Are you stuck at home and looking for ways to keep your mind busy, or wish you could go on a field trip while practicing social distancing? The internet is a treasure-trove of learning materials that don’t require you to trek to a classroom, a library, or even to wait for a package delivery. What’s more, virtual museum tours and STEM field trips are steadily becoming more common online. So if real-life field trips are not feasible due to money, time, geographic challenges or other reasons, virtual field trips are a great option. And since they’re online, you don’t even need to pay an admission fee!
Exploring museums and science centers through virtual tours give you a chance to take your time and study exhibits related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math at a pace that is enjoyable rather than overwhelming. Virtual STEM field trips can also transport you to places that you might never be able to visit in real life – such as the CERN Particle Accelerator near Geneva, Switzerland, or the International Space Station – via immersive 3D experiences. These virtual reality events can be done via computer without ever leaving your room.
Here we’d like to share 10 of our favorite online STEM field trips and virtual museum tours. These are some of the best tours available, featuring realistic high-res imagery.
1. National Museum of Natural History
The National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, may be the Smithsonian Institution’s crown jewel, as it is one of the most popular museums in the entire world. According to the Global Attractions Attendance report, it is the third most visited museum in the world, the most visited natural history museum in the world, and the most visited museum in North America. This famous museum in Washington has several virtual tours integrated directly onto the web. Using Web VR means that virtual visitors can utilize any headset, provided a Web VR enabled browser it used. The tours include both permanent and past exhibitions with the core tour offering dozens of panoramic images that can be navigated via an on-screen map or interactive arrows. What the tour lacks in supporting content (there’s no additional multimedia for the exhibits) it certainly makes up for in scope and range, with dinosaurs, sea life, geology and more in focus. In addition, the virtual tour also offers select past exhibits and various research facilities like the butterfly habitat and the whale bone support center.
American Museum of Natural History
Explore three virtual exhibits at this New York City institution (yes, the one featured in Night At the Museum!). The exhibit named “Highlights from the American Museum of Natural History,” shows off many of the museum’s most famous features.
The National Museum of Computing
This virtual tour of the UK’s Museum of Computing includes two main rooms full of exhibits along with embedded information points that explain them in more detail. Although the tour only covers part of the museum, it does include the world’s oldest working computer and a lot of other fascinating artifacts from the field. Matterport’s 3D cameras produce the most stunningly detailed 3D environments for a truly immersive tour!
Stroll Through CERN’s Underground Spaces
Take a guided Google Street View tour of CERN‘s spaces normally hidden from view, from leading-edge particle colliders and detectors to its gleaming data centre, which stores unimaginable amounts of information from some of the largest machines on Earth.
Explore the International Space Station
Aspiring astronauts can now pretend to float on the International Space Station (ISS), thanks to Google. The company worked with astronauts on the orbiting complex to provide a Google Street View of the space station, from its science labs to its beautiful Earth-facing Cupola window. This 360-degree tour makes it easy to feel like an astronaut. Just don’t enter if you’re claustrophobic!
NASA offers free virtual tours of the Langley Research Center in Virginia, as well as of Ohio’s Glenn Research Center. The Space Center Houston also has an app that provides virtual tours, augmented reality experiences, and videos and audio stories about space exploration.
The National Museum of the United States Air Force
As its name suggests, the National Museum of the United States Air Force is the official museum of the United States Air Force. Centered on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, it houses a wide array of military weapons and aircraft, including the presidential airplanes of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon. The museum also offers free virtual tours of its entire grounds, letting you glimpse objects like decommissioned aircraft from World War II, Vietnam, and the Korean War.
Creation and Earth History Museum Virtual Tour
This interactive creation tour starts at the book store and lets you “walk” through the museum by following the arrows to view the exhibits. Make sure your sound is on! You can also jump straight to the Animal Room, Grand Canyon, Human Anatomy Exhibit, Age of the Earth, and The Tabernacle. (If the image doesn’t show up when you first visit the site, click on “Run Adobe Flash.”)
Monterey Bay Aquarium
With ten live cams to choose from, you can experience the wonders of the ocean in Monterey Bay’s Aquarium exhibits no matter where you are. Be delighted by the antics of sea otters as they frolic and swim. Mellow out to the hypnotic drifting of glowing jelly fish. Watch penguins waddle. Peek into the aviary for an adventure in birdwatching. Follow busy tropical fishes in the coral reef. See sardines swirl and leopard sharks glide through gently swaying kelp canopies. View open-ocean animals such as tuna, turtles, sharks and sardines. Look for otters, birds, and sailboats on Monterey Bay, or enjoy the calming rhythm of the crashing waves in Monterey Bay itself.
Google Street View Tours
Google Street View offers nearly 50 virtual museum tours released through Google’s Cultural Institute. View panoramas from natural history, science and technology museums around the globe including the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois; Houston Museum of Natural Science in Houston, Texas; National Institute of Biological Resources in Incheon, South Korea; Queensland Museum and Sciencecentre in Brisbane, Australia; Museum of Natural Sciences in Bruxelles, Belgium; German Oceanographic Museum in Stralsund, Germany; and more.
The following aren’t really virtual museum tours, but they are online interactive exhibits hosted by science museums, so they also count as virtual STEM field trips.
Smithsonian Institution Exhibits Online
The Smithsonian Institution has an array of online exhibits based on a variety of fascinating science topics. Exhibit titles include: Habitats, Flowering Plants on Stamps, Solar on the Line, Mending Broken Hearts, Science Under Glass, Color in a New Light, Above and Beyond, Places of Invention, Fantastic Worlds, Engineering an Empire, American Bison, Time and Navigation, and many more.
Virtual Museum of Canada
Discover science, technology, nature, and more through virtual exhibits from Canada’s virtual museums. Some are better than others. My favorite is “Partners in Design,” from The Stewart Program for Modern Design. In this virtual exhibit, you embark on a journey exploring the integral role of design in everyday life. Good design, defined by its simplicity, functionality and innovation, is a powerful force and a fundamental part of our lives. This exhibit explores objects from the past and preset that connect with our daily lives. The online exhibit itself is very well-designed.
Marian Koshland Science Museum
At the Marian Koshland Science Museum, you can explore the science of healthy living from before birth to old age, and how we change at different life stages. Find out about brain structures and functions that help you learn. Get an in-depth view of the viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites that surround us, the types of infectious diseases they can cause, and the scientific challenges involved in tgeting them. Learn about the problem of safe drinking water and explore possible solutions, and much more in these online experiences.
The Franklin Institute Science Museum
Take a field trip inside your brain! Your brain is always changing. Brain science is advancing rapidly as modern technology is helping us begin to unravel age-old mysteries about ourselves. What is the brain? What does it do? How does it work? Think about how you think, with these interactive activities, images, and videos to help you investigate what’s going on inside your head and what the future holds.
We’d like to know if you’ve ever taken a virtual STEM field trip to a museum or science center. Did we leave your favorite off the list? Let us know in the comments!