It's Not Just Teachers: Field Trip Destinations Are Developing Virtual Learning Too

Dec 28, 2020

With in-person visits and field trips limited, places like the Indiana State Museum are developing more online and virtual resources for teachers to use in their classrooms.
Credit (Photo provided by Indiana State Museum)

Historical sites and other school field trip hotspots are offering more virtual resources for teachers to use during the pandemic, and organizers say virtual offerings developed this year are likely to stick around.

The places usually primed for field trips have been thinking about remote learning just as much as schools. Roger Hardig, vice president of education at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site says the pandemic has made him more mindful of supplementary materials to offer teachers. It's also let him explore different ideas while in-person field trips remain limited. 

"There's all these things for years that I wanted to try or I wanted to do, and it's given me the opportunity to do that," he said.

Hardig says teachers can even print 3D replicas of artifacts, in addition to virtual live tours from the site.

Not all of the virtual offerings were developed because of the pandemic – some have just sped up their pre-existing plans to develop additional online programs and teaching resources. 

Bethany Thomas, the vice president of programs at the Indiana State Museum, says the museum and its sites across Indiana offer free field trips to schools. Right now, they offer free broadcast tours that take classes through what they normally would see if they were there in person. 

"So there's a certain date and time that they will do a virtual broadcast over Zoom for any schools and classrooms that want to sign up," she said.

But it goes beyond that – the museum is also offering a wide-ranging set of teaching materials and resources that can engage students even as they participate in remote or hybrid learning.

Other places, including the Indianapolis Zoo are offering virtual programs that replicate what students would experience on field trips there as well, and Hardig and Thomas both said they hope the new and expanded virtual and online resources can help even more schools access learning opportunities at their sites. Groups outside of the state have even taken advantage of the new online and virtual options. 

Some of the new programs have been developed through grant funding, but Thomas and others say they hope to continue offering them beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.