Teaching remotely? You can still take your students on a virtual field trip! There's an array of free, fun, and educational opportunities to choose from. Even if you're teaching in person, a digital excursion might be your only option, with so many museums, aquariums, and other traditional field trip destinations across the country off limits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thankfully, digital does not mean disappointing. In fact, the virtual field trips we highlight here will transport you and your students to exciting and far-flung places. Students can get up close with leopard sharks, moon jellies, and other sea creatures in their natural habitats. They can take a virtual trip to Mars, hike a Finnish forest, or discover what it looks like inside their very own brains. The ideas are endless, and we think you'll agree, pretty awesome, too. Ready to take learning outside the classroom? These field trips are just a click away.
Free Virtual Field Trip Ideas for Elementary, Middle, and High School Students
Dive Under the Sea
The webcams at Monterey Bay Aquarium in California are sure to delight. Students can watch the hustle and bustle of colorful tropical fish flitting back and forth in their coral reef community. They can follow leopard sharks as they swim through gently swaying kelp canopies, or become mesmerized by the hypnotic drifting of glowing moon jellies. With 10 live cams to choose from, there's always some fun (and learning, of course!) to be had as students spy on animals in their natural habitat.
Visit a Finnish Forest
The sounds of the forest will captivate students as they wander its pathways and learn about species that call this habitat home. Along the way, students will meet forestry professionals who will tell them about the role of forests in climate change mitigation and the different stages of forest management, from planting to harvesting. Students will also get to know the ins and outs of sustainable forestry. This virtual field trip is brought to classrooms by UPM, a Finnish forest industry company.
Take a Tour of Aviation History
The National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., contains the largest collection of aircraft and spacecraft in the world. And now students can experience this collection of American aviation history up close without ever leaving the living room. They can check out the bright red airplane that Amelia Earhart flew, setting two aviation records, and the Apollo 11 Command Module, which served as the living quarters for the three-person crew during the first manned moon landing mission, in July 1969. Other interactive exhibits include Geography from Space quizzes for older kids and the Pilot Pals game for younger ones.
Wander the Red Planet
Your students can hop on a virtual ride-along with the Curiosity Mars rover, thanks to a partnership with Google, Access Mars, and NASA. Students get a 360-degree view of the Martian terrain as recorded by the rover's cameras, revealing the planet's dunes, valleys, and unique rock formations. Users can click various access points for descriptions of each geographical feature. NASA scientists created the 3D model using the more than 200,000 photos that Curiosity sent back to Earth since landing on the Red Planet in 2012. NASA scientist Katie Stack narrates the experience. You and your students can wander the planet with a computer, phone, or VR device.
Explore Your Amazing Brain
The Franklin Institute provides interactive activities from its award-winning exhibit Your Brain, which take students on an exploration of what's happening as their brains make sense of the world around them. They will discover why we see "faces" in clouds, rock formations, and other objects; how music can make us feel fear; what their brains will look like in the future; and much more!
Doodle With Mo!
Your students are invited into the studio of children's book illustrator Mo Willems. All they have to do is grab paper and a pencil (or markers, crayons, chalk, or any art tool of choice) to try their hand at doodling. In the first episode of Lunch Doodles, Willems shows students how to draw his most famous character, the pigeon. Each video lesson comes with a student activity sheet. Here's the first episode's activity sheet, with step-by-step directions for drawing the pigeon. Check out all 15 archived video episodes.
See the View at the Zoo
Penguins, polar bears, and platypuses, oh my! San Diego Zoo’s 12 live cams allow students to get a peek into the day-to-day routines of the zoo’s inhabitants as they eat, swim, and play. The animals aren't active all day, so check back often to find the times when they're out and about. After observing the animals, students can click around to learn more about their distinctive features, habitat, diet, family life, and more.
More Digital Field Trips for Kids
Looking for more free virtual field trip ideas? Check out our list of free art, science, and history museum offerings here. If you've taken your students on an amazing digital field trip, please let us know. We'd love to hear about it! Share the experience with us on Twitter (@LeadAndLearn) or Facebook.
HMH Field Trips, powered by Google Expeditions, offers 360-degree virtual excursions that allow students to travel through history, explore the world, and witness scientific wonders without ever leaving the classroom. Download a free HMH Field Trips Teacher Guide Sampler.
Podcast: How to Differentiate Instruction Through Rhymes and Raps with Toney Jackson in NJ on Teachers in America
Program Consultant, Into Reading and Into Literature