To the Top of the World and Beyond – Virtually!

Virtual field trips are a wonderful way of introducing a class of students to the world of Exploration and Discovery. Gone are the days when an SESE lesson on this topic focused on static images and copious pages of text. Instead, teachers can now give pupils the freedom to explore and research the Great Outdoors and beyond! I intend to focus on just three Virtual resources in this blog; the first takes pupils to the top of the Himalayas, the second journey’s to the surface of the Moon and the third one is a multimedia application from NASA that explorers lots of different parts of the world that resemble the surface of Mars.
At the time of this blog going live, Airpano had 140 Virtual Tours in their library. This is a non-commercial project by a group of Russian photographers focused on producing high resolution 3 D aerial panoramas. This is a fantastic resource for any SESE lesson and it brings the Great Outdoors right into the classroom.
clip_image001The Himalayas virtual tour begins on a helicopter ride from Kathmandu to the Nepalese Himalayas where the climbers who produced the tour set up their base camp before the start of their two month journey to the mountain summit. The virtual tour interface is very easy to use; a series of helicopter icons tracks the journey and a secondary icon of a walker indicates the areas where ground level virtual tours are available.  clip_image002

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The second virtual tour resource is included in the Google Earth package. clip_image004By now, almost every teacher is familiar with Google Earth; however I’ve spoken to lots of teachers who were not aware of the amazing tools that this package has for exploring the Moon. These resources include high-resolution maps of the moon, archive photos from the various moon landings and 360 degree photos of the surface. 
clip_image005An icon on the tool bar allows the user to switch views from the Earth to the Sky and other planets. Clicking on the Moon selection brings up the Moon interface. clip_image006From here the user is able to “Fly” to various parts of the moon’s surface to investigate the different artefacts left behind by our exploration of the Moon.
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Virtual Field Trip from NASA is a whopping 1Gb download! Once download all that’s required is an unzip to a chosen folder; there’s no further installation needed. After clicking on a destination, a fly-to animation zooms from space to ground level. Here the user is presented with vivid 360 degree panoramas of the location as well as video files. Currently about half of the sites listed have content available for them with other sites due to come on stream in the future.
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Before finishing up this post, I checked out the various links to make sure that the content was still “live”. After reviewing the AirPano site I was tempted to change my original choice of the Himalayas virtual tour as the focus of the paragraph. Every high resolution tour that I looked at was simply breath-taking; I can see endless possibilities for this site for every creative teacher!

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