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What educator would not like to have a way to solve some time and money concerns? As an elementary principal in an urban school district, I know firsthand how much I struggle with this problem on a daily basis in my own school. With standardized testing lurking around every corner and cuts to our budget every year, we as administrators have to constantly seek out new and unique opportunities to meet the needs of our teachers and students. We try to enhance the learning experiences of our students while at the same time, attempting to combat the lack of funds and time available to us.
In January of this year, I was introduced to a pioneering new EdTech startup company looking to help manage this exact issue with a new and innovative resource for teachers and schools. FieldTripZoom was founded with a mission to bring live and interactive world-class organizations directly into your classroom. They provide schools with an online service that allows teachers, administrators, after-school providers, etc. to search, order, schedule and connect to a wide variety of live interactive programs from all over the country and beyond. These comprehensive programs provide students with unique learning experiences that align with your district and state curriculum standards, and many times include in-class materials for pre and post lesson connections.
Museums, zoos and historical sites are some of the best sources of educational content that meets the needs of many state curriculum standards. Whether it’s history, the arts, anthropology, aquatics, zoology or other subject matter areas, these institutions can bring a new level of understanding to the material being learned. Additionally, the online program catalog and integrated software-based video conferencing allows schools to easily connect to the programs directly from the classroom with resources that most schools have in place already including projectors, webcams, microphones, and PC’s or iPads.
Let me get back to the time and money component. By some estimates, it costs a school district up to $1,500 to take a traditional field trip when you factor in transportation, entrance fees, food and administrative costs. Most of the virtual programs cost less than $200, so there are clear money savings if you do the math. But more importantly, consider the time-saving factor; your students never leave the classroom and there are no transitions to and from the bus.
The program may run approximately 50 min (sometimes longer) and then students are able to return to the many other learning opportunities of the day. Your students have now benefited from a unique educational opportunity while minimizing down-time.
FieldTripZoom gives back time by bringing the field trip to the students’ right in their classroom. Furthermore, FieldTripZoom is building in a way to fund trips through a grant and donation network. For example, a school district in Fayette County, GA recently participated in a FieldTripZoom field trip to the St. Louis Zoo which was fully funded by a generous grant from Boeing. The district found out about the grant by signing up to FieldTripZoom and referencing the grants page.
Clearly, you cannot and should not replace all traditional field trips if you have the resources to do them today. Most will agree there is truly no replacement for actually being at a museum, science center or center for arts and experience the venue in person. But when you think of layering in virtual opportunities or shifting some funds from traditional to virtual, providing more students with opportunities for unique and high quality learning experiences certainly seems a worthwhile consideration.
FieldTripZoom recently launched an online catalog so teachers and administrators can sign up and access a catalog listing of hundreds of live and interactive virtual educational programs and access to the catalog is completely free. There are currently more than 380 programs in the catalog from almost 30 content providers. Over 250+ classroom teachers and administrators have signed up for FieldTripZoom in the first month since the catalog was launched. They are currently providing programs on a daily basis for schools and after school programs and growing each day. Check out their website: www.fieldtripzoom.com or follow them on Twitter @FieldTripZoom and see what they can do for your district, school, or educational program.