are learning.
Focus on Critical Thinking Skills
Virtual field trips can be so much fun for our students, and teachers continually tell me that their students are wanting more and asking, "where are we going to next?" But if all that our students gain is a "fun experience" they have missed out on an important component of learning. Integrating critical thinking is a vital part of teaching social studies. When virtual field trips have students make observations, think deeply about what they are seeing and learning, it is going to have a greater impact than just watching a webcam. We can make social studies fun, but we can also make social studies meaningful with virtual field trips.
Ready to try a virtual field trip? Check out these ready-to-go Google Compatible virtual field trips!