My Virtual Field Trip: A How-To Guide

For the past 5 years, I have traveled for a week in April with my 8th graders with WorldStrides. We alternate between Washington, DC, and Philadelphia, and New York/Boston. This year was supposed to be New York/Boston. How quickly plans can change! I didn’t want my students to miss out on this opportunity, so I put together a virtual version of our planned trip! I surprised my students on the Monday morning we should have been leaving and we spent each day of the week touring things we would have seen.  

Eva Cohen, St. Cyril of Jerusalem School

It did take a lot of planning on my part to put it together and to find appropriate content to keep the students engaged.  But it was well worth it!  The students loved it and even our principal joined. In fact, most of the students’ parents joined the “trip” by mid-week!

Highlights of our New York/Boston virtual experience

Select video sites

The internet is filled with videos touring and discussing famous sites around the world. Some places to start your search for this content include YouTube, Khan Academy, and Google Earth. Here you can find some great links for a variety of sites and “trips”.

Here are a few I used:

The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Freedom Trail
Fenway Park

Class watches a virtual tour of the Statue of Liberty on Zoom

Play to your audience, mix historical with fun, and pick easy to relate to locations

When choosing activities for the virtual trip, I picked a mix of historical sites (Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial, New York Stock Exchange), and more popular locations my students would be familiar with (Fenway Park, Radio City Music Hall). We even did a virtual viewing of the Broadway show Wicked to end a day!

Don’t forget to use your own resources to play to your virtual trips’ strengths! For my NYC trip, one of my student’s sister resides in NYC, and took us on a tour of Central Park one morning!

NYC woman gives virtual tour of Central Park to students

Create experiences so the students FEEL like they are there

I have a student who is an aspiring pilot, so he “flew” us into LaGuardia Airport to start the trip off! You can replicate this as well by finding “fly-in” footage of your destination on YouTube. Once in the city, I used videos of subway rides to “travel” to each destination, or Google Earth to “walk” there.

Student pilot in flight simulator during virtual field trip

Summarize and reflect to engage the students

At the end of the trip each day, my students received a reflection sheet that allowed them to reflect on what they’d viewed that day and help link it back to what they were currently studying in class.

At the end of each day, I sent an email to parents, just as I do during our usual trips, to give them a rundown of how the day went.

Image of email to parents about virtual field trip

How do I create my own virtual trip?

You don’t have to plan a real trip to do a virtual trip! I also planned a virtual trip for my 6th-grade history class to Athens, Greece to visit the Parthenon. We watched a video on Khan Academy then used Google Earth to “go there”.  We then did a fun drawing activity to teach us about scale. Including an activity that they can do together, on the video call, engages them and ties together all the learning.

Parthenon drawing activity, during online class

Here are some of my tips, whether your trip is replicating a real trip, or just imagining a visit to somewhere where students can learn:

  • Pick a topic
  • Know your time and your students and research sites that would appeal to them
  • View all videos all the way through to ensure they are appropriate
  • Have all the sites queued up on your computer to the exact point you want then to begin 
  • Have the tabs in order 
  • Send an email to parents and invite them along
  • Have fun!

While our physical trip would have been much preferred, I’m glad I was able to give my students a taste of the trip they were supposed to be on. It was a really fun adventure, and hopefully these students are now full of stories from their educational (and fun!) trip.

Note from WorldStrides: We are so proud of all of our teachers planning virtual experiences for their students. We will share more in the weeks to come!

Article written by Eva Cohen

Eva Cohen
Eva Cohen is the 8th grade homeroom teacher, and Junior High Math and History Teacher at St. Cyril of Jerusalem School in Encino, California. She travels with her students to real destinations, and also transports them to virtual ones as the VR/AR coordinator.