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Literary Virtual Field Trips: Travel to Faraway Lands

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

Even with the plethora of digital diversions to which students have access these days, we can still count on books to transport them not only to a different place, but a different time as well. Combine books with the Internet, and students can travel to distant lands, different times and even other dimensions via literary virtual field trips. We’ve included a selection of virtual field trips here for a variety of grade levels.

“Little House” series and the pioneer spirit

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her adventures growing up as a pioneer girl traveling with her family through several Midwestern states including Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota.

There are Laura Ingalls Wilder sites in all of these states, but the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society offers lots of information on her time in De Smet, SD. Visitors to the Web site can check out Laura’s school and the home Pa built in 1887. The site also offers an interactive timeline that starts in 1836 with the birth of Pa Ingalls. Rotating exhibits in the form of virtual scrapbooks include photos, personal belongings and correspondence.

The Ingalls Homestead site offers visitors a multimedia presentation and panoramic views of the family homestead in SD. Visitors can view the plains much as Laura saw them, and a walking map gives students an idea of where everything is located. The Ingalls homestead papers can also be viewed in the National Archives.

The Little House on the Prairie site is in Kansas, and students can see just how desolate the area is, even today, via Google Earth by typing in 2507 CR 3000.

“Night” and the Holocaust

In 1944, Elie Wiesel was a young Jewish boy who, along with his family, entered the gates of Birkenau concentration camp. He and his fellow prisoners were liberated in 1945. Elie walked out with his two older sisters, but not his parents or his little sister. He tells his story in “Night.”

This book is required reading in many high school curricula, even though the subject matter is heavy. It’s hard for many high school students to imagine what that experience must have been like. Students can make a virtual visit to Auschwitz II-Birkenau— a haunting sight even in the light of day all these years later. The Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum Web site offers a virtual tour of the museum, along with in-depth information on museum galleries that represent various facets of the Holocaust.

It’s important that students studying the Holocaust and reading “Night” learn more about what happened to the teenager Wiesel once he was liberated. Students can visit to discover that Wiesel has gone on to live an extraordinary and meaningful life.

Edgar Allan Poe and American literary tradition

Known by some as the father of the horror story, Poe is perhaps best known for his poem “The Raven.” He is the author of several short stories including “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” At the Poe Museum site, students can read full texts of these works and more. The site also offers the opportunity to view a large volume of artifacts from Poe’s life including manuscripts, correspondence, personal belongings, his family tree and a timeline. Visitors to the site can solve the mystery of Poe’s death, take a Poe quiz to test their Poe knowledge, and even watch the film “Tell-Tale Heart.”

A faraway island in “Anne of Green Gables”

Anne of Green Gables tells the story of an orphan who is sent to live with a couple on beautiful Prince Edward Island in Canada. Anne Shirley is a red-headed, freckled, energetic, imaginative child who had many adventures on the island. On the Green Gables Web site, visitors can take a virtual tour of the home that inspired the setting for the book by L.M. Montgomery, which can also be toured in person.

Students may also find it fascinating to see the location of Prince Edward Island, which is easy to do with Google Earth. Type in Green Gables, Prince Edward Island, Canada to see the corner of the world where “Anne of Green Gables” is set.

The simplicity of Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden”

Henry David Thoreau went to the woods because he wished to “live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” And with the writing of Walden, the simplicity movement was born. offers an interactive map of Thoreau’s woods, where users can click on a location such as Walden Pond to see photos and learn more about the locations and how they figured into Thoreau’s work.

For those who wish to dig more in-depth into the Walden woods, NPR has a section dedicated to the topic, featuring tons of detailed nuggets, including the correct pronunciation of Thoreau’s name. Students can watch video clips of an actor’s portrayal of Thoreau, read excerpts from Walden, and listen to a variety of recordings, including a mini-lecture on Walden by Virginia Commonwealth University Associate Professor Ann Woodlief.

Students can also visit Walden Pond via Google Earth to see the aerial location, view photos of the site of the original cabin at Walden Pond and view a YouTube video that offers a walkthrough of the cabin.


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