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Famous summer destinations such as museums, national parks and major cities may not be easy to travel to this summer amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. When states report new waves in Covid-19 cases, breathe reopening measures and even restore business constraints, families may be more hesitant to venture far from home.
Fortunately, a summer at home doesn't necessarily mean months of boredom. There are a number of virtual tours, field trips and activities designed to provide enrichment and entertainment that families can easily access online.
Live Historical Tours
After the pandemic prompted schools across the country to resort to distance education, The Constitution Walking Tour had to find another way to host field trips in Philadelphia. The tour operator began offering live tours conducted over Zoom so students could still see famous historical sites such as Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.
"We found that the kids and teachers were so responsive to us ̵
Through this virtual alternative, the company was able to provide employment opportunities to its 27 guides and adhere to social distancing measures, according to Bari. He said students could easily ask the guide questions, and even schools in remote parts of the country, such as California, had a chance to take the trips and "visit" Philadelphia.
Close-up of Liberty Bell with Independence Hall in the background at dusk.
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The virtual school trips originally cost $ 99, but the price has since been raised to $ 125. Bari plans to continue offering them this fall. Normally, group tours in person cost $ 11 per student for groups of 25 years or more.
The Constitution Constitution Walking also started its live tours on July 1 and will launch an app that costs $ 17.99 for travelers to use to make their own self-guided, socially distanced visits to Philadelphia. However, Bari said the company is still planning to have the virtual tour available this summer for families who may not be able to travel yet, and is working on a price for this offer.
"I think it's a fantastic alternative for both children and parents and families who just want to do something a little different given the circumstances," Bari said.
Families can also access famous art online. Although the Art Institute of Chicago is temporarily closed, it offers a number of ways that families can practically visit the museum. To make this even easier, it introduced a new section on its website on how to access its artwork via the internet.
"We have doubled our digital commitment since our closure in March," said Michael Neault, the museum's executive creative director for experiential design.
Right after closing, the museum released a free digital platform that provides tours of artwork using 360-degree technology, which allows art enthusiasts to explore objects such as an Egyptian mummy mask, a West African headgear and a Viking sword. The project had been in progress before the pandemic, but Neault said it is now more relevant than ever.
"Without being able to see the art in person, this is a great way to engage students at home," Neault said.
In the days leading up to the closure of the Art Institute, the museum's filmmakers crept in to capture footage of the galleries, according to Neault. This recording became the basis for a free video series on the museum's most iconic work called "The Essentials Tour," which is now posted on the museum's YouTube channel.
"The videos are short doses of art history, and it's like getting a 101 lesson in just a few minutes," Neault said.
The museum also posted a free video tour of its new El Greco exhibition using footage gathered the day before the Art Institute closed and is planning a new video series featuring staff discussing their favorite artworks. The museum even sent microphones to staff so they could safely record their interviews at home.
"With limited access to the galleries and staff, we have had to be very creative and resourceful in creating content," Neault said.
For younger art enthusiasts, the museum offers a JourneyMaker feature that allows children to customize their virtual tour and select art they are interested in viewing. The Art Institute also offers other free downloadable activities inspired by their artwork such as coloring pages, crosswords and creative writing questions.
In addition to these options, the museum offers more than 54,000 works of art in a public domain format that are both downloadable and free, according to Neault. Along with seeing pictures and descriptions of well-known works by Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet and other artists, parents and teachers can implement the art in activities and lesson plans.
"You can even get children to download artwork and curate their own exhibit at home," Neault said.
Seeing National Parks on the Web
Although US National Parks may be summer vacations, some families may still worry about traveling far to visit one. The National Park Foundation, the National Park Service's official charity, has worked to promote digital offerings to parks during the pandemic.
"People are itching and still itching to get out of the parks, be it local, state or national or other open areas, just because we have this great connection as people to outdoor activities," said NPF President and CEO Will Shafroth.
Within the park system's array of virtual alternatives, NPF has highlighted free video tours of Crater Lake National Park in Oregon and Channel Islands National Park in California, which were produced before the pandemic. Shaforth also mentioned the availability of free online live video feeds, such as the Bear Cams from Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska, which allow people to see wildlife in real time.
Double catch of two brown bears from Katmai National Parker fishing for salmon at Brooks Falls.
Mike Lyvers | Getty Images
In addition to parks, there are also online resources related to historic sites in the national park system. A video tour is available from the Alexander Hamilton Grange National Memorial, located in New York City and still temporarily closed to curb the spread of Covid-19. Interest may grow in the founder's home after the arrival of Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton" at Disney + July 3.
For young park goers there is also the National Park Service Junior Ranger program, which has the opportunity to explore national parks online and offers activities that children can complete at home.
Although interest has increased in these deals online, Shafroth said that a trip to a national park may still be possible this summer. If a family is hesitant to travel long distances to reach iconic destinations such as Yellowstone National Park, they may find another alternative nearby.
"Remember there are 419 national parks," Shafroth said. "So there are many who are probably much closer to where most people live than they realize."
Both during the school year and summer, Discovery Education offers a whole host of virtual enrichment options that have gained even more interest during the pandemic.
Among the educational company's most popular opportunities are virtual field trips to places such as the National Basketball Association headquarters and the Canadian Tundra for the annual polar bear walk. After watching the pre-recorded videos, students can complete learning activities related to the virtual tour.
"These are opportunities to really take children beyond the walls wherever they are, meet people and have experiences they might not otherwise have," said Stephen Wakefield, the company's vice president for public affairs.
Discovery Education has offered virtual field trips for nearly 15 years along with other digital offerings, working with about half of the United States school districts, according to Lance Rougeux, vice president of learning at the company and a former public school teacher. However, he said that virtual field trips have been of particular importance during the pandemic.
"During the school year, teachers use them to get outside the classroom walls, but now it's like getting outside the apartment," Rougeux said.
The company has expanded its digital offering since the pandemic began, and recently launched the Summer of Learning initiative, which includes resources such as audiobooks, podcasts and activities that students can use to stay engaged in their education during school hours.
Although many of Discovery Education's offerings are behind a paycheck and aimed at providing students with access to the school, the company has also made some of its learning activities available online for everyone to use. Daily DE is an educational resource designed for parents, and contains six-week lesson plans that they can use for students K through 12. The plans include virtual field trips, scientific experiments, writing messages and other learning activities.
Activities are designed to help children stay connected with learning during an uncertain time.
"It's a simple, straightforward and engaging way to keep students' minds active during what is truly a strange summer for all of us," Wakefield said.