Virtual Field Trip: The Galapagos Islands

The Education Techie writes about tech tools that can help students and teachers. Have you ever wanted to take an educational field trip to a place that is too far away to reasonably visit? Thanks to the Internet, many educationally rich locations are just a few clicks away. Today, the Techie will show you how to take a virtual field trip to the Galapagos Islands.

What You Can See

galapagos explorer

As part of its commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, PBS program NOVA created a virtual tour of the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos were a major inspiration for Darwin, and much of this interactive feature is presented with his legacy in mind.

There are two main sections of the interactive feature: 'What Darwin Saw' and 'Explore the Islands.' A map of the islands serves as the foundation for both sections, and users can toggle the island names on or off. The introduction to the feature includes a satellite photo that gives a good sense of geographic orientation.

darwin and galapagos

In the 'What Darwin Saw' section, you can take a virtual tour around the places he stopped among the islands. At most of the stops, there is a pop-up window that shows illustrations, quotes from Darwin and audio commentary from contemporary scientists (pictured above). Each of these windows focuses on a different theme, such as the collections taken during the initial visit to the Galapagos.

The 'Explore the Islands' section has four interactive panoramic photographs from around the islands in addition to still images and videos with information about the various species native to the area. Animals profiled include Sally lightfoot crab, Galapagos penguin, marine iguana and blue-footed booby. The panoramic photographs are accompanied by thumbnail photos that will automatically guide viewers to points of interest, such as specific animals in their natural habitats. You can also navigate around the panoramas on your own.

How It Works

The interactive feature opens in a small window within your browser. There is no way to make it fullscreen, and to me, this is its major drawback. The result is that every aspect of the feature, from the maps to the panoramic photograph, is presented in a small window within the browser. Still, I think it's worth checking out and incorporating into geography, history and earth science lessons. After all, how many of us will get to visit the Galapagos in person?

galapagos islands

Featuring a straightforward interface, the interactive feature is easy to use. Everything works through mouse clicks. The panoramas can be navigated by dragging and scrolling, or by using navigation buttons to the left of the image. This is definitely a program that can be used by students, even some elementary school kids, without much supervision. The content, though, might be a little too high level for the youngest grades.

This isn't the first virtual field trip that the Techie has taken. Previously, we showed you how to go to the Vatican, Monticello, the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol from the comfort of your classroom. The Education Techie will keep searching for virtual field trip opportunities, so stay tuned for more!

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