School Field Trips Go Virtual

Caroline Porter

About 30 fifth-graders let out a collective “ooh!” as a monkey munched on dinner in front of them. The students asked questions of an expert, took notes and waved goodbye to the monkey. Then they returned to their seats at Plaza Vista School about 40 miles south of Los Angeles.

Their virtual field trip to an animal sanctuary in the U.K. was over.

In the wake of recession-era budget cuts and increased pressure on school performance, field trips at some schools consist of a webcam, projection screen and Internet connection instead of permission slips, brown-bag lunches and school buses. The techniques can be used to cut down the cost, time and expense of some real-world trips while expanding the number of possible field-trip-like experiences.