School opts for virtual trip to windmill

01:43, Jan 31 2009

They can see Te Apiti's windmills from the windows, but limited funding means Woodville School students will take a virtual internet trip to the windfarm instead of a $250 bus trip.

The school is joining a growing trend of taking virtual field trips rather than actually leaving the classroom.

The virtual trips are offered by LEARNZ, a project supported by the Ministry of Education where one of the programme's teachers is filmed taking a field trip.

This is then fed to computers in classrooms all over New Zealand where students can ask questions live through a speakerphone at certain times of the trip.

LEARNZ co-ordinator Audrie McKenzie said the virtual field trips have been growing in popularity as teachers realise how much easier and cheaper it is to access often inaccessible sites. This week's online trip is only kilometres away from Woodville School, but principal Gerry McGirr said the online option is still the most viable.

"To send a busload of students there would cost about $250, which is not in the budget," he said.

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The school budgets for one or two day-trips a year depending on how much funding and parent support they can secure.

"Unfortunately we do miss out on a lot of trips because we can't get the money in time. It's at least $200 for a short trip, but to travel even as far as Palmerston North is $300 or more and with rising petrol costs it's getting even more expensive."

He said Mount Bruce in Wairarapa is the furthest the school can afford to go so the online virtual trips offer opportunities the school cannot otherwise provide.

"The online trips are good because they offer students access to anywhere in the world."

Woodville School teacher Anita Sharland said her class of 11 and 12-year-olds find the virtual trips very engaging.

"They'll sit there for an hour and not moan. They like reading all the information and seeing all the photos, it's very interactive," she said.

Mr McGirr said virtual learning is definitely a sign of where education is heading but it should not replace real-life experiences.

"I would hate kids to miss out on the hands-on experiences that help them grow as people."

Manawatu Standard