Virtual tours allow families staying at home a chance to experience the world
By Sgt. Logan ThomasApril 1, 2020
Social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic is essential to staying healthy, but staying home doesn’t mean people can’t explore and learn with their family. The internet has activities for all ages and interests to keep everyone entertained at home, here are a few to check out.Although many zoos have temporarily closed, lots of them offer live webcams of their exhibits the public may view.The San Diego Zoo offers live webcams in various animal habitats including baboons, penguins, polar bears, apes and more. Some of the cameras even let viewers take a closer look at where the animals live, such as the burrow of an owl. These live streams are available at https://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/live-cams.For those more interested in aquatic animals, aquariums offer a similar experience.The Monterey Bay Aquarium offers 10 live streams to choose from, including their shark exhibit, jellyfish tank, a kelp forest and a 1-million-gallon open ocean tank. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium website, during feeding times the cameras switch over to live audio and everyone can watch as divers hand-feed sharks and other animals. Their live streams are available at https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams.Through April 11, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden are hosting educational home safaris via Facebook Live.According to their website, the home safaris occur daily beginning at 2 p.m. Central Daylight Time and are broadcasted every day. Home safari streams average at around 20 minutes in length and include an activity to do at home. Activities they have had in the past include arts and craft, such as making giraffe hand puppets, art projects that viewers can share to the zoo’s Instagram page and games to play with the whole family.Each of the home safaris will be published on the Cincinnati Zoo Facebook page after the event is over for those who couldn’t watch it live. It will also be hosted on their YouTube channel. The Cincinnati Zoo will be posting the at-home activities on their website at http://cincinnatizoo.org/home-safari-resources/.Anyone interested in history or travel can also find activities online. Some historic sites and travel destinations offer virtual tours, allowing viewers the chance to explore and learn from home.Sygic Travel VR offers educational tours of various locations like Berlin, Jerusalem, Pisa and Bangkok. These videos offer spectators 360 degrees of view while the narrator describes things to see in the areas. Virtual headsets can be used to further the immersion, but the videos can be equally enjoyed from a smartphone or computer. The videos average five minutes in length, and there are currently 50 to choose from. They can be found at https://samsungvr.com/channel/590c6f1ab0a8c2001a4aaaf2.Some websites also offer self-guided tours.The Vatican’s website features seven different virtual tours, allowing visitors to venture through the Sistine Chapel and various museums. The videos offer a 360-degree view and allow for zooming to get a closer view of the architecture and art. Their tours can be found at http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/tour-virtuali-elenco.1.html.The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History offers virtual tours on their website that allow a look at past and present exhibits. Viewers can click on icons to view a close-up photo showing the exhibit in detail. As with the Vatican tour, users can use a virtual reality headset but can still enjoy the environments without one. The tours are available on the Smithsonian’s website at https://naturalhistory.si.edu/visit/virtual-tour.Although schools are closed, learning can still be done from home. Some websites offer hands-on activity guides that can be a fun and educational way to spend time with the family.Anyone with arts and craft supplies can access free guides on educational science experiments via the Siemen’s STEM Day website. These can be sorted by grade level or interests. According to the Siemens STEM Day website, everything there was purposefully designed to use materials commonly found in the classroom or at home, while still providing a hands-on, engaging learning experience for students.Their guides show how to do various experiments, such as creating paper helicopters, designing buildings to withstand hurricanes and designing unique insects. Check out their website at https://www.siemensstemday.com/educators/activities. Parents can look over the train the trainer tool kit to get an introduction to teaching using the program at https://www.siemensstemday.com/training-toolkit.Finally, staying active is important even while practicing social distancing. Although gyms may be closed there are still ways to be active and spend time with the family.The Online Physical Education Network has a page dedicated to creating an active home. The page has videos and word documents with instructions on how to do different activities. The website offers material in English and Spanish and has downloadable monthly activity calendars. OPEN updates the page with new activities, and even has added a section of activities designed for social distancing. Check it out at https://openphysed.org/activeschools/activehome.