Virtual field trips offer a breath of fresh air amidst pandemic restrictions

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Ingenium - Canada's Museums of Science and Innovation

Forget the bumpy bus ride — now you can take a science-themed field trip right from your home or classroom.

A new virtual field trips program is offering interactive, educational experiences with Ingenium’s three national museums — the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

“I registered for three virtual field trips because I wanted to provide some opportunities that would enhance the learning experience for my students, in spite of the limitations in place due to COVID.”

~Amy Connolly, a Grade 9 science teacher at Immaculata High School in Ottawa  

In Canada and around the world, pandemic restrictions and lockdowns have severely limited social gatherings and travel over the past year. This poses a huge challenge for educators, community leaders, and parents of homeschoolers, who often plan inspiring group outings to engage their students or participants. Now Ingenium offers a viable alternative to in-person visits.

“Since we can’t welcome busloads full of kids through our museum doors right now, our educational team decided to simulate that experience through a virtual offering,” explains Valerie Lefebvre, education coordinator for the Canada Science and Technology Museum. “Now groups can still see our popular exhibitions and participate in hands-on activities, from the comfort and safety of the home or classroom.”

Lefebvre adds that even before the pandemic, Ingenium had plans to develop virtual offerings for those who couldn’t physically visit the museums in Ottawa. The arrival of the COVID-19 virus in Canada — and the subsequent provincial stay-at-home order in March 2020 — simply accelerated those plans.

A diverse menu of virtual field trips

Each of Ingenium’s three museums offer a variety of virtual field trips — for a total of 16 unique selections — with direct links to Ontario and Quebec curriculum. For example, participants can learn about flight and aviation technology with a virtual field trip to the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, or they may focus on climate change or the micro worlds of everyday objects with a virtual field trip to the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

For younger participants, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum offers a virtual field trip where the children get to meet the farm animals — with the chance to see sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, and pigs. For older students, such as Connolly’s Grade 9 science class, the “Genetics and Dairy Cows” program is a hit.

“The students absolutely loved having a tour of the cow barn!” says Connolly. “There were lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ when the calves were highlighted and given a good rub; they really stole the show!
“They [the students] were fascinated by the information the facilitator shared with them about Jessica — the oldest cow — with all her favorable qualities! They were a little embarrassed when they learned about the insemination process and squirmed in their seats a bit, but I thought that was pretty cool and fascinating as well. They had lots of questions when we finished up!”

Marina Deere, an Intermediate teacher at Vincent Massey Public School in Ottawa, selected the “Design Technology” virtual field trip — offered by the Canada Science and Technology Museum — for her Grade 8 Visual Arts class.

“I really enjoyed the interactive nature of the presentation,” says Deere. “The presenter did a good job balancing speaking time, question time, activity time, and wait time. Although we could not go to the museum itself, it was a great way to interact with this new technology and develop an interest.”

Deere adds that her students will also participate in the “Hidden Worlds: Under the Microscope” virtual field trip later this year.

Connecting community groups and homeschoolers

The virtual field trip program has also enabled community groups outside of the National Capital Region — that may not get the chance to travel to Ottawa in person — to connect to Ingenium’s three museums. In November 2020, a group of SK to Grade 1 girls from a Toronto-based Sparks unit participated in the “Meet the Small Farm Animals” virtual field trip with the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum.

“The facilitator was very engaging with the girls, and made sure she included them by asking questions and responding to their comments,” says Karolyn Mathews, a leader with the 90th Toronto Sparks Unit. “She also always brought in fun facts and let the conversation follow the girls’ questions, so there was no fixed agenda.”

There has even been interest from schools outside of Canada; an elementary school in California recently booked the “Movement and Machines: It’s Simple!” virtual field trip. 

For families who are home schooling, virtual field trips are available through a special package called “Ingenium’s Learn at Home Series.” During this five-week series, participants will enjoy a fun, interactive session about a different subject each week. These sessions are selected from the virtual field trip menu. 

Ingenium’s virtual field trip programs are delivered via video conferencing. For full program details and pricing, visit Ingenium’s Virtual Field Trips and Ingenium’s Learn at Home Series

Virtual Field Trip - Movement and Machines: It’s Simple!

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Sonia Mendes

Sonia Mendes is the English Writer/Editor for Ingenium. She loves digging behind the scenes to tell the quirky, colourful stories of museum life and all things related to science and innovation.