CUSD to begin 'virtual field trip' program

Capistrano Unified School District students no longer need a school bus to go on a field trip with the introduction of a new "virtual field trip" pilot program.

Over the summer, the district met with federal employees to discuss a low-cost theme-based curriculum that would not only meet students' state standards but also provide them with the opportunity to talk to scientists and students across the country and receive science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) instruction.

"The curriculum will incorporate applied scientific methods and real-world learning that will spark excitement about STEM disciplines and the natural world," Board Vice President Dr. Gary Pritchard said in a statement.

Nine school districts will be involved in three different attendance zones.

The following schools from CUSD (separated by zone) include: Castille Elementary School, Newhart Middle School, Capistrano Valley High School; Don Juan Avila Elementary School, Don Juan Avila Middle School and Aliso Niguel High School; and Marblehead Elementary School, Shorecliffs Middle School and San Clemente High School.

The project will start in elementary school and carry on through high school, where students will complete increasing rigorous stages as they research intensive projects, while virtually interacting with other students.

Each zone will have a theme, and the students will do virtual field trips to different locations throughout the U.S., mentor younger students and culminate the project in high school with a trip to the location of their study.

"During the first year, each school will take at least three virtual field trips while representatives from participating federal agencies will interpret the science and/or history/social science observed during the virtual field trips," according to a news release.

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— Joanna Clay

Twitter: @joannaclay

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