Students travel the world and beyond on virtual field trips

CEDAR CREEK, Texas (KXAN) — With school field trip budgets tight, new technology is opening up a whole new world for local students in the Bastrop Independent School District.

Monday, Mrs. Edwards’ kindergarten class at Bluebonnet Elementary were ready to take off on another adventure called a Google Expedition.

“To be on this field trip you have to be an astronaut,” Mandy Edwards told her class as they sat in a circle on a big rug in the middle of the room. “Remember, our hands are in our laps and we’re going to pass out the goggles.”

Every student gets a pair, and each one is equipped with a smartphone. When students hold the goggles up to their faces and look inside, you can hear the “oohhhs” and “ahhhhs” fill the room.

On this virtual trip to outer space, they are surrounded by 3D images. “What you’re looking at right now is the biggest object in the night sky,” said Edwards. “That is the moon.”

When students turn their heads they get the full 360 view, making them feel like they’re really there. “We’ve gone to the ocean and I saw a stingray,” said Karly. “I couldn’t stop putting my eyes on it, and I thought it was going to sting me.”

Their teacher can tell a big difference between students looking at images through the headsets versus looking pictures in a book.

“They really take the technology and use it to their advantage,” said Edwards. “These students are digital natives — they come into this world already knowing so much.”

The digital kit comes with hundreds of travel options for teachers, from the Grand Canyon to exploring the inside of the human body.

Bastrop ISD has one set of 30 goggles they share across all 14 campuses from kindergarten up to twelfth grade. The district budgeted $10,000 to purchase the technology over the summer.

Several other Central Texas districts are incorporating the virtual tools into the classroom, including the Austin Independent School District.

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