The United States is rich with history, and visiting historical sites can bring depth and meaning to your history lessons. However, not all students have the opportunity to take field trips. Fortunately, there are many resources online that allow you to take virtual field trips with your students. Below, I have compiled a list of my favorite Civil War virtual field trips for middle school students.
- Visit Major Battlefields of the Civil War with the American Battlefield Trust
Overview: In these virtual tours, students visit historic Civil War battlefields from a 360° panoramic viewpoint. Each tour includes several scenes that students can explore. Within each scene are clickable “tour points” that reveal historical information, photographs, primary sources, and more. Some of the battlefields students can visit include the Battle of Shiloh, the Battle of Chattanooga, the Battle of Antietam, and the Battle of Gettysburg.
Grade Level: This virtual field trip would be ideal for grades 6+. Navigating between scenes and reading through each tour point may be difficult for younger students.
Time: 30-60 minutes (per battlefield tour), depending on the number of scenes the battlefield has.
Suggested Learning Objective: Define key details from major battles of the Civil War.
- Take the time to look through the tour ahead of time.
- Create a “tour guide” for students to fill out as they explore. Here are some examples:
- K-W-L chart: Before completing the virtual tour, students write down all of the things they already know about the battle. After exploring the battlefield, students write down facts they have learned.
- Fold a piece of paper so it has the same number of sections as scenes in the battlefield tour. In each section, students write down one thing they learned from each scene of the tour.
- Utilize the “Learn” section of this website. Scroll down to “Battle Overviews” to access articles describing each of the major battles of the Civil War. You can also find these detailed articles from the virtual tour webpage by clicking on the battle name under “Related Battles.”
- Visit the Andersonville Prison in Georgia
Overview: From PBS Learning Media, students will take a virtual field trip to visit the Andersonville Prison in Georgia. This field trip includes journal entries, photographs, videos, and 360° tour experiences.
Grade Level: 8+
Time: 30-60 minutes
Suggested Learning Objectives: Reflect on what life was like for prisoners in the Andersonville Prison. Explain Georgia’s role in the Civil War.
- Once you have launched this virtual field trip, you can access a User Guide in the top right corner of the screen. This guide includes lesson plan ideas, a link to an online textbook with related articles, discussion questions, extension activities, and much more!
- Take a Virtual Field Trip to The Ford’s Theater
Overview: The Ford’s Theater offers a LIVE virtual field trip. A museum curator will visit your classroom via Zoom (or whatever platform your school uses).
Grade Level: 6-8
Time: 45-60 minutes
Suggested Learning Objectives: Analyze primary sources to investigate President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.
- Teachers are required to sign up in advance for a specific date and time. I would recommend making this a grade level experience! Here is a link to the FAQs for more information.
- This website also offers several digital programs. Each program includes a teacher’s guide, graphic organizers, and an interactive website experience
- Visit the National Museum of the United States Army
Overview: This particular virtual field trip is called “The Civil War Soldier’s Load: Technological Innovations.” Students will meet with a museum educator to explore the gear, weapons, and personal items that soldiers used during the Civil War.
Grade Level: 4-12
Time: 60 minutes
Suggested Learning Objectives: Identify uniforms, weapons, and equipment used by Civil War Soldiers and describe their functions. Describe how Soldiers using the objects carried out the U.S. Army’s mission. List examples of new technologies used during the Civil War and describe how mission requirements drove innovation. *These objectives are taken directly from the field trip description on the website.
- To participate, you can either sign up for a presentation from the museum’s public event schedule, or request to schedule a personal field trip time that fits your group’s schedule. Request to schedule a personal field trip
- Visit the National Civil War Museum
Overview: From artifacts to manuscripts and documents, to photographs and video presentations, students will be enthralled as they walk through the timeline of the Civil War. In this virtual field trip, a member of the museum’s educational staff will teach about various Civil War topics. They can also give presentations about specific topics that relate to what you are learning in class!
Grade Level: 5+
Time: 60-120 minutes
Suggested Learning Objectives: Objectives can vary based on your preference. Examples include: Recognize the timeline of events in the Civil War; Understand
Battles of the Civil War Activities
Here are some additional activity ideas that your middle school students can use to learn more about the Civil War and its major battles:
- Create a timeline of the Civil War
In this activity, students will create a timeline of the Civil War by researching key events and battles and organizing them chronologically. This will help students gain a better understanding of the progression of the war and how different events were related to each other.
- Create a map of the major battles
Using a map of the United States, students can research and mark the locations of the major battles of the Civil War. This activity will help students visualize the geography of the war and understand the movements of the armies.
- Write letters from a soldier’s perspective
In this activity, students will research the life of a soldier during the Civil War and write letters from the soldier’s perspective. Students can use primary sources such as letters and diary entries to learn about the soldier’s experiences and write their own letters as if they were the soldier. This activity will help students gain a deeper understanding of the experiences of Civil War soldiers.
- Create a battle plan
In this activity, students will research one of the major battles of the Civil War and create a battle plan. Students will need to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the armies, the geography of the battlefield, and other factors that could influence the outcome of the battle. This activity will help students think critically and strategically.
- Debate the causes of the Civil War
In this activity, students will research the causes of the Civil War and form teams to debate the relative importance of different causes. This activity will help students develop critical thinking and argumentation skills, as well as deepen their understanding of the complex causes of the Civil War.
Featured Image Credit: Cosal, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons