Going on Virtual Live Trips and Interacting with Experts in the Field – Conducting and Continuing First-hand Research amidst the Pandemic

At B.D. Somani Primary School, we value and lay emphasis on authentic, meaningful learning that sparks children’s curiosity and questions. Field trips, walks in the community, interacting with experts in the field have been vital features in our curriculum that enable students to develop first-hand research skills.

It’s been a year since the pandemic upended our lives and forced us to move to virtual schooling. In that transition, there were many questions on our minds; one important one being – how could we continue with first-hand research?

Our team of experienced, dedicated teachers did not waste any time in coming up with novel solutions. Instead of asking – What can technology do for us? Our teachers asked – What can we do with technology to provide authentic research opportunities to our students? This reflective question provided them with the impetus to reach out to various members of the community such as parents, professors at universities, tour guides, researchers, and authors.

A few days ago a Grade 4 teacher tracked down a Dabbawala and convinced him to interact with her students, as they were exploring the famous Dabbawalas’ system in Mumbai. On another occasion, our Grade 5 teachers wrote to an archaeologist conducting a live dig and an archaeology professor at MS University, Baroda to spend an hour with our students to answer their burning questions. Needless to say, these sessions continued for more than an hour because our students ask complex questions that do not elicit simple finite answers.

Our parents and members of our larger community of city and country, have also played a key role in helping our teachers connect with experts and providing exploratory learning opportunities to our students. In a Grade 2 class, a grandparent of one of our students patiently answered the students’ questions and gave some useful tips for caring for plants. Some of the experts that interacted with our students are Ms Tanya Saigal from M2M Ro-Ro ferries; Mr Jeetu, a farmer in Satara; Ms Ashwini, a resident of Kumbharwada in Dharavi; Mr Nagji, a tour guide at Dholavira; Ms Sabnam Minwala, the author of Six Spellmakers of Dorabji Street; Dr Pawan Agarwal, a motivational speaker known for his study of the supply chain management and logistics of the Dabbawalas.

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What makes our virtual live trips and interactions with experts stand out is that these are not recorded sessions. These sessions are live, providing students the opportunity to visit and explore the sites in real-time and ask clarifying questions to experts to enhance their learning. And, of course, various resources and videos available online continue to help our students in their exploration but they lack the flavour of two-way interaction and exchange of ideas.

These experiences, we are certain, will continue to be a part of our learning engagements when we move back to the brick and mortar building.


Here are some responses from our students about their learnings from our virtual trips and interactions.

My experience of the guest speaker was very very good. I understood a lot more about solar panels like how the electricity goes into our houses after the solar panels have absorbed the heat. The favorite part of my experience was when she demonstrated the model of solar panel and showed us how it generates electricity. I was amazed by the light bulb, it was so bright glowing with solar energy. I loved the experience overall.
Student in Grade 5

Ms Meher had made solar powered devices so simple to understand. Everything she was explaining was technical but we actually understood everything quite easily with the help of diagrams. She explained everything word to word and started to ask us questions about what she had explained. The whole discussion was better than what I had imagined a virtual guest speaker could give. The only difference in physical and online school is that maybe we would be able to touch the bulb and solar panels in physical school!
Student in Grade 5

At first, I wasn’t sure that the guest speaker thing would go as planned because I had never done such a thing virtually. As the guest speaker came and started talking I realized it isn’t so hard to do things online.
Student in Grade 5

The virtual tour was really fun. Though we were not able to go physically I enjoyed learning about the different artefacts, how people used to dress, travel, etc.
Student in Grade 5

It was a virtual tour but we could visualize and understand the detailed planning that was used to make the city of Dholavira.
Student in Grade 5

It was a very fascinating experience to go through a virtual field trip and learn the details visually about pottery today. I was amazed to see and hear that the potter – Ashwini – communicated in English language and explained the process to us in a very friendly way. I gathered a lot of information, as well as got fortunate to have such a wonderful exposure. My most memorable moment in the entire field trip was to see the skilful and graceful hand and finger movements, while the potters were designing the products. I can’t wait to try my hand on the potter’s wheel which we have in our school Art room
Student in Grade 4

This experience was very meaningful and fun. Now I understand more about poetry, haiku and limericks. Ms. Mona explained this to us very well and she also made slides for us which was colorful and wonderful. She showed us videos which we were amazed by. This was one of the most fun virtual interviews I have attended.
Student in Grade 4

This virtual trip of the chawl was exciting and fun, and I learnt how everything looked in real life. You could see the actual thing and know more about it. I found it fun looking around and observing different things.
Student in Grade 4

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