Tour planning

Virtual Classroom: Resources for exploring the U.S. one topic at a time

Here at EF Explore America, we’re committed to helping you and your students learn new and inspiring things—whether it’s on an educational tour or at home. So, in collaboration with our partner organizations across the U.S., we’re actively gathering digital-learning resources to help educators like you continue teaching students about the world (even from your couch). From civic engagement to STEM, this collection will include a range of subject-specific lesson materials and immersive virtual experiences. Thanks to the continued input of passionate partners and teachers, we will keep adding to this list of resources—so be sure to check back soon!

Here are the topics you’ll find covered below:

Civic engagement
Virtual tours around the nation
STEM
Conflict resolution
American history
Prodigious performances

The strength of a community comes from its people. We study it in history, we experience it when we travel, and, now especially, we can see it in action. Groups and individuals alike have the ability to create positive change for their communities—and so do your students. A lesson in civic engagement means showing your students the importance of actively participating in the world around them, and empowering them to build the future they want to see. Read on for online resources designed to spark empathetic conversations, inspire critical thinking, and help you bring civic engagement into the (virtual) classroom.

U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol’s collection of online resources covers a range topics in U.S. history, and this lesson on The D.C. Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862 is one of our favorites. As your students study this symbolic victory in the struggle for freedom and citizenship, they’ll be encouraged to explore what it means to be a free member of society. Whether in-person or online, the U.S. Capitol is always an integral part of the D.C. learning experience for students.

Freedom Forum (formerly the Newseum)
In addition to a suite of online classes, the Freedom Forum, based in Washington, D.C., hosts live Q&A sessions. During an “Ask an Expert” session on the First Amendment, students will think critically about topics like media literacy, religious liberty, and free speech with a Freedom Forum expert.

U.S. Institute of Peace
Learn about the history, mission, and work of the D.C.-based U.S. Institute of Peace with your students—without even leaving your couch. During an hour-long online program, students have the chance to meet with topic experts and virtually tour the institute while learning about the importance of conflict management and peacebuilding. Sign up for the program here.

There’s nothing more exciting, or educational, than taking a break from the books and leaving the classroom behind for a bit. Touring our nation’s museums, monuments, and national parks offers a completely different perspective on learning that can reshape a student’s outlook—and, luckily, many of those places are still open for (online) business. Keep reading to break down the walls of your virtual classroom and inspire, excite, and educate your students.

Museum of Modern Art
Each and every Thursday, the MoMA is offering exclusive access to its collections and exhibits. With video stories, curator Q&As, feature articles, and playlists, your students will get an inside look at New York’s premier showcase of modern art and rethink the possibilities for expressing themselves.

The J. Paul Getty Museum
In addition to a collection of over 15,000 paintings, sculptures, and photographs, Google Arts & Culture showcases online exhibits from the Getty Museum in California. With a deep analysis of Eighteenth-Century Pastel Portraits, students will learn about the medium that surged and the artists who contributed to its popularity.

National Parks
Explore the wonder of great outdoors and the wide variety of nature that America has to offer—without even having to worry about applying an ounce of bug spray or sunscreen. Take in the country’s most famous park by spending hours exploring everything Yellowstone has to offer. Then discover the hidden worlds of national parks from all across the country, traveling from Florida to Alaska to Hawaii in a single day.

Guggenheim Museum
Browse the constantly updated collection of the museum from the comfort of your couch for a new appreciation of modern and contemporary art. Pick favorite pieces to discuss as a group or dive deeper into online exhibits. The Guggenheim also offers teaching materials to help you examine works from their permanent collection or, our personal favorite, learn more about the architecture of the iconic structure that houses the NYC museum.

National Gallery of Art
Along with the freedom to explore the collection and exhibits, the National Gallery of Art offers online activities and lessons for your students. One we’re especially excited about is exploring the work of Monet through a lesson that relies on film and guided practice that can be done from home. Discover all the Washington, D.C. museum’s available lessons here.

Intrepid Museum
Relying on materials easily found around the house, the Intrepid Museum in New York offers a variety of activity packets and design challenges based on STEM themes for your students to undertake. Guide students through a virtual tour of the museum then go deeper with their extensive YouTube channel featuring curator talks, oral histories, and behind-the-scenes access.

Mt. Vernon
Take a tour of George Washington’s Virginia estate that’s so in depth you’ll feel like you’re actually setting foot on the grounds. Step into each building and learn about life in colonial times and how the first President of the United States spent his days at home.

Smithsonian
With a breathtaking amount of resources from the Smithsonian in New York and D.C., guide students further into their favorite subjects. Take a closer look at the tools used aboard the Space Shuttle in an exhibit from the National Air and Space Museum. Learn more about the extraordinary life of Abraham Lincoln thanks to the National Museum of American History. Walk through the artifacts and excavations of the National Museum of Natural History. The only limit to your exploration is the amount of time available in a day.

Hands-on learning helps your students bring STEM theories to life. So how can you facilitate it when you can’t physically hand them project materials? As you think about how to engage students beyond simply talking to them from the other side of their computer screen, take advantage of these resources. They’re full of creative, tactile experiences students can complete at home with items most already have on hand.

FIRST®
High tech, low tech, or no tech, FIRST® has a deep set of options for students to continue developing the skills and confidence they need to change the world. Use the Manchester, NH-based company’s resources to learn new coding languages, explore interactive multimedia from NASA, or learn lessons from LEGOs. For something extra special, tune in on May 4th to celebrate Star Wars Day with an episode of Galactic Builders LIVE. Students will learn from animatronics engineer Matt Denton as he shares a close look at his latest creation from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and answers your questions.

Science from Scientists
With their “Away from the Classroom” series, Science from Scientists has created a variety of activities designed specifically to keep students engaged in STEM subjects while they’re at home. Experiment with cryptography or recreate the full carbon cycle on the dining room table. From chemistry and engineering to life science and technology, there are activities for any interest.

Harvard Graduate School of Education
Step by step, take students through the Creative Computing Curriculum to give them more experience and confidence with computational thinking and creativity. The course, designed by the Computing Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, uses Scratch, a free computer programming language. During the course’s six phases, students will explore inspiring work, recreate designs to build familiarity, and ultimately tackle an open-ended project of their choosing.

Museum of Science
As if virtual exhibits, podcasts, and family STEM activities weren’t enough to keep students busy, Boston’s Museum of Science is also offering a daily live stream for a chance to hear about a wide variety of topics. Check the schedule to join the conversation and ask scientists about space, reptiles, climate change, lightning, and more.

For as long as human civilization has existed, there’s been conflict. Thankfully, there’s been resolution to those conflicts for just as long. By studying the past and what created and contributed to those struggles, students can learn to avoid them as they become the next generation to shape the world’s interactions.

9/11 Tribute Museum
The most effective way to understand the weight and visceral reality of history is to hear about it from the people who experienced it firsthand. New York’s 9/11 Tribute Museum, an exclusive EF Explore America partner, offers your students a unique opportunity to learn about one of the country’s defining events through virtual discussions with the 9/11 community. It’s an experience that mirrors the one EF groups have in person on our guided tour of the 9/11 Memorial—it’s led by a first responder, recovery worker, civilian volunteer, or survivor of the attacks in 2001.

If you’re unsure how to introduce such a complex and emotional topic, you can also visit Teaching 9/11 for resources and to hear why teachers nationwide find it such a valuable subject for turning students into discerning citizens.

WWI Museum and Memorial
If you want to learn anything, and we mean do mean anything, about World War I, you’ll find it on the Education section of the WWI Museum and Memorial website. They’ve compiled a huge collection of lesson plans and educational experiences that approach the topic from every conceivable angle. Learn about the use of propaganda, see how the war reshaped technology, or explore an A-Z overview of what happened. And since Hollywood has never been able to resist a war movie, there are plenty of lesson plans that use blockbuster films as a jumping off point.

National Museum of the Marine Corps
With weekly updates, the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia will keep history students on their toes, even if they’re sitting at home on their couch. You’ll find a host of educational videos, journalism prompts, and other activities on topics including famous expeditions, code breaking and communication, diversity in the Marine Corps, and more.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund
By reinforcing civic engagement, writing, and other interdisciplinary skills, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund helps teachers tackle one of the most sensitive moments in American history. (They’re the organization that built and maintains the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a key experience for every EF group that visits Washington, D.C.) Browse a deep collection of curriculum plans, embark on digital experiences, and learn more about the wall that heals to give students a better grasp of this turbulent war.

We’re all living through a particularly unique period of history at the moment. One that will be remembered in history books and museums in the future. Since the best thing we can do is sit tight at the moment, it’s the perfect time to reflect back on other periods that defined our country and see what we might be able to learn from history’s most monumental moments.

Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Be careful not to get lost in the Smithsonian’s History Explorer site. This resource from the museum in Washington, D.C. is a history buff’s dream come true, with more resources than you could imagine. It’s all sortable by resource type, grade level, and historical era, so you can easily find your way around. But there’s a rabbit hole waiting for you after every click. Whatever subject your class is currently studying, you’ll find valuable resources that can help deepen your students’ understanding.

Boston Tea Party Museum
You can get a taste of eighteenth-century life and what led to the American Revolution without setting foot on the boat that still floats in the Boston Harbor. A favorite stop during our Historic Boston tour of the city, the Boston Tea Party Museum is offering virtual tours of the boats that turned the tide of history. Go below deck, debate taxation without representation, and even destroy a bit of the Crown’s tea without leaving the living room.

Museum of the City of New York
If we’re being honest, exploring New York City can be exhausting. Not only is it enormous, but there’s something exciting around every corner. So maybe there’s a momentary bonus to “traveling” from the couch. Since you can’t visit right now, The Museum of the City of New York is offering up an unlimited pass to everything they have to offer: all five boroughs come to life on your screen with digitized collections, live streams, recorded videos, and more.

Artists have always thrived on limitations. No matter the constraints, they always find a way to tap into the moment and create something beautiful and transcendent. Now is no different. Just because we can’t gather for a performance, that won’t stop artists from creating amazing experiences that we can enjoy together from our own homes.

The Metropolitan Opera House
Your living room doesn’t need perfectly attuned acoustics in order for you to take in an incredible performance. New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, one of the best stops on our Broadway and the Arts tour, is bringing young audiences a new opera each and every week. But the performance itself is just the culmination. To deepen students’ understanding of the opera, they’re offering daily live events from Monday to Wednesday. Teachers and students can engage directly with the Met education staff and artists for an inside look at the opera. Then, Wednesday thru Friday, tune in for the show to see it all come together.

Carnegie Hall
Music never stops and, turns out, neither does Carnegie Hall. The concert hall is bringing you some of the world’s finest artists through an entirely new online series, Live with Carnegie Hall. The unforgettable episodes feature behind-the-scenes stories, past performances, and live musical moments.

Broadway World
Who says anything about needing a fancy stage? Instead of bright lights and big audiences, all Broadway’s best artists really need is their living room and a camera set up. From their own homes, they’re singing the highlights of beloved musicals in performances that will make you feel like you’re there in person. Thanks to Broadway World, you can recreate one of the highlights of our New York tours in your own home.

Encores! Archives Project
There’s so much that goes into a theater production, and Encores! Archives Project is making sure you don’t miss any of it. They’re highlighting a new theme each week to explore composers, writing teams, specific eras, and noteworthy performers. Comb through a wealth of videos from over 80 Broadway productions and dozens more from Off-Broadway.

Daydreaming about the day you can get your students back out there? Visit efexploreamerica.com to discover all the places educational travel can take you and your students.

 

Madeline Muller

Madeline is a copywriter at EF tours. She loves sitcoms, tacos, re-reading books, and befriending dogs. Her favorite city is Budapest.

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