Monday, August 23, 2010

The Impossible Field Trip

In light of the Perseid meteor showers this month, Joann featured a variety of resources about meteors and meteor showers in her post this week. My goal each week is to help you, the educator, successfully bring these resources into your classroom. As I thought about how to creatively teach about this topic, I was stumped for a little while. When I was in third grade, we were able to take a night field trip to an observatory to see a meteor shower. It was such a wonderful and memorable experience, and I know that many teachers would love to do this today. How can we do something like this when time and budget constraints will hardly allow it?

This is a dilemma that we come across more often these days as educators. Since we can’t afford the kinds of field trips we once could, we need to use our imaginations and bring fun and exciting “virtual field trips” into the classroom. If you make a big deal about the field trip ahead of time and make sure you have plenty of different kinds of activities for the students, it can be a successful in-class field trip experience. This can work for all different types of topics, and I put together a list of different ideas for meteors and meteor showers. Feel free to adapt any of these ideas to create the field trip of your choice, without ever leaving the classroom!

Since your class probably meets during the day, it might be hard to take the students outside to see a meteor shower. The internet has many different ways to expose your students to subjects they might not get to experience first hand. Check out sites like the NASA Images site to find wonderful close up pictures of asteroids. If you search for meteor shower images and videos in Google, you’ll find a lot of neat images and videos you can use as well. Depending on the age of your students, you might want to create an Animoto show with music or have your students create one. As an educator, you can get a free account. You just need to sign up here ahead of time so it can be activated before you use it. The shows are easy to create, and fun to watch with music your students select. You can also use podcasts in your virtual field trip. There are some good ones about the Perseids meteor shower on

It’s neat to see the meteors streaking through the skies, but for me, it was absolutely awe-inspiring to see a crater created in the earth by a meteor strike. You could take your class on a trip to Arizona to see the Barringer Meteor Crater, but if you don’t have the time or money to do that, you can explore it virtually, too. First, you can let your students take a virtual tour of the meteor crater visitor center to discover the history of the crater. NASA has a 360 degree tour of the crater and you can even zoom in so you can feel like you are right there exploring it. Do you want to see what it looked like when the meteor hit the earth, creating the crater? Let your students watch this video from the Meteor Crater visitor center. There is also a really neat interactive map of an impact crater, which will allow your students to explore the terrain of an impact crater.

Students always seem to enjoy hands-on activities and learn a lot, too, so I try to include them as often as possible. This impact crater lab allows students to create their own miniature impact craters so they can better understand how these craters are formed and how their features change with different speeds and angles of impact. Here is another example of a lab from NASA that includes more advanced calculations.

There are many different kinds of tools we can use to bring world events like this into the classroom. A neat way to do this might be to blend some of these ideas into different centers in your classroom on a day you deem the “field trip” day. Let’s not let a small budget get us down. With a little imagination, we can make a fun field trip for our students without ever leaving our schools. If you really hype it up and get the kids excited about what they are doing, it can be an exciting and memorable learning experience for everyone.

~Peggy's Corner - 8/19/2010~

1 comment:

  1. Excellent idea for shrinking the world down for the classroom! Virtual field trips are so much fun, I like the idea of making a special day of it...maybe once a month at least!


Thanks for reading our blog! We are so glad you are joining in the discussion.