Summary and Analysis

Kids in the House
Ginny Hutcheson
The purpose of this virtual field trip is to give students who would not normally have the opportunity to visit Washington, DC a chance to explore the Capitol and the House of Representatives. Such a field trip would be expensive even for students in the metropolitan DC area, due to transportation costs and bus driver salaries. For students living farther away, such a trip is impossible in this economic climate. However, the website “Kids in the House” lets students and classes take virtual field trips to the Capitol instead.
There are many different experiences that students might get out of this website. Teachers should thoroughly familiarize themselves with the resources available, and then tailor the content of the virtual filed trip to the age level of the children. Young children might look at the virtual field trip to the house chamber to learn about different artifacts, or they could find the statues that their state contributed to the statuary hall as a way to learn about both state and federal government. There are also coloring pages, which can be printed or colored online, that might be an appropriate activity for a lesson on patriotism.
Older students might do these activities as well, but they can also follow “A. Bill” as it becomes a law, which is an important part of a civics unit, and explore a possible schedule for the first day in the House of Representatives. They can also look at important people, events, and pieces of artwork important to the House. There are many learning activities built into the website, such as challenge questions at the bottom of most pages, and an activity where students can build their own bill. Teachers can also access lesson plans (mostly designed for 6th-8th grade), for activities such as a mock debate in Congress.
This virtual field trip experience would be very different from actually visiting the capitol. In some ways, it is worse—you can’t see the actual House Chamber or meet anybody who works in Congress, and it’s much more difficult to ask questions that aren’t answered on the website. However, in other ways, such a virtual experience is better than real life. It is certainly more cost efficient. It can be used as a whole class, or individually, which would give students the opportunity to research topics more intrinsically interesting to them. And in some areas, more information is given on the website than would be available in a real life trip, such as how to find and contact your representative. The website also offers a glossary of terms that would be helpful to students.
To use this virtual field trip effectively, a teacher should be thoroughly familiar with the site before showing it to students. One should be aware of all the features to avoid the useless, boring, or off topic ones and to navigate more efficiently through the different pages. If students are to explore the site independently, teachers must have thought provoking questions or assignments prepared ahead of time (whereas with a regular field trip, such an assignment might occur back in the classroom after the trip is over). Finally, the teacher should be aware of other resources that might be necessary to answer questions, in the absence of a tour guide.
I think “Kids in the House” is a very helpful resource overall. The content is somewhat limited, but the information that is provided is both concise and detailed. In addition, the teacher resources could be useful for lesson plans and activities to do in conjunction with the site. The challenge questions provide thought provoking questions for students, and the entire website is in student friendly language. I would definitely use this website in my classroom.

National Zoo
Ginny Hutcheson
The Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park has a website that can be used as a virtual field trip for students who are unable to make trips to the zoo due to time or money constraints. This “trip” would teach students about different types of organisms (plants and animals; mammals, birds, reptiles, etc.). It would also enable children to observe real animals instead of merely pictures. The zoo has 20 different animals that are constantly broadcast live via webcam. There are also photo galleries for all the different animal exhibits, which are especially useful for when the animals are not visible or active in the webcam feeds. In addition to merely viewing animals, students can connect science to geography by taking a virtual world tour and exploring how the different climates of the world affect which species live there. Finally, the students can find out facts about each animal at the zoo through exploring detailed information pages.
A virtual field trip to the zoo probably would not be nearly as exciting to the students as a physical trip, but it is much more practical. It is more cost effective, more time effective, and less dangerous than visiting such a busy establishment (especially with large numbers of young children). In addition, if used in a computer lab setting (rather than as a whole class), it enables students to learn about the animals that interest them quickly and easily. At the zoo, an entire group of students would have to walk around to animals that may or may not fascinate each student. Some students would want to read information about the animals and feel rushed, while others would be bored at most of the stops. And, because the National Zoo is so large and so spread out, a virtual field trip would allow students to explore more animals in less time.
If the teacher is to use this “virtual field trip” as a whole class, she or he must be careful to monitor time carefully and explore as many animals as possible to interest the most students. If students are to explore independently or in small groups, the teacher should prepare a worksheet, project, or questions ahead of time so that students can guide their inquiry appropriately. The National Zoo also provides curriculum guides to teachers (some for free, and some for a price) for many subjects and grade levels, which can be used in conjunction with the website resources, but these guides must be ordered ahead of time. In addition to these guides, there is an online program called “Conservation Central” that explores the very relevant topic of environmentalism, as it pertains to animals, in great detail. There are multimedia activities like designing a panda habitat that can teach students about the basic needs of living things and how they are affected by human activity. However, the teacher must understand all of the available modules and how they fit into state and nationally mandated science curriculum in order to use the National Zoo’s resources to their fullest extent.
The National Zoo site had many features and was very detailed and informative. I think this would be a great website to utilize in a classroom. It would be especially effective when used in conjunction with observation of live animals. When a real trip to the zoo is not an option, a virtual one is better than nothing, and the Smithsonian does a great job making the virtual experience educational and enjoyable.

Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trip
Nesli Monroe
The purpose of this virtual field trip is to provide students with interactive class activities of events in Colonial Williasmburg. The virtual field trip also gives the students an opportunity to meet the histroic people and visit the places of Colonial Williasmburg. This VTF contains many video segments of historical events and allows the students to impant themselves in the time period by participating in live, ineteracative activities.
This virtual field trip experience would be different than physically visiting the site. Although phsycially visiting the site may provide the students with a real-life experience, the virtual field trip offers a wide variety of opportunities for learning. The VTF offers multiple activites, games, and videos to keep the students engaged and learning. The VTF is also much more time efficient than phsycially visiting the site. Through the VTF, the students can experience all of the historical events and people without the conflict of being pressed for time. Physically visiting the site risks not being able to visit and learn about all of the events and people, and may not give the students thorough information about the history, because of the lack of time.
In order to use the virtual field effectively, the teacher must be completely familiar with all of the lessons, activites, and videos provided on the website. Because the website contains a lot of information, it is important for the teacher to even choose certain videos or activities for the students, so it isn't too overwhelming. The teacher should also be knowledgeable of the resources that may be used in answering student's questions due to the absence of "real-life" historical people or tour guides.
I am very impressed with the Colonial Williamsburg electronic field trip because it gives the students the feeling of actually being on the historical site and experiencing the events of that time period. The activities and lessons are very thorough and informational for both the teacher and students. I would use this VTF in my classroom!

The Aquifer Virtual Field Trip
Nesli Monroe
The purpose of the aquifer virtual field trip is to actively engage students in learning about the importance of water, the water cycle, groundwater aquifers, drinking water. This virtual field trip allows the students to go through a water journey and participate in multiple activities along the way. It provides virtual pictures that illustrate the information of the water cycle.
Because there is not necessarily a place to visit to learn about the water cycle and groundwater aquifers, etc., the aquifer virtual field trip provides the students with an interactive way of learning, rather than doing worksheets and a lecture. The VTF is an exciting opportunity for kids to learn more! Students are able to work collaboratively and participate in engaging activities on the website.
In order to use the virtual field trip effectivley, the teacher will need to be aware of the activities and information provided on the website. The teacher will need to prepare ahead of time what objectives she would like to meet for that specific lesson, and pick out certain activities on the site that will be meet those objectives. The teacher will also need to explore the teacher's resources section for quizzes and answers to questions that the students may have about their water journey.
The aquifer virtual field trip is a great tool because it provides students with information about water cycles, importance of drinking water, groundwater aquifers, etc., in an engaging and interactive way. It provides detailed information through an exciting journey that is geared towards the younger ages.

White House 101
Erin Rainey
The purpose of this field trip would be to acquaint students with the White House: its function, its history, and some basic facts about the building itself. Students could potentially learn about the White House’s long and dramatic past, examine the art that is displayed there, and/or hear the stories of the presidents, families, and even pets that have called the White House home. The lesson could also focus on the president in the White House – “shadowing” him as he goes through a typical day living and working there.

It is possible to glean much of the basic tour information from this site, but it really leaves something to be desired. The lack of images of the White House itself is a particular weakness. One of the main points of a virtual field trip is giving students the opportunity to feel as if they are physically in another place; sitting and reading about another place is not terribly novel for them. Kids would be much more engaged if they were on-site at the White House, potentially meeting the president and physically standing in a room as they learn about it, but that raises the typical issues of security and simple feasibility of actually taking a trip to the White House. Having grown up in Virginia, field trips to Washington, DC are the norm in my mind, but there are plenty of students who don’t live close enough to physically travel there. In those cases, a virtual tour with a few images to supplement it could be very useful. There is also the concern that students would be so overwhelmed by the new experience that they would not absorb any information. In those cases, having the information all in one place on the website would be incredibly beneficial for students.

As previously mentioned, there are a limited number of images on the website, so a teacher hoping to use it to introduce his/her class to the White House would probably want to find pictures from another source to supplement the wealth of information on the website. Also, because there is so much information on a page, it might be helpful for the teacher to guide the entire class through the field trip rather than relying on students’ ability to read everything on the page. He/she might also find it helpful to sift through the information beforehand and pick out the pieces of history that would be interesting to his/her class, creating a more meaningful experience for them.

The teacher would also want to know that the slideshows of presidents and “first pets” are extremely well-done, and would likely capture the interest of young students. These sections of the site would require less outside research for the teacher in addition to being engaging.

The content of this site is rich and informative, and its presentation works well for a particular audience. Unfortunately, that audience is not elementary students, so using this site effectively with a younger class would require significant outside preparation on behalf of the teacher. However, the information it contains is incredibly valuable and would serve teachers well as long as they were willing to put in the extra effort to develop an appropriate presentation.


The Forbidden City Virtual Tour
Erin Rainey
The purpose of this VFT is to allow students the opportunity to experience something literally half a world away, where costs and logistics make it impossible for the class to make a physical visit. The design of this particular virtual tour also exposes students to the culture and customs of the Forbidden City, as well as a bit of Chinese history, as they travel through the various gates and halls of the palace.
In a lot of ways this trip parallels what students would experience if they physically visited the palace, especially in the dragon’s guided tour, in which students proceed through the gates in order, as if they were actually walking through. The information that is provided at each “stop” is remarkably similar to what is featured on the informational signs at the actual Forbidden City, so students are generally getting the same historical and cultural information; if anything they are getting more depth from the virtual tour because it is simply more feasible to have a detailed story on a website than on a sign. What the children will miss out on, obviously, are the physical aspects of the palace. The teacher might describe the enormity of the palace complex, the ornateness of the decorations, and the beautiful art that is featured within, but the students will not really comprehend this unless they see it for themselves.
The guided tour could be used effectively in a variety of classroom settings – individually, in small groups, or as a whole class – depending on the teacher’s goals for the lessons and how the students learn best. Individual students could explore at their own pace and spend time doing extra research on things that they find particularly interesting. Small groups of students could go through the tour together and then develop some kind of project to display what they had learned. An entire class (this would be particularly useful with younger children) could experience the tour under a teacher’s guidance, allowing the teacher to control the pace and insert his/her own lessons, ideas, and activities throughout the field trip.
Overall, I was very impressed with this VFT. I would have loved to see videos, or even pictures that give some perception of the size of the palace. However, the information contained is concise and accurate, and the presentation lends itself incredibly well to being used in the classroom. The additional links from the map page, aside from the tours, provide a wealth of information about the history surrounding the Forbidden City, its culture, and visiting the modern site, giving teachers a whole set of new opportunities for lessons.

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Virtual Jamestown
Nesli Monroe, Erin Rainey, Ginny Hutcheson
The purpose of Virtual Jamestown is to provide students with detailed and thorough information about Jamestown that is easily accessible. There is tons of information that can be found on Jamestown and this site provides links, activities, virtual pictures, maps, and many more informational tools that can be used to deeper students' understanding of the historical event. The site also contains live interviews of historical figures and documentaries so the students can be actively engaged in the lesson. Compared to physically visiting the site, the virtual field trip is very time efficient. Students are able to explore more information and gain a more detailed observation of the history in part of a class day, while a whole school day would be needed to physically explore the site. Although physically visiting the site may be more exciting than virtually exploring Jamestown, the electronic field trip provides the students with exciting and interactive activities that they could not do while physically visiting the site.


One of the greatest benefits of this site, in my mind, is that it creates a myriad of opportunities for expansion. After students explore the detailed timelines of the voyages, Jamestown settlement, and life in Virginia, they could easily draw on that information to write in their journals (or do something even more creative!) about what it would be like to be a settler. The primary and secondary documents available on the site – public records, newspapers, and first-hand accounts of events – provide a wonderful way to make history come alive for children. And their reading of these documents could easily turn into a creative project of creating their own settlement as a class, anything that would allow them to apply what they have learned. Thus the site is not only a source of information for the first time students approach the Jamestown lesson, but a set of resources for use in more advanced analysis and synthesis.

The pictures and interactive videos available on the site are also great. Images have a way of giving kids a greater sense of understanding, especially if they are not able to physically visit the site. These tools, especially the interactive virtual tours, could be the base for great lessons, with the teacher guiding the class on a tour and explaining different buildings in a settlement, what life would have been like, and historical events, along the way. In addition, the videos of interviews with modern-day Chesapeake Indians provide a great segue into discussing the historical significance of the events the class has been learning about and to making connections between the past and the modern world.
Virtual Jamestown is a work in progress. The 3D virtual Indian Village is a great concept with high-quality graphics, but the site is not yet terribly educational, and there is no differentiation between preschool and college level students. There are other 3D recreations in the works which could be useful when finished, but only if they are more interactive and more educational than the Indian Village (in which there are only two objects that actually have information about them). The other teaching material features are interesting for classroom projects, but they really do not compare to visiting Jamestown in person. The website has appropriate quality and content for a teaching aid, but not for a virtual field trip.



Categorization


Social Studies
Government
Kids in the House
White House 101
History
Colonial Williamsburg
Virtual Jamestown
Forbidden City

Science
Aquifer VFT
National Zoo


Our Own VFT


Solar System VFT
Opening page: picture of solar system
Click on each plane/moon t to learn more.
Planet pages: Facts about planet; written words and audio files
Page with model of distance/size to scale
Videos of real life moon landing, Mars rovers, etc.
Online activities for each planet:
-Quiz with answers given
-Construct your own model (Order of the planets, relative size/distance)
-Plan your trip to space--what do astronauts need to survive?
Teacher resources-- lists of activities to do with class
-Test questions and answers
-Lesson plans: phases of the moon, modeling the solar system, etc.