With Google Expeditions, students take extraordinary field trips

Students explore the world, sea and space in Google Expeditions' virtual field trips.

Google Expedition at WilsonWilson Elementary's media center was louder than ever Thursday, Jan. 14. Students yelped and exclaimed, "Oh my gosh, look!" as they swam with sharks, whales and other sea life. The underwater field trip was thanks to the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program. 

Google Expeditions lets teachers take their students on virtual field trips around the world and beyond. Students don cardboard viewers outfitted with smart phones. The teacher controls a tablet that selects a destination, and with a tap the students are off on an adventure. The "trips" are collections of virtual reality panoramas, including 3D video and ambient sounds, with details and questions that make them easy to integrate into the curriculum. 

"Google Expeditions allows students to experience environments that are not possible through traditional field trips," explains Justin Vargas, district educational technology trainer. "One popular expedition allowed students to view sharks from inside a protective underwater cage. This improves student achievement by giving them a first-hand experience as if they were studying the sharks with the scientists. After each expedition, the students left with smiles on their faces, discussing their virtual field trip."

Vargas collaborated with Shelley Heath and Eileen Cahoon, principals of Wilson Elementary and Shepherd Junior High, respectively, to bring Google Expeditions to their campuses. Vargas applied for an expedition experience before winter break, and he learned in early January that it had been approved for both schools. Google provided the viewers, smart phones and tablets for the experience, and representatives were on hand to coordinate the expedition for each class. 

Third-grader Gracie Fidler raved about the underwater expedition. "It's really cool because you're in the ocean and there's a ton of really, really, really cool whales and sharks!" she exclaims.

Fidler's teacher, Pam Klassen, enjoyed going on a virtual field trip alongside her students. "My students had a wonderful experience," she says. "As they put on their cardboard viewers and looked at ocean safari animals, they giggled and squealed with excitement. Every student was engaged and able to experience the ocean environment as if they were swimming right beside the animals. We had a great learning adventure."

(Photo by Justin Vargas/Mesa Public Schools)


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