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Learning
August 26, 2021

How to Unleash Curiosity in Your Students with Virtual Exploration

Maddie

Education is a journey of discovery, and each school year brings new opportunities for exploration. With technology, students can embark on learning adventures around the world — without ever stepping foot outside of the classroom. 

As you seek to ignite curiosity and wonder in your students this school year, consider incorporating virtual exploration as a strategy to bring authentic learning experiences directly to your students. 

As an elementary school teacher, I notice a boost in student engagement when I teach with projects that are authentic and meaningful to students. I see moments of joy and awe when my students are able to visualize our learning in the context of the real world. 

In this blog post, I’m sharing three different strategies for incorporating virtual exploration into your classroom this school year. 

#1: Exploring our world with Google Earth 

Google Earth is one of my go-to tools for helping students visualize the concepts they’re learning in my classroom. From exploring the location of a book we’re reading to even measuring distances between places for math lessons, Google Earth offers endless opportunities for students to learn and discover.

With my early elementary students, I might create a lesson that incorporates a mix of reading, exploring, and building. For example, I might start a lesson with a read aloud like The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Stephen Carpenter, a story about three goats who must outsmart a troll and cross a bridge. After we engage in a whole class discussion about the book, students would then visit examples of bridges around the world, like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Rialto Bridge, using Google Earth.


Based on their learning from Google Earth, students might use recyclable materials to build their own 3D prototypes of bridges. 

In GoGuardian Teacher™, you can use Scenes to auto-open a group of web links on every student’s browser to give them the resources they need to complete the activity without losing time to online distractions. You could also make it into a fun scavenger hunt by sharing clues of items they should look for as they explore. Once a student has discovered the item or place, they can send you their answer in GoGuardian Chat! You can then check their screen to make sure they found the right item and send them the next clue.

#2: Exploring our universe with Access Mars 

Exploration can extend beyond our planet, as students can travel to space with Access Mars! Year after year, I find that my elementary students have so much curiosity about space. 

With Access Mars, students can explore a 3D replica of the Mars surface with footage captured by the Curiosity rover. As part of their virtual exploration, students will visit key sites from Curiosity’s mission, including Murray Buttes and Pahrump Hills, right from their computer screens.


After exploring the surface of Mars, my students might build 3D prototypes of their own Mars rovers, including some of the key systems and features of real-life rovers built by NASA. We might use recyclable materials, or we might practice our coding skills using LEGO WeDo 2.0 Milo Science Rover. 


If you are looking to extend this lesson further, NASA JPL has many other Mars activities to try out in your classroom! 

With GoGuardian Teacher, you can use the Announcement feature to throw the students some curve balls during their Mars tour while you operate as mission control! Get creative with GoGuardian Teacher features to make the activity more interactive. For example, deploy an announcement to groups of students with new instructions for exploration, or lock screens to mimic loss of contact with mission control and encourage them to problem-solve together! 

#3: Exploring our classroom stories with Pear Deck 

When we think of “virtual exploration,” we often imagine virtual field trips across the world. But, there is also value in exploring the stories of the people within the walls of our classrooms: the stories and identities of our students. Every student has their own unique story to celebrate — from culture to race to places we call home. 

For back-to-school this year, Pear Deck partnered with Facing History and Ourselves to provide teachers with interactive lessons on social emotional learning and community-building. Lesson #2, “What’s in a name,” focuses on the relationship between our names, identities, and the societies in which we live. Students explore the concept of names and consider how names can be empowering and limiting. 

To extend this lesson, I might ask students questions like: Do you know the story behind your first name, middle name, last name, or nickname?


Or, I might even shift the conversation to consider our place in the world. What places are important to you?


By using this Pear Deck lesson, students will gain a deeper understanding of the identities and places that make up our community. 

From the stories within our classrooms to the adventures beyond, there is so much learning to explore this school year. Try out these tips to take your students on a quest near and far. I can’t wait to see what they discover!

How are you using GoGuardian to explore new sights in your classroom? Share your response on Twitter using the hashtag #GGExplore, and GoGuardian will select some educators to win GoGuardian and Pear Deck swag!

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