How Virtual Field Trips Bring Animals, Art, Music, and More Directly to Students | TBEN News

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Among her childhood artistic inspirations, the spoken word artist and singer IMF remembers visitors to her school assemblies. Seeing performers and creative artists spoken at a young age strengthened her confidence to continue in this direction; She hopes to complete the circle with virtual excursion experiences she took part in this month with the Art Gallery of Ontario.

“I hope there is someone out there today who is watching and [thinking]“I can do it and I will start,” the Toronto singer and spoken word artist said of her Friday sessions with her musical partner Raffiki.

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In live broadcast sessions, moderated by an AGO specialist, IMF and Raffiki reflect on specific works of art from the gallery’s collection, then present new creations inspired by those works. Woven over the course of the half-hour tours, they answer questions from discussion forums and comments from students who log in from their homes and classrooms.

“I want kids to be inspired to take that and create something on their own. Art is beautiful. It’s powerful. We’re able to have these important conversations using art and really do the light on black creatives and black artists, ”IMF mentioned.

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The musical and lyric duo The IMF, right, and Raffiki joined some of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s virtual tours each week this month. (SINCE)

“Watch [an artwork], having these conversations, but then presenting this aural piece where we have the music playing – DJ Raffiki with his set, then me being able to sing and him accompanying me on the drums – it was amazing. The feedback was excellent. “

The coronavirus pandemic has prevented many classes from venturing out on trips and has prevented groups from making school visits, but some Canadian cultural institutions are revamping their education program to offer virtual excursions that reach students from neighboring neighborhoods , across the country and beyond.

Access and engagement

The fact that the duo joined AGO’s virtual tour sessions to show students black artists in contemporary life was “so exciting, goose bumps,” according to Audrey Hudson, chief education officer. and the gallery’s programming.

In imagining how to stay in touch with schools during this unprecedented time, Hudson and his team set out to recreate the magical moments of in-person visits when students enthusiastically respond to an art educator explaining a work of art in front of them. .

She also wanted to make the experiences digital – 30-minute, live-streamed thematic sessions that showcase the art of AGO, include a wellness component, and end with an art activity for students to complete – also widely. available as possible.

“I wanted it to be live, so that we could feed those conversations and listen and hear from the students like we would in the gallery,” said Hudson. “I really wanted to think about cultural, economic and geographic access to art. Who sees art and who doesn’t? Who has access to the arts? I wanted to make it known to the general public, more than we do. could fit it into the gallery. “

Nurturing a dynamic chat experience has been an important development that has fostered student participation. Hudson was also happy to find students sharing the works they create as a result of the social media sessions.

An education specialist at the Calgary Zoo provides a close-up view for students on a virtual excursion. (Calgary Zoo)

At the Calgary Zoo, pandemic closures challenged the education team to expand past digital offerings to create more robust virtual tours.

“We didn’t want to just take our programs in class or in person and put them online. We really wanted to take advantage of what virtual has to offer, ”said Jen Duffy, conservation education specialist at the Calgary Zoo. .

“As a single human being with a camera, I can go to places where 30 young students cannot go,” she said. Duffy visited young chicks in the penguin habitat and spoke up close with a Komodo dragon for his virtual sessions. “We can sort of see [the animals]a little different from what we would do with a large crowd. ”

Getting in touch with the students through conversations despite the distance was also a priority.

“In an online program, it can be pretty easy to just close and watch. But our educators are so engaging: answering questions and asking questions and breaking that fourth wall,” Duffy said.

“We had some great questions from students, even trying to tackle the pandemic situation: asking questions about animal diseases or knowing how diseases are transmitted. And it’s really interesting to talk to them about it.

WATCH | Calgary Zoo Specialist on the Value of Virtual Experiences:

Jen Duffy, conservation education specialist, explains what the Calgary Zoo has learned by enhancing their virtual experiences for students. 0:42

Working with teachers

It is also important to work with educators to develop virtual programs and make sure they connect to the current program. A teacher’s advisory group that works closely with the Library of Parliament in Ottawa, for example, has been instrumental in creating lesson plans for Parliament: The Classroom Experience – as well as in publicizing the new project to his colleagues, said Kit Frost, head of the library’s virtual experience.

Parliament: The classroom experience was designed as a way to continue the “visits” – via virtual reality – to the iconic Center Block of the Parliament buildings during its extended closure for restorations and renovations. However, after the pandemic scuttled the project’s launch in spring 2020, the training team spent last summer and early fall revamping it into a 360-degree video experience that doesn’t require headsets. VR.

“Things change so quickly in the classroom. We wanted to make sure it was useful for teachers and something that they could just grab and go, ”Frost said.

“Teachers are very grateful right now for all the resources that would allow them to take their students on field trips, even for 20 minutes. I think we were all challenged during the pandemic to find ways to connect, to find ways to visit places, see things, do things we can’t do. “

WATCH | A dynamic look at the Center Block of Parliament when it closed:

How a 360 video project keeps the Center Block currently under renovation open to “virtual tours” of students from across Canada. 1:42

The teams behind several of these projects are already reaching more students than ever before, despite a few months of experience to their credit.

“Between October and now, we have had over 70,000 users of the [Parliament: The Classroom Experience] The 360-degree video and the classroom website aren’t that far behind, ”Frost said. We are used quite well and the visit times are quite high. “

AGO’s educational programming reaches about 40,000 students in a typical school year, noted Hudson. That number has skyrocketed because of the virtual program, she said, with 42 percent of current “visitors” coming from outside Toronto, where the gallery is based, compared to just 9 percent previously.

“Seeing that we have reached over 180,000 students in 10 weeks [through virtual school trips], that for me is absolutely phenomenal. And it talks about the need, talks about the desire [for] a program like this. “

The only major barrier to participation was the time zones, said Duffy of the Calgary Zoo.

“We talked to people in Japan. We spoke with people certainly outside of Alberta: in Ontario, in British Columbia, we had a few people from the [United] States, “she said.” Once we can [reopen the zoo] safely, everyone can come. But if we can reach them now without any geographic barriers, we are happy to do so. “

WATCH | Virtual content brings VSO’s music education far beyond Vancouver:

Christin Reardon MacLellan, Director of Education for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, describes how her new virtual subscription offerings extend world-class music education more than ever. 1:53

In response to the pandemic, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra launched an online subscription-based concert hall with a dedicated virtual education section called The Music Room. “It’s kind of like Netflix for orchestra,” said Christin Reardon MacLellan, director of educational and community programs at VSO.

The BC Orchestra typically hosts about 50,000 young people a year, from students who come to Vancouver’s Orpheum for concerts to those who welcome VSO musicians to their schools in the Lower Mainland.

“This year, with the total online subscriptions we have, including [those purchased by] school districts, we estimate that we can reach about 200,000 people. So it’s almost quadrupled, ”MacLellan said.

“We have always aspired to have virtual programming and a digital concert hall, but until the pandemic hit, there was always so much more to do.

One positive aspect of COVID-19, she said, is that it has forced the VSO to devote time and resources to creating engaging digital experiences that, without replacing the live orchestra performance , always offer something valuable.

“Instead of sitting in your seat, sort of withdrawn … [watching virtually] you can feel like you are on stage watching the musicians up close. “

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