Most of us have had our worlds turned upside as Covid-19 causes the closure of schools, businesses, restaurants, museums, libraries and many other establishments. Parents everywhere have had to quickly adapt to a new way of life—homeschooling.
As challenging as our situation is right now, we can use the opportunity to get more natural history into your child’s education. After all, very few educators even touch up natural history education today since it doesn’t appear on standardized tests.
And one of the best ways to show kids how fascinating natural history is through field trips. But wait, field trips? Yes! These rich educational experiences are free, easily accessible and social distancing approved!
Here are some of our favorite ideas for taking your kids on virtual field trips to absolutely mesmerize them — and give you a needed break!
Feeding Time at the Zoo!
What’s harder to resist than a critter cam? Zoos and educational institutions like the San Diego Zoo, the Georgia Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium host webcam viewings of cuties like pandas, koalas, penguins and beluga whales. For real-time adventures, the New England Aquarium hosts live feeds of their marine residents. Let your child practice their animal behavior observation skills with a dedicated viewing time each day. Be sure that they record their observations!
Thanks to the Nature Conservancy, your child can choose their desired destination from 11 virtual field trips, taking them to Coastal Peru to explore the biodiversity of a coastal ecosystem to the rainforest of Borneo.
It might be a while before you take them for real so take your child on the virtual trip of a lifetime as they visit this wonder of the world, a tour of the Great Wall of China. Or choose from any one exciting destinations from Indonesia to Barents Sea Coast in Russia with Air Pano, promising a virtual journey around the world.
Choose a Field Study
Explore.org is the world's leading philanthropic live nature cam network and documentary film channel. Take a tour of this site and find hundreds of live webcams of wildlife from around the world such as elephants in Africa’s Tembe Park. This just might become a more popular site for your child to visit than youtube.
Polar Bears International and Discovery Education invite your child to experience the tundra and polar bears outside of Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, in the heart of polar bear action. On this 30-minute virtual field trip, students will learn about the Arctic ecosystem, adaptations, sea ice habitat, climate change, and more.
Make it an active trip with a virtual dive compliments of the National Marine Sanctuaries. The dives explore the depths of the American Samoas, the Florida Keys, Monterey Bay, and many others.
See Natural History at its Finest
SIxty four natural history museum collections have come together for the natural history tour compliments of Google Arts and Culture. From the American Museum of Natural History to the Natural History Museum in London, the very best collections are at your child’s fingertips in this archive of “the beautiful, the dangerous, the endangered. Up close.”
Visit the US National Parks
National Parks are still open (as I write this) but due to crowding and concerns for their staff, who knows how long the National Parks Service will keep them open. Your family can tour 32 US national parks from your home with Google Earth and Google Arts & Culture’s virtual tours.
Though it’s a perfectly fine social distancing activity to head outside at night for stargazing, your kids can explore stars, planets, constellations through Star Atlas. One very cool feature is that, if you enter your location, you can see all the constellations that are visible in the night sky in your corner of the world.