I’ve been fortunate to explore and share a few of the National Parks with my family. We’ve taken a couple road trips with the kids to explore Zion, the Grand Canyon, the Tetons, Glacier, and Yellowstone. I also grew up hiking with family in the Olympic National Park, which was a quick drive from my home. Seeing these amazing places in person is worth the trip.
While we may not live close enough or have the means to take our students on a field trip to the National Parks, we can take our students on a fun and educational virtual field trip! This National Parks Virtual Field Trip uses the amazing 360 degree navigation features of Google Earth to explore the top 5 most visited parks!
While a virtual trip can never replace experiencing the wonders of the parks in person, this activity provides students with background information on our parks, looks at the distinct physical and cultural characteristics that have impacted our nation, and gives students a glimpse at our geographically diverse country. And hopefully by the end students will add the National Parks to their bucket list, if they haven’t already done so.
How does this Virtual Field Trip Work?
Teachers are busy, so this virtual field trip is LOW PREP and GOOGLE COMPATIBLE. Students use Google Earth and multiple print and digital sources to draw information to answer questions pertaining to the National Parks. This resource is aligned to the Common Core Standards, as well the Washington State Social Studies Standards for grades 5-8. This resource makes a great sub plan!
Students begin by reading a short passage about a National Park to build background knowledge before using the super cool 360 degree features of Google Earth to explore the parks, and answer the questions on their Park Pass. In addition, students will navigate to the National Parks website to learn more.
Students will learn about the following:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Grand Canyon National Park
Zion National Park
Yosemite National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
How long does this virtual field trip take to complete?
This lesson can be conducted over the course of a week, with students spending time exploring one park per day. Students will fill out a road map throughout the trip to track their location. The park pages are Google compatible so you can send these out to your students through Google Slides. This activity could be conducted teacher-led, but is easy to assign in Google Classroom and have your students navigate through the parks on their own. All of the directions are included on the Park Passes, so your work is done!
All answer keys are provided, a grading rubric is included, as well as 2 extension worksheets where students analyze the reading passages. The extension worksheets work well as a wrap up activity. An assessment is also included. This activity involves very little prep!
Print and Digital options included:
This activity can be easily assigned in Google Classroom, as everything is set up in Google Slides with clickable links. However, you could also print the reading passages and use as a stand-alone reading assignment. If you wish to conduct this teacher-led, you could print the Park Passes and have your students complete hand-written as you go over the content together.
Teacher Set Up Instructions
Google Earth Keyboard Short Cuts Reference Sheet
National Parks Labels (label manila envelopes to stay organized)
Reading Passages (5 parks included)
Park Passes (5 parks included, all student instructions are included on the sheets)
Road Map (students label their road trip locations on the map)
Answer Keys (check student work before receiving the next Park Pass)
2 Extension Sheets (analyze the text; aligned to the WA standards)
GOOGLE COMPATIBLE: Google Slides link included!
What Technology is Needed?
Students will need access to Google Earth, and the websites provided. Google Earth can be accessed using Chrome as the browser. Your students can also access Google Earth on a tablet or smart phone using the Google Earth App. All of the navigation features are accessible through the app as well.
Your students will also need access to Google Slides to complete the activity digitally. You could assign in Google Classroom. A print version is also included, if you would rather your students complete by hand.
You will want to ensure ahead of time that the websites are not blocked by your school’s server. Also, websites change from time to time. I have done my best to include questions that will make sense even if a website changes, however I will also do my best to ensure that this resource is up to date and reflects any major website changes.
This resource in aligned with the following Common Core Standards:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.7 Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.7 Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
This resource is also aligned to the new Washington State Social Studies Standards:
GEOGRAPHY 1: Understands the physical characteristics, cultural characteristics, and location of places, regions, and spatial patterns on the Earth’s surface.
Enduring Understanding: Knows that the use of tools (e.g., maps, globes, charts, graphs) is important to understanding the world around us.
G1.5.4 Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other representations to explain relationships between the locations of places and regions and their environmental characteristics
Enduring Understanding: (US) The United States is a geographically diverse nation with distinct physical and cultural regions whose characteristics have impacted the nation.
G1.6-8.5 Explain and analyze physical and cultural characteristics of places and regions in the United States.
G1.6-8.6 Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other representations to explain relationships between the locations of places and regions and their political, cultural, and economic dynamics.
GEOGRAPHY 2: Understands human interaction with the environment.
Enduring Understanding: Knows that the human-environment interactions are essential aspects of human life in all societies and they occur at local-to-regional scale. Human actions modify the physical environment and, in turn, the physical environment limits or promotes human activities
G2.5.3 Explain how the cultural and environmental characteristics of places change over time.
G2.6-8.6 Analyze how the environment has affected people and how people have affected the environment in the United States in the past or present.
What Educators are Saying about this Virtual Field Trip:
"This resource is amazing! It engaged the students, was easy to use, and it just brought me joy to use. This will now become part of my Ecological unit for Earth Science." -Nilce J.
"This resource helped me add structure to by virtual field trip. It was detailed enough that my students were able to investigate the parks on their own." -Jenessa L.