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Niagara Falls Central School District Superintendent Mark Laurrie addresses the media. (Submitted photo)
Niagara Falls Central School District Superintendent Mark Laurrie addresses the media. (Submitted photo)

'AT&T Virtual Field Trips' program launches for school year


Wed, Nov 11th 2020 09:30 am

Collaboration between AT&T, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo Museum of Science, Explore & More, The Buffalo History Museum & Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center

Offering free virtual field trips for local public & charter school students

School field trips bring excitement and the spirit of adventure to children of all ages. They complement classroom learning and instruction with wonderful experiences where students can see, touch and hear about subjects presented in school. Field trips provide memories that last a lifetime for students. 

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, traditional field trip visits to the world-class educational, art and cultural institutions in Western New York will not be possible during the 2020-21 school year. To help alleviate the disappointment of local students and to add some normalcy to their unusual school year, AT&T, in collaboration with the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo Museum of Science, Explore & More – The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Children's Museum, The Buffalo History Museum and the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center have created “AT&T Virtual Field Trips.” This program is designed to allow tens of thousands of students to experience free virtual field trips throughout Buffalo and Niagara Falls in a memorable, fun and safe way.

The “AT&T Virtual Field Trips” program provides both prerecorded videos and live virtual leader-led tours. Some of the programs offer downloadable materials for teachers and interactive kits for students. The program is designed to provide a wide array of offerings tailored for students of different ages, ranging from first through 12th grades. To help eliminate economic barriers and to foster inclusion, this unique program is provided free of charge for all students and classes that attend Buffalo or Niagara Falls public or charter schools and Western New York Title 1 schools.

This program is made possible by a $75,000 contribution from AT&T and the generosity of the partnering cultural and educational institutions.

The Buffalo History Museum offers tours recommended for students in fourth through sixth grades. Each virtual field trip includes a live Zoom tour of two current exhibits with a member of the museum’s education team. Tours must be booked in advance.

•The Buffalo History Museum has been Western New York's premier historical organization since 1862. The history of Western New York is filled with stories of diverse people striving to create a place that they can call home. Stories brewing with ingenuity and hope, but fraught with struggle and conflict. The virtual tour will bring the past to life in a personal way-through intimate narratives of everyday people and key historical figures and provide participants opportunities to engage with real artifacts and primary sources, while connecting with subject matter experts to access unique resources of the museum.

•Great art is transformational. The Albright-Knox invites teachers and students to join in for virtual experiences designed to support the development of the critical and creative thinkers of tomorrow. Opportunities include live virtual guided tours and prerecorded videos that will serve as a teaching resource to focus on critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity. Students will discover works of art from the Albright-Knox’s collection and exhibitions through a range of learning strategies, including open-ended and guided questions, conversation and activities.

•The authentic stories shared at the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center highlight the extraordinary results that are achieved when ordinary people stand against oppression. On a live virtual field trip, museum educators will connect with classrooms remotely in real time. During a facilitated, interactive program, students will learn the history of the Underground Railroad in Niagara Falls while engaging in dialogue that will help them recognize the modern injustices that stem from slavery and think critically about what steps they can take to create a more equitable, just, and free society.

•The Buffalo Museum of Science is ready to bring its wonder and excitement to virtual classrooms! The site’s experienced facilitators will bring a unique educational experience and scientific expertise to students and educators. Whether participants are looking for an eye-popping science demonstration or a behind-the-scenes virtual tour, students and teachers can customize programming to suit specific needs and grade level. If school district guidance allows, kits can also be assembled and delivered to schools to give students immersive, hands-on experiences.

•Children of all ages learn through exploration and grow through creativity. In this spirit, Explore & More invites young learners – the innovators of tomorrow – to “Explore, and More!” The venue has created seven interactive videos that can be used together or individually by teachers. Each video includes a tour of one of the educational play zones; a related activity and/or experiment that can be replicated by parents at home or teachers in school; and concludes by highlighting a STEM career. These tours are ideal for third- through fifth-graders.

"Field trips are such an important component of every student's education, providing enriching exposure to our world-class cultural institutions. While in-person class visits are not possible during the pandemic, virtual field trips are a terrific way to open the doors to our many museums and other cultural assets," Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said. "Thank you to the cultural institutions, which have embraced this creative way to offer field trips, and also to AT&T for once again stepping up as a community partner to make this new initiative possible."

For more information on the “AT&T Virtual Field Trips” program and the various virtual educational tours and instructions on how to book a virtual leader-tour or to access the videos and virtual assets newly produced by the participating institutions, visit https://exploreandmore.org/att-virtual-field-trips/. All other schools and districts across Western New York interested in participating in the video tours are welcome to use the program for their students.

“As thousands of local students are either following a distance learning or hybrid model as a result of COVID-19, we are proud to help provide this opportunity and support educators who are keeping our students connected and to help ensure students aren’t deprived of the educational experience field trips to museums provide,” said Amy Kramer, New York president AT&T. “We are thrilled to collaborate with these remarkable educational cultural institutions that are not just pillars of this community, but have also been enriching our children’s educations for generations, and AT&T is happy keep the spirt of these field trips alive for this year and provide students of all ages some sort of normalcy.”

“The Albright-Knox is delighted to be a part of this important program that brings new and thought-provoking learning experiences to students throughout Western New York,” said Albright-Knox Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director Janne Sirén. “We believe that interactions with art can be transformational for young minds and we are thrilled to be able to share our wonderful collection in this innovative way.”

"The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center is thrilled to participate in the ‘AT&T Virtual Field Trips’ program," said Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center Interim Director of Education Christine Bacon. "This is an amazing opportunity for students to be inspired by ordinary people who took extraordinary steps to overcome great obstacles. Now more than ever, we need stories like this to uplift us."

“We are so honored to participate in this virtual field trip program,” said Melissa Brown, executive director of The Buffalo History Museum. “In providing these students the opportunity to learn about our region’s past, we hope that not only will they receive educational value, but find personal and meaningful connections to the people that came before them.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need for elevated science literacy as well as continued access to STEM resources in schools,” says Marisa Wigglesworth, president and CEO, Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences. “The Buffalo Museum of Science is excited to continue engaging students in Buffalo and Niagara Falls through virtual tours and experiments that will inspire and encourage the STEM leaders of tomorrow. We are grateful to AT&T for making this wonderful program possible.”

“Through the AT&T Virtual Field Trip program, we are able to keep the play alive. Our virtual field trips focus on STEM, an ever-growing and critical field for children to embrace,” said Michelle Urbanczyk, CEO of Explore & More – The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Children’s Museum. “In doing STEM-based activities and exposing children to experts like astronomists and veterinarians, we are hoping to show how exciting and fun a career in STEM can be.”

“Thank you to AT&T and our local historical, educational and arts institutions for giving our students access to this extraordinary ‘Virtual Field Trips’ program,” Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash said. “The excitement and enrichment this program will bring to our students will spark their interests for a lifetime, and the virtual experience will help to fill the gap while essential in-person field trips are paused." 

“At this time, more than ever, our students need to experience the rich heritage and culture Western New York offers,” said Mark Laurrie, superintendent of the Niagara Falls CSD. “The ability to build a child's background knowledge through a creative and interactive way is meeting the needs of young people in a cutting-edge manner. The support of AT&T is a gift that will last long in the schema of the children of Niagara Falls.”

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