May 16, 2022

Virtual Field Trips (Examples, Benefits, and Real-World Learning)

Kai XR

Remote learning–on top of money and time constraints–makes it impossible for every lesson to be experiential. You can't feasibly take your class to Egypt on Monday morning, and then explore the solar system after lunch. Or can you? Virtual field trips allow educators and families to show students the world like never before. 

At Kai XR, we connect educators and families with the best virtual field trips for kids. Our mission is to use technology to break down barriers and provide valuable learning opportunities for all students. We are ushering educators, families, and students into the future of education; a future where students can immerse themselves in previously inaccessible learning environments at the touch of a button.

How is this all possible? Through extended Reality (XR), an umbrella term that encompasses VR, AR, and MR technologies. These technologies provide access to the metaverse–slated to be as widely-accessed as the internet in coming years. We understand these are cutting edge technologies, so we’ve dropped a quick primer below.

  • Virtual Reality (VR) refers to a fully immersive experience. Generally, users wear a headset that blocks their view of the physical world and projects a 360° digital environment around them. A space virtual field trip for elementary students will be most fun in full VR, so students can feel they’ve rocketed out of their classroom and into the cosmos.
  • Augmented Reality (AR) denotes a layered experience. Computer-generated images are superimposed on the physical world through a device (like a smartphone). If you’ve spent any time playing Pokemon Go, then you’re already familiar with this technology! Educators may include AR in a virtual field trip for Earth Day by having students use an app that identifies plants while they walk around a local park.  
  • Mixed Reality (MR) is similar to AR, but differs in that the computer-generated images are not only superimposed on physical reality, but actually interact with it. If you’ve ever used an app to animate art pieces at a museum, you have engaged with MR before. MR provides opportunities for interactive virtual field trips for elementary students.
  • The Metaverse is a network where people can access digital, 3-D content. It is not an app, website, or offering controlled by a single company. Instead, it’s similar to the internet; both the metaverse and the internet are platforms that anyone can create content for and anyone can access and enjoy through AR, VR, and XR technologies. The metaverse is a space that can connect people worldwide. 

At Kai XR, we use various technologies that fall under the extended reality umbrella to provide safe, interactive virtual field trips for kids–no magic school bus required! 

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Image source: unsplash.com

The Benefits of Field Trips 

Field trips have been a staple of education in the United States for decades. However, they are on the decline. According to Education Next, student attendance at Cincinnati arts organizations decreased by a staggering 30% between 2002 and 2007. Factors leading schools to cut down on field trips include minimal financial resources and increased focus on standardized testing prep.

On top of these factors, many museums and cultural institutions reduced their visitor capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic. This–in conjunction with remote learning–made it difficult for educators to organize field trips in 2020 and 2021.

Despite their decline, field trips are still a powerful teaching tool. In one 2013 study, researchers looked at the impact field trips to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas had on students. They found that field trip attendance increased students’:

  • Critical thinking
  • Historical empathy
  • Tolerance
  • Interest in art museums

The authors of the study found that students from rural schools and high-poverty schools experienced especially high increases in the above variables. Clearly, learning outside of a classroom lecture is still worthwhile.

But, how can educators organize this in the face of many barriers? 

Virtual Field Trips Provide an Antidote

Enter: virtual field trips. 

These digital experiences can transport children around the globe in seconds, enriching any lesson plan.

As virtual reality continues to gain popular traction (investors put $10 billion into virtual world start-ups in 2021), educators and students can expect to use this technology for practical applications in the classroom.

In fact, some teachers already began to do this in 2020. Researchers Kiley Sobel and Catherine Jhee interviewed a few K-8 educators who were early adopters of XR in the classroom. They found that teachers who used VR and AR for virtual field trips shared these experiences with their students:

  • Exploring coral reefs and ocean life
  • Attending Google expeditions
  • Building a virtual water park to learn concepts of area, perimeter, and volume through

Educators also used VR as a teaching tool beyond field trips. Some worked with students to help them add augmented reality to graphic novels and produce original AR and VR stories.

These teachers found success in their innovative lesson plans and virtual field trips. Based on their surveys and interviews, Sobel and Jhee recommend educators interested in bringing XR technology to their classroom do the following:

  • Collaborate with other teachers and/or IT specialists 
  • Check that tethered headsets are compatible with school computer software
  • Clean shared headsets between each use
  • Set realistic expectations and discuss fantasy vs. reality with students.

Virtual Field Trips Provide Career and Technical Education

Another huge benefit of virtual field trips is the increased opportunity for Career and Technical Education (CTE) that they offer.

CTE is a cornerstone of the American education system. It focuses on real-world outcomes, equipping students with the skills they need to enter a wide range of in-demand careers. According to a leading CTE curriculum developer, CTE can be divided into 16 distinct career clusters.

These clusters include:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Architecture and Construction
  3. Arts, Technology, and Communications
  4. Business Management and Administration
  5. Education and Training
  6. Finance
  7. Government and Public Administration
  8. Health Science
  9. Hospitality and Tourism
  10. Human Services
  11. Information Technology
  12. Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security
  13. Manufacturing
  14. Marketing
  15. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
  16. Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics

Even when students attend field trips in the real world, it’s only possible to expose them to a fraction of available careers. Career presentations are one solution, but listening to guests speak all day can leave students disengaged.

So, how can children receive valuable CTE while classroom-bound? Virtual reality is one method.

The best virtual field trips provide a solid foundation of Career and Technical Education. Students can see what different careers and workplaces look like, and gain more clarity into their future aspirations within these immersive experiences.

Young girl on device
Image source: Kai XR

Examples of Virtual Field Trips by Grade

Below, we’ll share some examples of the best virtual field trips educators can find, all organized by grade level.

These digital experiences can positively impact any classroom by:

  • Enriching Career and Technical Education
  • Generating critical discussion around complex topics
  • Broadening student’s world view.

Let’s dive in.

Virtual Field Trips for 2nd Grade & Virtual Field Trips for 3rd Grade

Engaging a room full of 7, 8, and 9 year olds is a tall order. 

Technology can be a great antidote for moments when the class’s attention wanes. However, it's important to remember safety and screen-time concerns. Although cutting edge XR technology is steadily making its way into homes and classrooms, full virtual reality is not age-appropriate for everyone.

At Kai XR, our concern for students’ health and safety–along with our belief in the educational benefits of XR–led us to create Exploration Mode. Learn more about this exciting feature.

Exploration Mode

At Kai XR, we are committed to delivering virtual experiences that are safe for each grade level. We designed VR Tablet Exploration Mode for younger students, who aren’t ready to be fully immersed in a 360° digital experience. Exploration mode allows students to transform their tablet or other handheld device into a navigator by moving in a circle. They retain full visibility of the physical world, while also having full access to explore the digital experience from all angles.

To keep things safe and age-appropriate, educators may wish to lead virtual field trips for 3rd graders and virtual field trips for 2nd graders using Kai XR’s exploration mode. 

Safe Virtual Field Trips for 3rd Grade and Below

One Kai XR experience that is fun and engaging for students sans full-immersion is our “Explore Penguins” offering.

In this science virtual field trip for all ages, students are transported to Boulders Beach in Cape Town, South Africa. There, they watch as a curious penguin leans toward the camera. In the distance, penguins paddle through clear waters. 

Throughout the experience, a narrator discusses threats to the current population of African penguins, including habitat destruction and low numbers of fish in the sea.

Viewers then travel to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds. The narrator explains how veterinarians care for birds to strengthen them for their return to the wild.

Students then join the foundation staff at Betty’s Bay for this joyful return. On the beach, vets gently upturn cardboard boxes. Penguins hop out and run to the sea.

“The great thing about penguins is that they’re just really tough,” the narrator shares. “They’ll still live a proper life."   

Field trips like these not only reel in students’ interest in cute animals, but also present them with solid information that can tie into lessons about wildlife conservation or a veterinarian’s career.

Following this experience, educators could teach about:

  • Overfishing
  • Humans’ impact on animal habitats
  • South African penguins

The beauty of virtual field trips is that they provide a shared experience that connects students to what they’re learning in the classroom. Educators can then tailor these fun virtual field trips to their classroom’s current unit. 

Other Kai XR field trips elementary students will love include:

4th Grade Virtual Field Trips & 5th Grade Virtual Field Trips

Virtual Field Trips for 4th Graders and 5th Graders may include more immersive elements, but should still consider age recommendations for full VR. Common Sense Media reports that most VR headset manufacturers recommend their products for ages 13 and up. However, most parents with 8-17 year olds who use VR report that the technology is appropriate for children.

In other words, recommendations vary.

To navigate this, it can be a great practice to send letters home to parents before introducing VR into the classroom. Educators can work with caregivers to determine the healthiest XR option for each classroom.

Once this is done, students can dive into the fun stuff–namely the world’s largest indoor pool. 

At NASA’s neutral buoyancy lab in Houston, students can observe space walking training. In this experience, astronauts paddle through a life-sized replica of the International Space Station. They practice zero G maneuvers and equipment repairs in their spacesuits. A narrator explains what is happening throughout the field trip, sharing that astronauts amass over 100 hours of practice before completing a single real space walk.

This virtual field trip would be a great gateway to curriculum about the solar system, space exploration, or growth mindset.

Other virtual field trips for 4th grade and 5th grade include:


woman using black VR headset beside computer
Image source: unsplash.com

Virtual Field Trips for Middle School

In middle school, most students are ready to use fully immersive VR. This is a great opportunity to lead virtual field trips for social studies. It’s also an awesome time to introduce students to geography virtual field trips. 

For example, educators can supplement social studies lessons with virtual visits to important global landmarks. Options in Kai XR’s virtual field trip library include visits to:

There are also many opportunities for virtual science field trips in middle school VR classrooms.

Our CRISPR field trip takes students on a 360° tour of the Innovative Genomics Institute to learn how scientists use DNA editing to treat blood disorders like sickle cell anemia. 

Kai Frazier – founder of Kai XR – walks students through the institute and explains what scientists who work here do. She also prompts students to think critically about the implications of CRISPR, asking “if you could change the DNA of any living thing, would you do it?”

Open-ended questions like these provide a great entry point for class-wide discussions of science and ethics and similarly complex topics. 

Other cool virtual field trips that can engage middle schoolers in mind-opening discussions include our:

  • Chernobyl virtual field trip
  • Civil war trenches virtual field trip
  • Starry Night virtual field trip

Virtual Field Trips for High School Students

Once students reach high school, virtual reality provides an entire world of opportunity. At this age, the best virtual field trips allow students to explore a future career or gain a deep understanding of classroom content.

For example, on a virtual social studies field trip, high school students can get a taste for government with a behind-the-scenes look at life at 1600 West Pennsylvania Avenue (aka the White House). Educators can find this through our “The People’s House” experience. 

Alternatively, an art class may enjoy stepping inside the world of British fashion icons to hear from the likes of model Naomi Campbell and designer Edward Enninful. A social studies class may enjoy exploring futuristic Black history with Kai XR.

Extended reality offers endless opportunities to creatively engage any high school classroom. How you do a virtual field trip will vary by student engagement, subject, and available time, but all these experiences are united in connecting high school students to high-quality education. 

Getting Started: Test out Free Virtual Field Trips for Kids

If you’re thinking about adding XR to your arsenal of teaching tools, but would like to complete a trial period first, we’ve got you covered. Educators and parents can explore our pricing page to access a 7-day free trial for either our Journey or Trek plan.

This week-long trial connects educators with a host of free online virtual field trips to assess compatibility with your class.

DIY Virtual Teaching

Teachers who plan to lead remote and virtual classrooms on field trips may opt to design their own digital experience before committing to a specific educational XR provider. 

This avenue can help provide age-appropriate virtual field trips for college students, as well as engaging virtual field field trips for adults who are not in school.

For example, the professor of an International Policy course could design a virtual field trip to the United Nations office at Geneva for their students. To do this on a low-tech budget, you’d need video tours of the location and interviews with key figures. 

After gathering these materials, show them during the first 20 minutes of a lecture to pique students' interest and provide them with a visual touchstone for discussing this institution. 

Connecting with Educational Virtual Field Trips

At Kai XR, we offer a curated library of virtual field trips for educators ready to dive into the world of VR.

We design and distribute virtual experiences with students and educators in mind. Our curated library spans subjects from animation to social studies to science. It’s sure to house lessons and experiences that will capture your classroom’s attention. Our service has also captured attention and praise from the likes of Steve Harvey and NBC’s Shomari Stone

All students deserve access to innovative and accessible experiential learning. 

Because accessibility is a core tenet of our organization, educators can rest assured that our services will allow them to incorporate virtual experiences into any classroom with affordable pricing.

At Kai XR, immersive learning can happen despite logistical and financial constraints. From their desks, students can both scour the depths of the sea and sail through the solar system.

Extended reality offers everyone the opportunity to broaden their worldview and immerse themselves in learning.

Read more about Kai XR before you start enriching students’ learning with virtual field trips. 

You can email us at info@kaixr.com or give us a call at 510-993-0993 for more information. We look forward to connecting your classroom to enriching learning opportunities in this exciting digital space.

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