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What’s Right With Schools: Westbrook HS teacher takes students on virtual field trips while distance learning

Whats Right With Schools

WESTBROOK, Conn. (WTNH) — One of the biggest concerns when it comes to remote learning is the ability to engage students. While Westbrook High School is now back to the classroom, one teacher tells News 8 how he took his kids on virtual field trips despite distance learning.  

It was a routine that got teachers and students frustrated: “Same thing every day, we’d go on Google Meet, we’d talk to each other, sometimes I’d see them and sometimes I wouldn’t.”  

RELATED: Westbrook High School moves to all distance learning for three days following positive COVID-19 test

Westbrook High School transitioned to distance learning at the end of last year. Getting sick of the digital routine, history teacher Derek Hanssen decided to do something different, “An opportunity to do something that was different than the same lecture or PowerPoint or assignment online.”  

He took his history lesson outside. Hanssen drove to Fort Griswold in Groton and took his class on a live, virtual field trip. Each of the students followed along as they watched Hanssen walk through the grounds explaining the history behind it.  

Hanssen tells News 8, “I wanted them to have the sense of being on a field trip. To have the sense of being there, I wanted it to be live.”  

Despite the miles between him and his students, he says they were engaged and interacting. The students asked questions about the area and the history spanning centuries.  

In fact, Hanssen later found out it wasn’t just his students following along, “I had a few parents that emailed me directly and two of them said that they were actually on the field trip with their students. So, they had been sitting in the room with their child and had another child. They said, ‘come watch this with us.’”  

Westbrook High School is fully back to the classroom but Hanssen says he is looking forward to his next virtual field trip should they return to remote learning again this year.  

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