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Travel the World From Your Classroom: Free iPad Apps for Virtual Field Trips

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Not every school has the resources necessary to take their students on an airplane . . . or spaceship. The iPad can bring the world to your students' fingertips in ways never before possible. Many national parks and museums have apps designed for onsite visitors. These navigational tools are also great for classrooms who can't make the trip. In fact, a variety of free apps can be used as virtual field trips so that children can travel the world from your classroom!

National Parks by National Geographic

National Parks by National Geographic is full of breathtaking pictures and information on National Parks including Acadia, Mount Rainier, Yellowstone and Zion. With details on weather conditions and interactive maps, this app is a great resource for bringing the National Parks to your classroom.


For a virtual tour of the Gettysburg Battlefield, the Gettysburg Battle app can be used in classrooms commemorating the 150th anniversary of this Civil War battle. With information on a variety of sites at Gettysburg, including video clips and audio, you'll find plenty to support students' exploration of this historic site.

Getty Museum

The Life of Art app designed by the Getty Museum focuses on four items from their collection. With detailed information on each object, students can manipulate the artifacts by spinning high-quality three-dimensional images and tapping to learn more about the history and characteristics of each item.

NASA Earth Now

If you're looking for a trip on a more global scale, NASA Earth Now lets users view the Earth through a different lens. Whether you want a visual of daily temperatures or want to compare sea level in different hemispheres, this app can spark a conversation without a trip to Cape Canaveral.

Timeline - Art Museum

A trip to the National Gallery or Sistine Chapel might be out of the question, but Timeline - Art Museum will bring the works of famous artists to your students' fingertips. This app includes a variety of works including Rembrandt and Lichtenstein, to name a few.


Formerly known as TourWrist, Sphere is an exciting way to bring the world back to your students. This app allows users to take a 360-degree panoramic photograph using an iPad or iPhone. Not only can you view user-uploaded pictures of the Washington Monument or Lincoln Memorial, but it's also a great way to document your own travels and share with students. Children can stand holding their iPad screen in front of them and turn in a circle to see the sights!

American Museum of Natural History's Creatures of Light

Although this exhibit is no longer on view at the American Museum of Natural History, the Creatures of Light app can bring the information from the show to your class. Students can explore nature's bioluminescence on land and in the sea with clear pictures, interactive widgets and a variety of videos.

Trees Pro HD Nature Mobile

If a trip to a forest is out of the question for your students, check out Trees Pro HD Nature Mobile. With information on a variety of tree species located in North America, the high-quality images and easy-to-read graphics will help students distinguish between different trees in the great outdoors.

Congressional Record

The Congressional Record app is a fantastic resource for teachers who can't take their students to the floor of Congress. Up-to-date information as well as archived text paired with some CSPAN clips can bring the United States Senate and House of Representatives straight to America's future voters.

How are you using technology to bring the world to your classroom?

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Comments (15) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Rhonda's picture

This is a nice list. As I am located outside of the US, it would be nice to see more international locations. I am always looking for ways I can transport my students to interesting and important locations outside of our country to help them build global appreciation and awareness.

Brenda's picture

I have a group of 2nd grade gifted students and I would love to create a virtual field trip for them. These apps (although fantastic) look to be way beyond their grade level. We have access to desktop computers and iPads, so either apps or websites would be a possibility at our school. Any suggestions of something geared more toward the lower grades?

Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Hi Monica,
Nice to see another ADE on Edutopia - and thank you for sharing some of your great ideas and resources. I know your post focused on Free Apps, but I just wanted to add one more that I really like: Virtual History - Roma. This iPad App (which, unfortunately is a bit on the expensive side) lets students explore Rome with some gorgeous graphics and useful tool tips. It's better than a field trip. Here's the link:

I know I sound like I'm selling it, but it was that good! Here's how I used it in class: I got it installed on a few of our school iPads last year, and then let Year 7 loose on it - and I watched, enthralled, as they explored Rome as if they were living in it - 2000 years ago! It was powerful, heady stuff.

Gloria Rebolledo's picture

Its so amazing the wonderful things technology can add to the classroom. Especially now with dwindling budget cuts, field trips and other things deemed unnecessary are the first things to get cut from the budget. I love the idea of taking a class on a virtual field trip to another state and even another country. With technology the possibilities are endless!

Rem4841's picture

Thanks for sharing this list! Looking back on my education, I remember learning about a number of these topics without the luxury of actually seeing them in person. These apps are a great way to paint a picture for current students!

Monica Burns's picture
Monica Burns
Author & Speaker, ADE , Founder of

Thanks for sharing Keith! I'm so happy you included the way you used in your classroom - will definitely check it out!

Monica Burns's picture
Monica Burns
Author & Speaker, ADE , Founder of

Hi Brenda! One thing that I love is how so many zoos and national parks have webcams - you can watch the leaves change, a polar bear swim and so much more. Just go to the website of a zoo or park in a region you are studying - most have these virtual tools!

J San Andres's picture

Hi there! Thank you for sharing this. As a Spanish teacher, apps like this make it easier for students to "travel" to Spanish speaking countries and explore them on a totally new level. It's wonderful how technology can help us keep students engaged in the classroom in a way that is familiar and fun for them. I especially appreciate the Nat Geo app as their pictures are truly fascinating. I'm excited to play around with the "Sphere" app since I can share my own pictures in a new way with my students!

Thanks again!

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