COVID Kindergarten sucked. I’ll be honest with you from the start – I am not a teacher. I don’t want to be a teacher. I don’t even like kids that much (love mine, but do not have the desire to teach).
There is not a small part of me that can even fathom the idea of educating children on a daily basis. I work for myself, from home, and I like it that way. No people.
The kids are in school – with real teachers who want to be there – and that’s just how I like my life. When spring break 2020 went from one week to eight weeks (and then 12 weeks of summer vacation), my husband and I were not equipped for Covid learning, virtual field trips, and constant togetherness while we attempted to work from home.
You see, we both work from home. Having the kids home unexpectedly for an additional eight weeks was…a lot. Our lives were not impacted by it in any other capacity, but their lives were.
We were suddenly educators, hall monitors, virtual field trip chaperones, and I was propping iPads up on the table with expensive bottles of sangiovese (RIP to the one that rolled off the table and onto my white area rug).
We had twins in kindergarten that year, a daughter in third grade, and a daughter in sixth grade. To say it was not an ideal year to become virtual homeschool parents is a gross understatement.
Their first day of school in the fall of 2020 could not come fast enough – and bless Florida for given our kids the freedom to go back to school and sports…and get away from their harried parents.
What is a Virtual Field Trip?
Perhaps you’re asking this question rather than focusing on the fact that so many of us need therapy after becoming unwilling educators, and that is fine. I did learn one thing during Covid Kindergarten (we call it that because the big girls were fine handling their own schooling on their own time during the day, but the twins were not).
I learned that our son finagled his way into live cams in zoos across the nation in the spring of 2020, and every day I encouraged him to spend an ungodly amount of time on his iPad virtually touring every zoo in the country because he was leaving me alone. Mom of the year, right?
A virtual field trip is a field trip you take – wait for it – virtually. Your kids use their iPads, computers, whatever, to take a field trip (and they are guided tours) across the world.
There is no passport required, no field trip permission slip to fill out, and they are often free of charge. Your kids don’t need a chaperone, but you might find yourself a little bit curious about the locations. In all honesty, we spent months visiting a specific snake at the Miami Zoo from the comfort of our pool deck because my then 5-year-old son thought that he bonded with the snake via eye contact on the virtual camera.
Whatever. He was quiet and still, and he wasn’t doing anything dangerous (which is what he’s doing when he’s not still).
What is the Point of a Virtual Field Trip?
I did mention I am not an educator, correct? The point, I assume, is to educate children and allow them to experience something new while also having fun. What’s the point of a regular field trip? To learn something new or visit a place they’ve never been, right? So, it’s the same concept. The point is to get kids into a new experience and space without leaving the comfort of their own home.
Additionally, the benefits are cool. Kids who get to visit a place they’ve never been, even virtually, are more likely to find an interest they didn’t know they had. Our son has been obsessed with the weather since he could walk. He’d toddle downstairs every morning and head straight for the windows to check out the weather.
Now that he’s older, he checks his iPad first thing so that he can tell us what the weather forecast is. When other kids are watching YouTubers play with toys and film stupid pranks, our son is watching weather videos, immersing himself in tornadoes, hurricanes, flash floods, tsunamis, and earthquakes. At only eight, he can tell you anything you’ve ever wanted to know about the weather.
He also learned he loves snakes – a love he will not get to pursue living in our home, but you get the point. Virtual field trips take kids to places they don’t get to go. Perhaps your child will learn to love history, art, or even meteorology by visiting a place in a virtual field trip they might not visit otherwise. Because here is the point of a virtual field trip – many of the places you get to go online aren’t places most kids will ever go in real life. That’s why they’re important, and that’s why they’re worthwhile.
The Best Museums to Visit Virtually
1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met is one of the most amazing museums in the world. My husband and I visited many years ago, and we were blown away. The Met Kids site is a great place for your kids to see art that will inspire them.
2. The Vatican Museum
How many people get to visit the Vatican in Rome? A virtual trip allows you to see into the museum that is the Vatican, and it includes a complete tour of the Sistine Chapel – which, as you know, is home to the stunning ceiling paintings done by Michelangelo himself. It’s breathtaking.
3. The Museum of Science
Kids who love science will love this virtual field trip. In addition to the cool virtual tour of this Boston landmark, the museum offers online classes and more. It’s a science geek’s dream.
4. The Musee du Louvre
The Louvre is the most famous museum in the world for good reason. It’s home to some of the most famous and rarest works of art, including the iconic Mona Lisa.
5. The Frida Kahlo Museum
I can’t remember the last time a school that I, my husband, or our kids attended offered a field trip to Mexico City, so visiting the beautiful Frida Kahlo museum virtually is a must. She’s famous for not just painting herself, but also for her vibrancy. She loved color, and your kids will love this tour.
The Best Famous Places to Visit Virtually
1. Ellis Island
My husband and I spend at least two weekends a year in New York City and we’ve never visited Ellis Island. We do like to have a cocktail and look at the Statue of Liberty, does that count? This is a cool virtual tour that includes some personal stories of people whose families crossed into the country via Ellis Island, and it’s a must.
2. Buckingham Palace
The Queen is no longer with us, but her home still stands. This historic landmark is ornate, beautiful, and filled with fascinating history. Trust me, your kids want to visit.
3. Mount Vernon
My husband and I chaperoned our oldest daughter’s Safety Patrol field trip to Washington D.C. for a week in 2019, and we visited Mount Vernon. Believe me when I say that it still sits at the top of the list of exceptionally cool things we did while there.
4. The White House
Another up close and personal tour we were fortunate enough to take in D.C. with our daughter was of the White House. Do this virtual tour. It’s very cool.
5. Mount Rushmore
In real life, it’s a lot smaller than you imagine. However, the idea that someone took the time and made the effort to carve four of the most influential President’s faces into the side of a mountain is absolutely fascinating. Take the kids virtually, and you won’t regret it.
The Best Zoos to Visit Virtually
1. The San Diego Zoo
Let me preface this entire section by mentioning that I am not a zoo person. I am not an animal person (I am mentally prepared for the onslaught of hate coming my way). However, the San Diego Zoo is one of the most amazing zoos in the world, and I would visit again and again. I imagine the virtual tour is lovely, too.
2. The Miami Zoo
With livestreams and cool facts, Zoo Miami is a great virtual field trip. My son learned he is obsessed with snakes during the Covid Kindergarten zoo tours he took here.
3. The Houston Zoo
The webcams here are some of the most extensive, so your kids can watch virtually any animal doing what it loves to do – playing.
4. Monterey Bay Aquarium
Okay, so the Monterey Bay Aquarium is COOL with a capital C (and two Os and an L). I guess you got that based on my capitalization, but I like to ramble. My kids adore virtual visits to this one because there’s a live jelly cam. Who doesn’t want to watch jellyfish just…do whatever it is they do? Not the Raiford kids, that’s for certain.
5. The Cincinnati Zoo
One of the most famous zoos in the world, I recommend trying to make your way to this one in person. If that’s not an option, however, the virtual visit will work, too.
The Most Fun Virtual Field Trips to Take
Every child toys with the idea of becoming an astronaut at some point, so this virtual field trip goes from educational to downright fun in six seconds flat.
2. Son Doong
What, you ask? I admit it sounds weird and I’m not entirely sure how to type the characters that it’s actually using when it’s written out, but hear me out. This is the world’s largest cave. It’s located in Vietnam, and you can go with National Geographic on an epic online tour – and it’s beyond cool.
3. The M&M Factory
Every single time we fly to NYC for the weekend with our kids, we know that we are going to have to suck it up and deal with the Times Square crowds because the kids love the M&M store. It’s the worst, but it makes them happy. The M&M Factory, however, is nothing like this. It’s the place where it all goes down, and the process behind it is something worth checking out.
4. The Great Barrier Reef
So, the next time you find yourself in Australia, allow me to recommend a tour of the Great Barrier Reef. If spending 18 hours on a flight doesn’t sound like a great time with kids (it really, really doesn’t sound like a great time), perhaps a virtual visit might do the trick. See the sharks, the fish, the reef, everything. It’s an experience.
5. The Hidden World of National Parks
I decided to save the best for last. This is a virtual field trip that takes you to a host of the world’s most amazing national parks. It’s a ‘see one and see them all’ kind of deal. You get to tour so many of them, and your kids will be enamored.
You Can Virtually Visit So Many Places
There are hundreds of virtual vacation spots available in the world, and all you have to do is find them. I’m including a few links you can use to get you started, and I hope that you and your kids (or your classroom if you’re a teacher looking for a cool activity for your class) enjoy.
You can also read:
- 20 Ways to Build Lifelong Confidence in Kids
- 7 Strategies to Make Sure Your Kids Aren’t Entitled
- Should You Send Your Kid to Sleepaway Camp?
- 20 Tips for Mothers of Teenagers to Stay Calm
- 20 Awesome Random Acts of Kindness for Kids