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School may be out for the summer, but our education team is hard at work! With uncertainty about what the fall semester will look like, educators at the Florida Museum and the Randell Research Center (RRC) wanted to make sure that students wouldn’t miss out on important experiences like field trips. They decided that if they couldn’t bring students to the Museum, they would bring the museum experience to students!

educator-virtual-field trip
Educator Alberto Lopez takes students on a virtual field trip through the Florida Museum.

Educational field trips have been shown to have immense value, especially for students who otherwise might not have the opportunity to visit museums or cultural institutions beyond their immediate community. Thanks to the generous support of the Museum Associates Board, Passport Gala guests, the Sear Family Foundation and the Smallwood Foundation, for the past several years the Florida Museum’s education teams in Gainesville and Pine Island have been able to fund Museum field trips for Florida fourth-graders. The RRC program in Pine Island specifically targets Title 1 schools, while the program at the Florida Museum in Gainesville reaches all Alachua County fourth-grade students. Both have had a tremendous impact on the community and feedback has been exceedingly positive.

On Friday, May 22, educators from both locations came together to pilot a virtual field trip program with the featured topic of estuaries. Interactivity and engaging content are at the core of any successful field trip experience, and the Florida Museum’s education team wanted to make sure that these elements weren’t lost with the transition to virtual field trips. Students visited the South Florida People & Environments indoor exhibition with Museum Educator Alberto Lopez as a guide and experienced an outdoor estuary with the RRC’s Cindy Bear. Fortunately, the weather cooperated! The fourth-grade instructor said her students “were so excited and they claimed it to be the best virtual field trip we’ve ever had!”

Educator live-streaming from the estuary
Cindy Bear takes students on a virtual field trip to the estuary at the Randell Research Center.

The teams at the Florida Museum and the Randell Research Center are excited about the possibilities this new format offers and plan to continue engaging with classrooms across the state even when in-person field trips are once again available. Contact Kara Schwartz, kschwartz@flmnh.ufl.edu, for information on how you can help support innovative educational programs at the Florida Museum!