As school begins, many of us are still learning and working remotely, or under remote conditions. In-person field trips are likely not on the school schedule yet, and this prevents us from having the same version of access to educational hot spots, such as zoos and aquariums, museums, and other recreational centers. Or does it?
Many institutions have stepped up their game to accommodate all of these new remote limitations of only being able to serve smaller portions of the population they could once host. One of the new accommodations includes virtual tours!
Virtual tours or virtual field trips can be accessed as an at-home resource, in addition to an in-school resource on a Smartboard or digital display for the whole class to follow along. They aren’t just for teachers - therapists can make great use of them too (obviously, like us!). We have used them in therapy to target the following (to name a few):
iSpy: work on auditory comprehension by scanning and identifying different items in the video/screen shot (fun for small to large groups and individual sessions); use specific/descriptive language to make the task more complex
Prepositions: follow directions specific to preposition concepts, e.g., “Show me the monkey next to the tall tree” or “Point to the fish that swam under the rock”
Descriptive concepts: incorporate as a labeling activity (e.g., “Tell me 3 words to describe the sea otter”) or work on generating simple to complex sentences about a species or object (use as an oral or written exercise)
Same and different: use visuals (think: Venn diagram) as a resource and talk about the similarities and differences between animals or objects you see; category work and naming activities can be included too
Develop questions/comments: practice questions to ask the tour guides about animals/objects you see to gain more information (e.g., “Where does the polar bear live?”) or make comments (e.g., “The cow is my favorite farm animal”) - can work on facts versus opinions as well
Topic maintenance: work on remaining on topic depending on the present theme of the virtual tour. So if you are cruising through the Dinosaur Exhibit, stay on the dinosaur topic for 2 to 3 exchanges. Keep building up exchanges to increase the duration and depth of the conversation
Our Favorite Virtual Tours!
Virtual tours offer a behind-the-scenes view of what goes on at these establishments (sometimes even more than what we would see in person), and many of these sites offer digital channels as well. We have made a list including some of our favorite virtual tours and educational channels below!
Zoos and Aquariums
Marineland Dolphin Adventure (featured video)
Denver Zoo: https://www.youtube.com/c/DenverZooDZTV/featured
LA Zoo: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheLosAngelesZoo
Detroit Institute of Arts (featured video)
The MET: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4i03lJreOI
Florida Dairy Farms (featured video)
Farm Food 360: https://www.farmfood360.ca/
The 10 Acre Woods: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCirFhr1Yk2ULP5cniE96S1g
Guided and independent tours are exciting and educational, but there is also something to be said about observing different species during their candid moments! Institutions like the San Diego Zoo also offer live cams of an array of animals, such as: hippos, penguins, elephants, and more.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium also has other interactive live cams, some with narrated feedings (see select times). Featuring sharks, sea otters, and other marine species!