Take Your Students on the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip Hosted by Discovery Education

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Disclosure: Discovery Education is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Discovery Education hosts some fantastic virtual field trips throughout the year. These are open to all teachers who want to have their classes attend them, not just those who subscribe to Discovery Education. I’ve featured many of Discovery Education’s virtual field trips over the course of the last decade. Today, I’d like to highlight one that recently premiered and is now available on demand. That is the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip designed for middle school and high school classrooms.

The American Ideals Virtual Field Trip hosted by Discovery Education takes place inside The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. The overarching themes of the virtual experience is civic engagement and civic leadership. Throughout the twenty-one minute tour students will hear from other student leaders who are engaged in civic leadership and pioneering change in their communities. As you might expect, the tour also provides a bit of history about Ronald Reagan’s political career and the legacy of his presidency including how he earned the nickname of “The Great Communicator.”

The American Ideals Virtual Field Trip is available on-demand so you can view all of it at once. Alternatively, you could start and stop it to share little segments with your students over the course of a few class meetings. There are many segments within the twenty-one minute tour that could be used as the basis for much longer lessons that you conduct in your classroom. That said, the educator’s guide (link opens a PDF) for the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip is based on students completing the virtual event in one continuous activity.

Artifacts Featured in the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip
Throughout the tour students will see physical artifacts housed at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. Those include an exact replica of the Oval Office as it was arranged when Reagan was in office and a look inside the airplane that served as Air Force 1 when Reagan was President. Perhaps the most significant of the artifacts shown during the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip is a piece of the Berlin Wall. Students will see it and learn about the significance of Reagan’s speech imploring Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the wall.

Interviews with Student Leaders
As I alluded to earlier, there are segments within the virtual field trip that are excellent on their own and better when viewed in the context of the entire tour. Those segments include tips for how to become a civic leader and how to gain trust as a leader. Additionally, there are lots of archival clips of Ronald Reagan’s presidency used as examples of leadership. Finally, the virtual field trip includes interviews with graduates of the Reagan Foundation’s student leadership program who talk about and show how they have engaged in civic leadership.

A couple of the interviews that stood out to me as I watched the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip were with Paige Barella and Alex Edgar. By watching the interview with Paige Barella students can learn about her Stop Bullying Me project, how she developed the idea for the project, and what it takes to be a good communicator and leader.

When they watch the interview with Alex Edgar, students will learn about his virtual voter registration project (featured in the VC Star as well as in the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip), the challenges he faced in getting it going, and the lessons about leadership that he learned through that process.

Educator’s Guide to the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip
As I mentioned earlier, there is a complete educator’s guide to the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip available as a PDF. The guide includes a list of the Common Core Standards addressed through the virtual field trip. More importantly, the guide provides a detailed lesson plan with activity handouts for you to use in conjunction with your students’ viewing of the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip.

In the educator’s guide to the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip there are activities to complete with students before starting the digital event, activities to complete while viewing the virtual field trip, and activities to complete after viewing the virtual field trip. Before beginning the field trip students will be asked to put into their own words what they think civic participation means and share any examples of it from their own lives. Then during the virtual field trip students will use a template provided in the guide to take notes about three themes of civic participation. After the virtual field trip students use another provided template to answer the question, “how has civic engagement been defined?” in a series of historical documents.

The questions in the educator’s guide to the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip don’t have clear-cut answers and that’s part of the beauty of the virtual field trip and teaching civic engagement. By watching the virtual field trip and engaging in discussion with you and each other students will develop new ideas and create informed opinions about civic engagement and American ideals. So while the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip itself is only twenty-one minutes long, the discussion and lessons from it could last for much longer.

Final note about the educator’s guide:
The guide is one PDF that contains handouts for students but also many notes for teachers. If you want to split the PDF so that you have digital copies of the handouts, watch this short tutorial video.

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