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Virtual Field Trips for Presidents' Day

EducationWorld is pleased to present this article contributed by Kristin Marino, a writer for TeacherPortal.com on a variety of education topics, including modern online learning opportunities such as virtual field trips.

Image courtesy of Martin Falbisoner.

With Presidents' Day on the horizon, interest in all things presidential tends to heat up in the classroom. Though not all students have the opportunity to take a presidential-themed field trip, most students have access to the next best thing: virtual field trips. Opportunities for virtual presidential field trips abound online. Here are just a few:


Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson

Third president and Declaration of Independence author Thomas Jefferson was a world traveler, but perhaps his favorite place in the world was his beloved home, Monticello. “I am as happy nowhere else and in no other society, and all my wishes end, where I hope my days will end, at Monticello. Too many scenes of happiness mingle themselves with all the recollections of my native woods and fields, to suffer them to be supplanted in my affection by any other,” he said in 1787. Located in Charlottesville, VA, this mountaintop plantation was built in 1772 and is a designated Historical National Monument and the only private home to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Students can begin their virtual field trip at Monticello.org. Here, they will find comprehensive information on Jefferson, his life and his home in Virginia. Of particular interest is the section on slavery at Monticello, where students can learn what archeologists have to say about the subject, along with the names of slaves and more about their lives at Monticello.

This virtual tour features all levels of Monticello and the surrounding plantation, which includes slave quarters, gardens, stables, a fish pond and more. Students can click on various rooms within the mansion and see not only what the room looks like, but also photos of real artifacts related to the area.


Mount Vernon, home of George Washington

Students interested in the first president of the United States can take a virtual tour of his Mount Vernon home, located in Mount Vernon, VA. The tour offers a 360-degree view of various areas in the mansion, where George Washington resided from the time he acquired the property in 1754 until his death in 1799. The home offers sweeping views of the historic Potomac River, which Washington famously crossed. Along with the 360-degree tour, students can also view a 3-D model of the home and learn about its origins, daily life at Mount Vernon in the latter part of the eighteenth century, the architecture of the home, and furnishings within the home. The site also offers voluminous information on George Washington, his life, and his presidency. Students can even watch a film about Washington’s dentures and learn 10 facts about his teeth (spoiler: his dentures weren’t made of wood).


John Fitzgerald Kennedy Presidential Library virtual tour

Located in Boston, MA, the JFK Presidential Museum and Library offers permanent, special temporary and interactive exhibits, along with artifacts from the life and presidency of John F. Kennedy. The museum offers a vivid virtual tour which enables students to view several exhibits. At each stop on the virtual tour, students can hear the words of JFK in relation to that portion of the tour. At the democratic convention exhibit, for example, students can hear his impressions and thoughts about that time in his life. Students can click on various items within the exhibit to learn more about artifacts. In the exhibit featuring his family, for example, students can click on portions of the display, such as a family christening gown. While in the Kennedy-Nixon Debate exhibit, students can see the audio console used in the broadcast of the debate.

The library’s Web site offers a great companion to the virtual tour and includes photos and descriptions of many of the items in the museum, including clothing worn by the president and first lady, gifts from heads of state, videos, a comprehensive timeline, an interactive White House Diary, and an interactive oval office desk, where students can click on various items as if they are sitting at the desk and learn more about those items. Click on the phone to hear recorded phone calls to Senator Edward Kennedy or a NASA astronaut, or click on a picture frame to see photos of the president and his family in candid moments.


The White House

This site offers an interactive tour of the White House, which has been the home to United States presidents since John Adams in 1800. Students will find an interactive map of the White House, where they can click on various sections to learn more. Students can also view all the presidential portraits on display at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, learn more about the décor and art, and get a view into the illustrious history of the most famous home in America.


Other virtual field trips your students may enjoy include:

  • Ford’s Theater: Though this is the location of one of the darkest events in U.S. history, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, this site offers an excellent virtual look at the theater and gives a comprehensive timeline of the day Lincoln was assassinated. Students can even look out at the stage from the vantage point where President Lincoln sat moments before he was shot.
     
  • Mount Rushmore: The huge presidential visages of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson carved into the side of the Black Hills mountains in South Dakota continue to fascinate people of all ages. This excellent virtual tour allows students to use their computer mouse to explore the nooks and crannies of Mount Rushmore.
     
  • Presidential Libraries: Several presidential libraries, including those of Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and others, all offer some form of virtual tour.
     
  • Do an online search for any president’s name and “home,” and you’ll hit on several presidential home tours, including Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield, IL, home, the home of John Adams in Quincy, MA, and even Harry S. Truman’s “Little White House” in Key West, FL.


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