School field trips reach farther this yearMay 12, 2021 11:31AM ● By Jet Burnham
Through virtual field trips, Silvercrest fourth graders explore museums, aquariums, zoos and national parks. (Jami Berry/Silvercrest Elementary)
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
For the first time ever, Silvercrest Elementary fourth graders went on a field trip to Bryce Canyon National Park. There were no issues with transportation, parent volunteers or forgotten sack lunches, because it was a virtual field trip.
“Virtual field trips are the upside of pandemic learning,” fourth grade teacher Jami Berry said. “I have been able to incorporate more field trips this year than ever before, and I've been able to ‘take’ my students to places we could never go on a normal field trip. They got to experience Bryce Canyon with a National Park ranger standing at the edge of the amphitheater, using his cell phone to show them the hoodoos and talking about how they formed. It was incredible.”
Students were able to interact with and ask questions to a park ranger as he gave a demonstration on fossils and showed examples of the effects of weathering and erosion on the landscape, concepts they were learning in their geology unit.
Kristin Brown, another fourth grade teacher, said normally, she would read the geology standards materials and then present it to the class. But with the virtual field trip, students were taught directly by an expert in the field.
“This is straight from a park ranger that's live there,” she said.
Normally, teachers are limited to one field trip per year because of the cost and the disruption to the entire school day. Virtual field trips are free and can be scheduled during a specific class period.
“Once I realized that different places were offering virtual field trips, I started searching online to see who was offering them, because I wanted to take advantage of this unique opportunity,” Berry said.
Fourth grade students have enjoyed virtual field trips to the Bean Life Science Museum, Discovery Gateway Children's Museum, Clark Planetarium, the Utah State Capitol, Museum of Ancient Life, Natural History Museum of Utah, Hogle Zoo and Loveland Living Planet Aquarium.
“Each field trip has supported our science and/or social studies standards, while also offering some fun interactive elements,” Berry said.
Virtual field trips have allowed students to have more experiences and reach farther than the budget normally does. Still, teachers are looking forward to when they are able to take students on actual field trips.
“An in-person field trip is definitely the preferable way,” Brown said. “When you get to go there, it's really more hands-on. They get to touch the things and they get to see the things.”
The kids also love the excitement of leaving school and riding the bus.
“We don't have any buses at our school,” Brown said. “So, field trips are a big deal because of the bus.”
Fourth grade students also traditionally attend a performance by the Utah Symphony, which introduces them to the arts and to concert etiquette. This year, the Utah Symphony and Opera reached out to Beverly Taylor Sorenson Arts Educators to arrange virtual meetings with individual musicians. Silvercrest students had a Zoom experience with a bassoonist and violinist, who played their instruments, explained how they worked and told stories about the history of how their instruments were made. Silvercrest teachers, including music specialist Rinda Clyde, followed up with classroom activities that provided further exploration of the concepts the musicians had introduced.
While Clyde was disappointed the students missed out on a full symphony experience this year, she was pleased they had such a unique one-on-one interaction.
“The artist assigned was able to field individual questions from students and create a lesson specifically targeted to my curriculum needs,” Clyde said. “They were quirky, skilled, funny, and very knowledgeable about their craft.”
Clyde has had to completely revamp her music program to accommodate this year’s limitations—no singing, dancing or instruments which express air. However, she has discovered effective, easy-to-sanitize instruments—balls, hula hoops and boomwhackers—to enhance her curriculum.
“This year has made me very creative,” Clyde said. “Who knew easily sanitized playground balls could be used to improve my students’ ability to feel beat and express rhythm in place of dancing?”