20 amazing virtual field trips to aquariums, museums and Mars

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Schools are closed across the US, leaving states and school districts scrambling to figure out how to implement distance learning during the pandemic. Regardless of our individual situations, however, parents are all likely to hear the words “I’m bored” at some point in the coming weeks.

Not going to school may sound great at first to some kids — but what about no sleepovers, playdates or field trips? Across the world, museums and educational institutions are rising to the challenge to offer children incredible virtual field trips. They can learn about snow leopards, explore Mars, and even discover what it looks like inside their very own brains. It’s screen time we can all feel good about.

And when the field trip is over, we’ve found ways you can bring the museum experience home to keep the kiddos occupied with something educational and screen-free.

Zoos & Aquariums

Look at animals like lemurs.

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, CA

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is continuing to add activities and learn-at-home resources, including a week’s worth of daily activities options for all age groups to guide exploration of their online resources and live cams. Kids can also learn about kelp forests as they build their own via an app (Apple or Google Play) or desktop browser.

San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo’s kid-friendly website is bright and easy to navigate. Kids can click on an animal to learn more about it and even watch live cams of some of the zoo’s most popular residents, like pandas busy napping. Other videos include easy crafts and fascinating tours with zookeepers.

Cincinnati Zoo

Zookeepers are hosting daily “home safaris” on Facebook at 3:00 p.m. ET. All previous home safaris are available to watch on Facebook as well as on the zoo’s own website.

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How to bring it home:

Safari Ltd Toobs Wild ($12; michaels.com)

Safari Ltd Toobs Wild

Your kids will be prepared to lead their own zoo tours and share their own animal facts pretty soon. Let them get started with this set of animals from Safari Ltd.

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Peaceable Kingdom Zoo Animal Matching Game ($10.99, amazon.com)

Peaceable Kingdom Zoo Animal Matching Game

This matching game also doubles as a puzzle and can be played alone or in a group.

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Science

Tour places like the Kennedy Space Center.

Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Educators at the Kennedy Space Center are hosting periodic live videos about all things space, from daily life as an astronaut to a look at the moon rock collection. Upcoming videos are announced on the Facebook page.

California Science Center, Los Angeles

The California Science Center is releasing its Stuck at Home Science! videos weekdays at 1:00 p.m. ET throughout its closure. Each week has a theme like “All Cooked Up!” and “1, 2, 3, Blastoff!” Kids can follow along with science experiments that use easy-to-find household supplies

National Air and Space Museum, Washington

The Air and Space Museum is one of the most visited museums in the world — and your kids can visit it (and see some of the famous planes and rockets) without leaving the house. They can tour the halls of the museum thanks to Google Arts & Culture. Other interactive exhibits include Geography from Space quizzes for older kids and the Pilot Pals game for younger ones.

American Museum of Natural History, New York

The American Museum of Natural History has Ology, an entire website for kids to explore. Each section lets kids choose an “ology” to learn about, like paleontology or archaeology, and includes coordinating games, videos from resident scientists and activities.

Museum of Science + Industry, Chicago

Kids can take a tour of the heart and even explore the museum after-hours with a cute but lazy robot companion, Twitch, who needs help with some simple machines. Parents can sign up for a weekly science newsletter for more activities and ideas.

Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the largest children’s museum in the country, is hosting Museum at Home, a series of videos and live streams that let kids explore the museum, learn from educators and even sit in on storytime.

Mars

Even when we’re not social distancing, it’s unlikely kids will be able to hop a spaceship to Mars. Thankfully, the Curiosity Rover allows them to join for a virtual ride-along thanks to a partnership with Google, Access Mars and NASA.

KidsQuest Children’s Museum, Bellevue, WA

KidsQuest is offering daily YouTube streams featuring at-home activities or storytime. Activities are centered around art, math and science. You can see all upcoming videos on its YouTube page.

The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia

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