- Courtesy of Montshire Museum of Science
- Bubbles at the Montshire Museum of Science
Do you miss going places? Join the club. As the pandemic chugs along and we sink into the depths of the winter months, chances are you're craving a change in scenery more than ever. We propose a virtual field trip.
Many of the locales that draw in families during normal times are now offering a robust lineup of online offerings to enrich and entertain — and give you something to look at besides your humble abode. The diverse options below include places that will satisfy all types of interests — from art to music, science to history — and they're appropriate for all ages. And, to sweeten the deal, most of it is free.
1. ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain
This popular science center, located on the Burlington waterfront, hosts a diverse selection of weekly activities through its ECHO at Home learning platform. If you're looking for hands-on activities, try "Science Spotlight" for experiments in which easy-to-find materials such as coins and eggs are used to teach about concepts like centripetal force and diffusion. In "Engineer It! at Home," ECHO educators provide step-by-step instructions for building boats, rockets and towers. In weekly video series, including "Science & Stories With Elizabeth" and "Take Action! Citizen Science Challenge," kids learn about different nature topics. There's also a cache of videos about animals; some of them are live feeds of the fish, reptiles and amphibians housed at ECHO. The center is also open for in-person visits; just register for a time slot in advance.
2. Vermont Art Online
This site was created early last spring to let people explore the state's art museums and galleries from the comfort of their homes during the pandemic. Explore more than 30 locations across the state, from Cold Hollow Sculpture Park in Enosburg Falls to the Middlebury College Museum of Art. Clickable icons provide information on specific works of art. Activities and lesson plans are also available.
3. Montshire Museum of Science
The Montshire at Home program includes instructional videos on everything from making gargantuan bubbles to experimenting with candy. Additionally, the museum offers virtual multi-week workshops via Zoom for $100 per session; participants receive a kit of materials they'll need to join in at home. Montshire also offers a science story time twice a week, with topics ranging from ice fishing to seeds. And if you miss the clacks and chimes of the museum's Rube Goldberg-inspired "Odyssey of the Spheres" kinetic sculpture, the museum has made it available to watch on its YouTube channel.
4. American Museum of Natural History
The venerable Big Apple institution runs OLogy, a science website for kids — also available as an app for the iPad — with oodles of activities and videos on topics ranging from genetics to zoology. Additionally, four virtual field trips geared to different grade levels provide detailed teacher's guides, videos, worksheets and activities. Virtual tours are also available, allowing you to digitally stroll through the museum, minus the New York City hustle and bustle.
5. New England Aquarium
- Courtesy of New England Aquarium
- A turtle at the New England Aquarium
This Boston institution is home to numerous underwater inhabitants, including fish of all shapes and sizes, octopuses and squids, turtles, and penguins. Enjoy the aquarium's virtual exhibits, which range from educational tours to crafts and activities featuring your favorite critters. New videos from the aquarium are served up three times a week, meaning you'll never experience a drought of content. Trust us, watching Tatoosh the octopus float languidly around its tank is strangely comforting.
6. Jazzy Ash Virtual Field Trip
Celebrate Black History Month by delving into jazz with the San Diego-based arts nonprofit Poway OnStage. For the month of February, the organization is offering a musical online field trip hosted by New Orleans family jazz band Jazzy Ash. For $15 per family, you'll have access to an assortment of music videos, interactive games, story readings and art workshops focused on Afrocentric music genres, such as jazz and the blues.
7. San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo Kids website provides a wealth of videos, stories and activities centered on its inhabitants. A major highlight is the live cams, through which you can observe animals you'd never encounter in Vermont. Trade out your friendly neighborhood cows for apes, hippos, giraffes, tigers and koalas. There's a ton of fun to be had watching longtime residents Kalluk and Tatqiq, two celebrity polar bears, go about their day.
8. Access Mars
- Courtesy of NASA
- Mars Rover
If you were to travel to Mars today, it would be an estimated seven-month voyage to the crimson curiosity. NASA and Google have partnered to provide the astronomically curious with an immersive experience on Mars' surface, straight from your computer, mobile device or even virtual-reality headset. If you really want to inhabit the role of an astronaut, visit shopnasa.com to buy a dehydrated ice cream sandwich to munch on while you explore the fascinating planet.