Virtual Field Trips: Turn Web Browsing into a Goal-Oriented Educational Experience

A Production of the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

Virtual Field Trips: Turn Web Browsing into a Goal-Oriented Educational Experience

Virtual Field Trips: Turn Web Browsing into a Goal-Oriented Educational Experience!

By Felice Gerwitz

As a product of the late 70’s college education classes, I learned school should be steeped in “fun,” and the key element in a child’s school experience should be “feel good” and “self-esteem” driven. While the “open classroom” has been a total failure, some of the concepts drilled into me, I found through trial and error, do work.

Of course, with some major tweaks, Christian focus, and a good dose of not all school work equates to fun, our success as a homeschooling family is evident. I have well-rounded children I am very proud of, two graduated and adults, and three more in the fold learning, growing, and meeting challenges head-on.

Homeschooling Challenges

Homeschooling since 1986 has brought a set of challenges. Computers soon became a major asset in our day. The Internet, a whole new world of quick and easy access as well as information at our fingertips, could have ruined our fine-tuned curriculum if I allowed the children to visit “Google University” instead of searching through the books to find an answer to a question or concern. The “smart” generation is relying way too much on technology (in my humble opinion), and if the plug were pulled, where would we all be?

I think a balance of books and the internet can make for a very well-rounded school, and smartphones are only as smart as the generation that knows how to read and work them.

If you wonder where I stand in the field of technology, I own many computers, have a smartphone, and am well-versed in updating my websites (with a little help from my friends!).

However, where I see the most benefits in technology is in the areas we otherwise might never reach except for our access to online tools.

Virtual Field Trips

Over ten years ago, I came up with an idea for a Virtual Field Trips book. The internet was feared among many people in their inability to grasp the concepts of online travel. With a click of a button, some very loud and engaging pinging-ponging-and otherwise noisy engagement (think dial-up for those of you old enough to remember), we could visit the World Wide Web to our heart’s contents!

We lost hours of time “surfing” and “searching” and getting lost and trying to use the internet for our children besides trying to understand how emails worked. Buying on the internet? Never! The idea that your credit card information would travel at the speed of light brought fear to everyone. I sold very few books virtually despite all the precautions of the day.

E-Books and New Technology

How we have turned an about-face, made the owner of PayPal a very rich man, and now use the internet daily in our lives, buying at a click of a button, downloading eBooks (sales have topped my mail-you-a-copy books), and very few people blink an eye at how our lives have changed.

There was new technology, funny icons, and a vocabulary that was a complete mystery to most of us. Acronyms ruled the day, and LOL, ROFLOL, dh, dd, fyi, and btw all became part of our culture.

As an educator, I look at things with that “teacher’s” eye, and I quickly found that I would not take my child to Alaska in person, but they could experience an Alaskan wilderness, a famous museum, the oceans of the world or the fastest roller coaster on earth with a few clicks of a mouse. So, how to use this to “qualify” our time and not escape as so many do for hours only to find later the kids have long since gone to build blocks, paint or jump on a trampoline rather than sit as mom figured out where she had navigated to and wondered how to get back.

Scavenger Hunts

One evening in frustration, I was sharing with another couple of very good friends of ours who also schooled at home how I desired to use the internet as an educational tool instead of a time-waster. I was encouraged to create a website, but in the late ’90s, websites were still very expensive, and while I considered this as an alternative, I wanted a book, something I could hold in my hands, refer to, and of course give the children to find the answers to questions in a “scavenger hunt” method.

I worked on the book, jotting down questions and soon finding the websites that I had navigated were gone! Things on the internet were not stable, and it occurred to me that keywords were the way to go, as well as information that could be found in a good set of Encyclopedia’s. (Raise your hand if you still have a set of encyclopedias in your home!) While most of our very expensive sets have all been donated to the mission field, one set remains, and from time to time, I show our children the “old-fashioned” way to research.

More Research

Where else except the internet can you travel to faraway places, scale mountains, or use Google Earth to come within a micro-inch of the earth, even (very scary) your own backyard? Not everyone has the time or inclination to visit websites and create study guides for the kids, research some background, or come up with some questions for the children to answer, but I did.

As it worked out, the book was a success, and the website was an even greater success, especially when I found it ranked number one for many years. Families loved virtual field trips!

Tips to Travel on Your Own Virtual Fieldtrip

Going on a virtual trip:

  • Decide which trip you would like to take. Have your printer set and ready to go!
  • You may want to print out some of the information. Some sites use very advanced technology; therefore, you may not be permitted to print out information from the screen that you are viewing, or even the control-copy or command copy (on a mac) will not work. I don’t recommend copying websites.
  • Some websites allow you to copy certain sections, and they may even have a print icon – or an email where you can send the website to yourself via email.
  • While there is no one correct way to view the different sites, there are some ways that are better than others. Each site offers its own array of links. The Internet is one big link! Some links are directly related to a particular website. Some links are of similar topics, which you may decide to explore another day. You can decide how much of the site you would like to see. And now, onto the trips. I hope you have a wonderful time learning!

Here are some of my favorite topics:

Oceans Keywords:

  • Global Ocean Coral Reefs Tides Oceans Alive
  • Plate Tectonics Water Cycle Currents Wind Waves
  • Tides Food Web Remote Sensing
  • Museum of Science
  • Boston Museum of Science
  • Museum Science Exhibit
  • Science Activities Oceans
  • Science Oceans Teacher Resources

The Zoo Keywords:

  • National Zoo
  • Virtual Animal Exhibit Tours
  • Smithsonian BioPark
  • Conservation Zoo Washington D.C.
  • Kids Science Zoo Education
  • Educational Research Wild Animals
  • Zookeepers (Type in strings of animals that may be observed in a zoo.)

Email and Internet Keywords:

  • how emails work,
  • how the Internet works
  • alternative search engines
  • how keywords work
  • is email safe
  • safe settings on the internet
  • safe settings on social media
  • social media

Benjamin Franklin Keywords:

  • Benjamin Franklins World
  • Archive Benjamin Franklin
  • History Benjamin Franklin
  • Science Inventions Benjamin Franklin
  • Franklin Stove
  • Inventor of Electricity
  • Benjamin Franklin, the Inventor
  • Benjamin Franklin Statesman
  • Benjamin Franklin Writings

(You can use this for other famous people you want to learn about – look at keywords that will help your search!)

Space, Constellations, Planets Keywords:

  • Outer space
  • NASA
  • planets
  • constellations
  • video on space travel
  • space travel
  • astronauts
  • rockets
  • space shuttle
  • Milky Way
  • outer space
  • black hole
  • lightyear
  • space suits
  • space food

Ready, Set, Virtually Travel for Your Field Trip

For homeschoolers, virtual field trips provide much-needed enrichment and fun. Unlike traditional field trips, they can be conducted anywhere, anytime, and there are numerous tools available to help make the process simple.

From social media to virtual reality, homeschoolers have the ability to create enriching and memorable experiences that go beyond the traditional classroom. With a bit of planning and creativity, homeschoolers can easily open a world of educational opportunities that not only spark curiosity but deepen learning and help create lasting memories. So let’s explore the possibilities and welcome virtual field trips into our homeschooling plans!

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Felice Gerwitz is an author, speaker, and publisher (Media Angels, Inc.), as well as the owner of the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network, where she podcasts at Vintage Homeschool Moms.

With the internet a field trip is as close as your computer. In this guide, Felice shows you how to make field trips a part of your homeschool study. With questions that can be answered with an easy search, your children will travel to the White House or the zoo all with an educational twist. Easy to follow and you’ll never browse without an eye to education again.You can purchase the Virtual Field Trips E-Book as part of the 7 Christian Homeschool E-Book  Bundle! 


How to make virtual field trips engaging

A Production of the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

How to Make Virtual Field Trips Engaging

90: How to make virtual field trips engaging

In this episode, our guest, Shannan Swindler, shares how to make virtual field trips engaging. Shannan’s home base is in Scotland, where she and her husband homeschool their two kids (ages 11 & 15) and they learn on location throughout Europe as much as possible. She is a classical style home educator living out her God-breathed dream of raising her family in Europe. She’s passionate about many things, especially helping others learn on location using the world as their classroom. You can join her at Captivating Compass for homeschool and family travel inspiration.

Shannan explains how her family stumbled upon virtual field trips & museum tours and you can read about some of their favorites in her Virtual Museum Tours for Doing School at Home post.

I have also covered the idea of Virtual Field Trips on this podcast before – so be sure to listen to that episode for ideas too.

Shannan goes on to explain how homeschoolers can get the most out of virtual field trips. Two resources you can find on her website are:

Another exciting resource from Shannan that is free and will be fun to use this summer is her Summer Photo Scavenger Hunt


Mentioned in this episode are show sponsor FundaFunda Academy’s web-based unit studies which often include virtual field trips!

Join our Facebook Group especially for the listeners of this podcast! You can ask questions and get advice as you try integrating technology in your homeschool.

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How to make virtual field trips engaging