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Virtual explorations: Journeying to new worlds and places through the web

Carolyn Rahaman is a professional SSAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She holds a Master's degree in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University.

The following sites provide detailed and unique views of several locations that students typically won't have the opportunity to directly visit.

mother and daughter at computer

Photo credit: amanaimagesRF/Getty Images

The internet is a wonderful resource for discovering new locations, exploring far-off lands and learning about environments that are too distant or difficult to visit in person. Even if you and your student will never be able to travel to such places, you can experience them from the comfort of your home. Certain online explorations, such as the sites below, combine interactive elements, immersion and educational value.

If you are seeking a specific area for your child to study, note that historical and museum websites may maintain virtual investigations for objects like the Egyptian pyramids or the Great Wall of China. Whichever location your child is looking to explore, there are several online resources to help him or her study it with a closer eye.

1. The Smithsonian: National Museum of Natural History

The Smithsonian allows users to take a self-guided walking tour of the entire National Museum of Natural History: dinosaurs, mammals, etc. Through high-definition photography and an interactive system that permits you to move the camera and change your position within the museum, it is one of the most immersive virtual museum environments available for your student to navigate. You can also zoom in on particular objects and receive additional information.

2. Crittercam

National Geographic provides rare views of the animal world by attaching unobtrusive cameras to animals. Show your student how he or she can view unique footage of humpback whales, octopuses, sharks, turtles and many more. Your child can also learn about Africa and the Antarctic via interactive games.

3. Louvre tour

Similar to the Smithsonian virtual tour, the Louvre will enable your child to explore portions of the Egyptian Antiquities, the Galerie d'Apollon and the Medieval Louvre. Your child can click on individual artifacts for detailed images and the electronic equivalent of an information card.

4. The Vatican and Sistine Chapel

The Vatican tours provide 360-degree panoramas of various locations within the city, including St. Peter's Square, St. Paul's, Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, and Basilica San Giovanni. Your child can zoom in to view the surroundings, but the art is not annotated.

5. Antarctica

This is a virtual tour of Mawson Station, which is best known for its studies of nearby penguins. Through an interactive tour and email entries, the scientists discuss where and how they live.

6. World Wonders

Google utilizes its Street View feature to provide access to cultural sites around the world. You and your child can easily explore dozens of places, from Angkor Wat to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial to the Grand Canyon. Even more impressive is their underwater glimpse of the Great Barrier Reef. Note that while there is some explanation, it is occasionally sparse.

7. The Moon

Google Earth offers an exploration of the moon replete with educational material, including panoramic images, 3D models of a spacecraft, videos and tours of landing sites narrated by astronauts.

Utilizing these sites appropriately can help children gain a much deeper understanding of the world around them. Incorporate these resources into your activity list with your student this summer.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit www.varsitytutors.com.

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