Ever since Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon in 1969, children have been dreaming of growing up to become an astronaut. Learning about the solar system leaves most people starry-eyed – even billionaires. So much so that Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, spent $5.5 billion to spend four minutes in orbit. Unfortunately, most school systems don't have billions of dollars lying around to fund a field trip into space - but that's where space virtual field trips come in!
According to NASA, the requirements to become an astronaut are as follows:
- must be a U.S. citizen
- must possess a master's degree in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field
- must have at least two years of professional experience after obtaining your degree or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time on a jet
- must be able to pass the NASA long-duration flight astronaut physical
That's a lot of time and money invested into becoming an astronaut!
With a virtual field trip to space, students can skip over the years of training and costs of lifting off into space. Instead, they can safely explore the universe's wonders from their classrooms with a TV, tablet, or VR headset and discuss critical topics in the science curriculum.
You may be asking, how can I plan a virtual field trip for my classroom? With the help of Kai XR, students get the chance to travel around the world and beyond – opening up endless opportunities to dream big, develop 21st-century skills, and explore the universe around them.
Kai XR is a platform built by educators, dreamers, and technologists who saw an opportunity to embrace the future of education and inspire the next generation of innovators with educational extended reality experiences. It's our mission to bridge the gap between technology and access while empowering students to build the future they want to see. Virtual field trips to outer space are just one of the many ways we do that.
But back to the topic at hand: taking your students to the final frontier!
In this article, we'll discuss:
- What a virtual field trip is and how it works
- Benefits of virtual field trips
- Benefits of exploring outer space in the classroom
- Lessons for your outer space field trip
Preparing for lift-off…
What is a Virtual Field Trip?
So what exactly is a virtual field trip? Isn't the point of a field trip to get out in the field?
Yes and no. Technology has changed the paradigm around what it means to take a field trip. Remote learning, time, and money constraints make it impossible for every lesson to be out in the field to get in-person experience. Teachers report several reasons why planning a field trip can be difficult, including:
- Funding (25%)
- Creating the plan (20%)
- Tying in educational aspects (18%)
- Time management (14%)
- Engaging students (9%)
Virtual field trips are a great way to overcome those barriers. You can now get the same enriching educational experience in your classroom as in person at a museum by engaging in a virtual field trip. Kai XR's virtual field trips take kids of all ages around the world (and beyond) on any device that can connect to the internet. Leveraging interactive 360° technology, our virtual field trips simulate the in-person experience, putting kids in control of their learning experience.
Here are five great examples of where you can take your students on a virtual field trip:
- Explore the Taj Mahal
- Come face-to-face with a hammerhead shark
- Discover the parts of the cell
- Go ehind-the-scenes at a mixed reality studio
- Visit the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. monument
By now, virtual field trips are starting to sound better and better. But they’re not just something you can stream on YouTube. You'll need to take a few steps to set them up. So let's get into how virtual field trips work.
How Do Virtual Field Trips Work?
Virtual field trips can provide an immersive experience about a particular educational subject using virtual reality or augmented reality tools. Often, you'll need a platform that offers content, access to the internet to stream the content, and a viewing device.
Classrooms will need different equipment based on what kind of experience you want to give your students. Let's break down the difference between virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR), and learn more about what equipment you'll need for each.
Augmented reality provides limited levels of virtual experience. This type of technology layers a digital experience over the physical world around you. AR can be experienced through a smartphone or tablet. If you're familiar with Pokemon Go, it's the perfect example of AR!
Suppose you were to do an augmented reality field trip in your classroom. In that case, students might use a mobile device to overlay a 360° model of Stonehenge on their desk to understand the phenomenon of the structure better. Or maybe they'd use a smartphone to scan and identify a plant on a nature walk in science class. Then, information about the plant would display on the screen in real-time.
Mixed reality takes a step closer to being entirely virtual. It's similar to AR in that you still view the physical world. However, in this case, the physical and virtual worlds still crossover and interact. For example, a student could wear a see-through headset and watch Martin Luther King Jr. give his "I Have a Dream" speech as if he was standing at the front of the classroom.
Finally, the most immersive experience can be found in virtual reality. VR creates a 360° fully immersive experience through a headset. For example, any game played on the Oculus Rift would be considered VR. Headsets can be as high-tech as the Oculus Rift or low-tech as a cardboard headset that uses a smartphone.
In VR, students don't interact with the physical world; they're focused and immersed wholly in a computer-generated world. One example of a true virtual reality field trip would be using a headset to dive into the Pacific Ocean to observe the wildlife at the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia.
To sum things up, you have a lot of options when it comes to taking a virtual field trip. It all depends on what kind of technology you have accessible in your classroom. Kai XR creates virtual field trip experiences with this in mind. Our interactive explore platform lets students take virtual field trips using any smartphone, laptop, tablet, or VR headset.
Benefits of Virtual Field Trips
Field trips have been a tradition in education for a long time. They've been consistently recognized as a great way to help students engage in real-world learning experiences. Studies show that 54% of students strongly agree that a field trip has helped them increase their knowledge base of the subject. The research also shows that field trips:
- Promote hands-on learning
- Reinforce cultural growth and personal development
- Increase student engagement
- Speed up succeeding lectures
Until recently, it's been hard to replicate the impact of an in-person field trip in the classroom. However, with the increased access to technology in the classroom and the rise of technology platforms supporting education, facilitating this kind of learning in the school with a virtual field trip is easier than ever.
But that's not the only benefit to consider. Students can enjoy the many benefits of virtual field trips:
- 21st-century learning skills development
- Social-emotional learning activities
- Accessibility for students with disabilities
- Pathway to a global mindset
- Exposure to career options
A well-designed virtual field trip can give students a deeper understanding of the topic by connecting the subject matter to real-world applications. That's because students engage with content not just in a cognitive way but also in a sensory, emotional, and kinesthetic way. Active learning of this kind can develop more neural pathways and help students absorb the information better. Translating that information into a real-world experience allows them to apply what they learned in real life. This is especially important when teaching science topics like climate change, pollution, or environmental protection.
One study sampled 102 middle school students that participated in a virtual field trip to Greenland to measure the impact of virtual learning. Some students experienced the journey in a head-mounted display and others through a 2D video. The group that experienced the field trip virtually scored significantly higher on various measurements such as:
- Being present during the lesson
- Enjoyment of the class
- Interest in the experience
- Immediate retention
- Performance on a delayed posttest.
In addition, the researchers theorized that enjoyment positively influenced their immediate retention and interest boosted delayed posttest scores, indicating these factors may play essential roles in the learning process.
The use of technology in the classroom has been proven to improve 21st-century skills for students, such as life and career skills, learning and innovation skills, and information, media, and technology skills. That's because the experience combines creativity, innovation, and critical thinking, with the technical skills needed to operate the devices.
One literature review found evidence that while skills-based learning outcomes were the most common gains, they also found that students were also better at recalling the information they learned about and demonstrated better learning comprehension.
Teachers can also greatly benefit from utilizing virtual field trips in the classroom. Benefits include:
- Flexibility in planning and timing
- A budget-friendly option
- Lighter teacher workload
- More engaged students
- Equity and access
Virtual field trips allow teachers to take their students on educational adventures without leaving their classrooms or traveling long distances. As a result, they'll save time on trying to coordinate all of the details of the day and the stress of keeping track of everyone away from the school. In addition, teachers can spend more time talking and asking questions to their students after the experience instead of trying to make sure everyone is on the bus home.
Take a Virtual Field Trip to Space
Clearly, NASA virtual field trips can be an excellent opportunity to take the lesson out of the classroom without having to leave physically. Also, thanks to the universe's vastness, there are many topics classes can cover when it comes to learning about outer space! The possibilities are endless!
For example, Kai XR offers various options to launch your space explorers into learning, and we're expanding daily! Our platform provides access to seven different field trips to space:
- Aerospace Engineering - Students can explore an aerospace engineering career path with a scientist working with NASA
- Our Solar System - Study the solar system, the Asteroid Belt, and the Kuiper Belt
- Asteroids - Learn how comets, meteors, and asteroids fall to the Earth because of gravity
- Touch the Sun - Discover how scientists safely observe and learn about the sun at the Space Launch Complex in Cape Canaveral
- Astronaut Training - Our International Space Station virtual field trip helps students learn what it takes to be an astronaut at the station
- The Night Sky - Learn how to recognize constellations in the sky and decode their meaning
- Discover Space Shuttle - Take a tour of NASA's historic Discovery Shuttle
And we're adding new experiences every day!
Kai XR is dedicated to equipping programs and schools with more than just a library of digital content. We also provide professional development for educators and curriculum and lesson plans centered around the experiences we provide.
So if you're not sure how to tie in our outer space virtual space field trips with a real-world experience, we have a few ideas:
- After exploring The Night Sky, ask students to show their parents a constellation in the sky on the next clear night.
- After a day of learning about Our Solar System, ask the students to draw the planets, including the correct size, color, and order.
- Have a class discussion about what they think would happen if large Asteroids hit the Earth. Then tie it back to a lesson about the Mesozoic Era (We have a field trip for that too!)
As you can see, there are plenty of ways you can tie our outer space field trips into your science curriculum.
Benefits of Exploring Outer Space
Space is the perfect place to give kids a taste of adventure and learning. There's so much to learn, and NASA and other space organizations worldwide make new discoveries daily!
In a 2013 report, NASA and the International Space Exploration Coordination Group highlighted three main benefits of space exploration:
- Culture and inspiration
- New means to address global changes
Space exploration has sparked countless technological innovations that further Earth's workforce development and industrial capabilities. These technologies have pushed industries like health care, robotics, and automation forward. For example, studying the human body's experience in the International Space Station microgravity environment can help doctors better understand the process of aging.
Studying space also has intangible benefits, such as its effects on humankind's social development. Space travel has expanded our view of the limits of the human experience on a global scale. It has unified humanity as global citizens on many occasions. For example, the iconic photo of Earth taken from the Apollo 8 mission in 1968 gave the world a new perspective on Earth's place among the cosmos. It raised awareness about the need for global solutions to environmental challenges.
It's clear that space exploration has significant benefits for all of society, but why is it such an important subject to explore in the classroom? Much like the societal benefits highlighted above, there are many reasons why it's essential to teach kids about space. Here are just a few:
- Sparks interest in science
- Introduces children to new ideas and concepts
- Encourages kids to strive for greatness
- Teaches students how to think out of the box
- Helps students think from a global perspective
Teaching your children about space is a great way to engage them in science. Through this curriculum, students will learn about the solar system, its planets, and other celestial bodies in our galaxy. They will also learn about the history of space exploration throughout history.
Space is an exciting subject that can help develop critical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities. Learning about space will inspire children to think big, solve problems, and aim high when it comes to their own goals in life.
The Sky's the Limit with Kai XR
Virtual field trips have a wide range of benefits. From encouraging social-emotional learning and engagement to building critical 21st-century skills, virtual reality is a new frontier for education just waiting to be explored! Now that you know the benefits of virtual field trips, especially in space, it's time to explore your options! Check out Kai XR's vast library of virtual field trips today.
Here's a sneak peek at what other adventures our platform has to offer:
- Travel to UC Berkeley to learn about CRISPR
- Visit the Obama's Whitehouse
- Explore the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
- Dive with the fish in the Great Barrier Reef
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