Bring the World to Your Classroom Through Virtual Field Trips

nasa

If you’ve always wanted to go to Space, then best start saving now as the price tag for commercial space travel will cost you around $75,000 to reserve your seat. A better option is to join Mark Hauk and Merle Ross on a virtual field trip! Besides experiencing the International Space Station via a live interview with the astronauts, you can also go on an archaeological dig with scientists or a deep-sea dive with professionals off the coast of Australia, or scale the peaks of Mount Everest alongside an explorer…just to name a few!

Mark Hauk is the Virtual Field Trip Coordinator with SD23 and has worked within Education for the last 22 years. His colleague, Merle Ross is a Video Specialist, working with equipment and education television over the last 10 years. With their combined expertise and enthusiasm, and while working on the development of a course, they built a strong infrastructure which they used for blended learning. They saw the potential for using it in different ways and worked on rolling out virtual field trips over the next few years.

“Access used to be a challenge, it was all about bandwidth” explains Hauk. “But now there are many cost-effective options like Zoom which allows up to 50 simultaneous connections. This allows more opportunities for teachers and schools to participate. Generally, now all that is needed is a webcam and a computer with Wi-Fi.”

Hauk and Ross started connecting with a variety of people, finding all the options for students including a database they discovered that provided the info needed to connect with museums, zoos and other educational facilities. Some could be accessed for free while others charged a small fee. They would then set up a schedule and class would start with students gaining world class experiences without even leaving the classroom.

“For students that are unable to travel, or can’t afford the cost, or maybe just have anxiety issues, this option is a great way to introduce the world to them,” notes Hauk.

Students were thoroughly engaged when they interviewed an astronaut, live on the International Space Station. But it truly hit home when they were done the close-up interview with the astronaut and he let go of the microphone. It started rotating in mid air on its own, eyes went huge and students were all reminded of zero gravity in space.

“Kids love it and consider it pretty cool to connect with someone so far away,” explains Hauk.

“We grab Google Earth and show the students where on the planet we’re connecting,” notes Ross. “For instance, the Australian live dive took us 11,800 kms away from home which is 17 hours by flight, and 25 feet down in the ocean.”

They also interviewed a survivor of Auschwitz which was eye opening for the students as they got to ask questions and interact, unlike the learning experience obtained when watching a video or reading about it.

“Our next goal is to create a virtual reality experience,” explains Ross. “If we could give students a headset, they could be live on a tour of the Pyramids or stand with the explorer on the peak of Mount Everest while interviewing them.”

“The great thing is that technology is constantly growing, providing more opportunities,” states Hauk. “We’ll be bringing our program to thousands of more students over the next few years.”

Hauk and Ross shared their virtual field trip experiences during a presentation at the last IT4K12 event. They are always happy to share more and help get others on board so feel free to contact them at: mark.hauk@sd23.bc.ca and merle.ross@sd23.bc.ca.

Maybe someday, through connecting with space satellites, students will be able to take a virtual tour of another planet! This exciting future for our students is truly beyond the limit of the sky.