A guiding hand
Google now offers schools over 500 Expeditions, and while it might not be possible for a teacher to be a master of all subjects, Expeditions works with subject matter experts such as National Parks UK, the Natural History Museum and NASA to create the corresponding teacher guide that includes descriptions and points of interest, which enable teachers to conduct informed commentaries and lively classroom discussions.
What made the Statue of Liberty go green? Why is its location significant and what kind of treatment would immigrants to the US have received once they arrived at Ellis Island in the early 1900s? These are some of the questions Smithycroft Secondary School students had the chance to muse as they went on one of several virtual tours when Google Expeditions came to visit.
‘The pupils enjoyed the immersion of VR and getting the opportunity to go visit new places like New York, Rio and finally a guided tour of the Solar System!’ says Stephen Gallagher, a music teacher at the Glasgow-based school, who coordinated the visit and led the Expedition with the help of colleagues from other departments.
Each Expedition comes with a set of annotations that enables the guide (usually the teacher) to highlight specific points of interest, as well as a set of suggested questions that pupils can answer during or after each trip.
Teachers might choose to use the lesson to test pupils’ empathy skills (‘What do you think it would have been like to be an immigrant waiting in the registry room on Ellis Island?’). Additionally, for pupils new to the subject, the teacher may focus on questions and answers which test their factual knowledge (‘Who designed the Statue of Liberty?’; ’What symbols does the statue contain and what does each of them represent?’).
A New York minute
For teachers wanting to introduce pupils to a more contemporary Manhattan, the Expedition on New York City enables them to give the class a complete guided tour of all five boroughs from the city’s skyline – allowing explorers to experience aerial views of its parks, the sunset over the Hudson River and the neon lights on the famous Times Square billboard.
‘Where we could, we used experts to lead on the tours because it was great when the staff could incorporate their own knowledge and experiences,’ says Stephen, ‘But the resources you’re given mean that as a guide it’s also possible to take students through subjects that fall outside your areas of expertise.’
Stephen’s experience shows how Expeditions can be a collaborative, social experience, bringing multiple areas of the curriculum to life for students.
‘The pupils loved it,’ he says.