Field Trips & Online School: Wyoming Connections Academy
Wyoming Connections Academy is online, but they engage in experiential education frequently.
Most recently, Connections traveled to the University of Wyoming for a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) carnival. The field trip is one of many field trips the online school takes as part of the academy’s online yet immersive education.
Connections teacher Laura Smith said the academy includes STEM/STEAM whenever possible, and traveled to UW due to the engaging activities the STEM carnival offered.
“The students really seemed to enjoy the driving simulator. They were able to use the simulator to see what it is like to drive on Wyoming roads. This was the most popular activity that our students signed up for. Each student's takeaways are different. For one of our younger students, Peyton, it was how heavy the Saber Tooth was!”
Wyoming Connections Academy has participated in STEM/STEAM events before. The hands-on approach to learning is a valuable educational experience, and the academy provides multiple opportunities for it.
“We did a STEAM Day in the spring of 2022! It was very popular with our students and has been highly requested. During that day, students created catapults, did solar printing, had a scavenger hunt, made dry ice cream, attempted to make pendulum paintings, worked on an egg drop activity, used Sharpies to tie dye socks, etc. We have also had virtual field trips with Boeing and Amazon and visited the Science Zone in Casper,” Smith said.
The virtual school is part of Rocky Mountain Elementary, Rocky Mountain Middle, and Rocky Mountain High School for Big Horn County School District No. 1. The online academy is a unique, tuition-free program for K-12 students and like all Wyoming's K-12 districts, is accredited by the Wyoming State Board of Education.
Being online gives students access to a variety of learning experiences.
“As part of the Wyoming Connections Academy curriculum, our teachers are required to host a minimum of 2 field trips. These can be virtual or in-person, depending on where the teacher is.
We have in-person trips within Wyoming as well as virtual trips to places around the world! Many of the in-person trips have either a hands-on activity or a social activity for students to participate in such as picnics and projects,” Smith said.
“In the past, we have done virtual field trips with Amazon and Boeing, visited the Johnson Space Center, Niagara Falls, Boeing, and experienced a tour of Auschwitz through someone who lives just a few miles from the site in Poland, the Grand Teton Snow Desk, and Yellowstone among others.”
In-person field trips have included the Wyoming Dinosaur Center and Star Plunge in Thermopolis, Quebec 01 Missile Silo in Chugwater, the Wyoming Pioneer Museum in Douglas, the trampoline park in Gillette, the Elk Refuge in Jackson, Devil's Tower, Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois, multiple college campuses around the state, the State Vet Lab in Laramie as well as a fire department in Laramie, High Plains Arboretum in Cheyenne, Living History Days in Pinedale, and many others around the state.
All field trips are connected to state standards and social skills activities which foster connection between online students.
“We try to incorporate events that our students are interested in or learning about from around the state, country, and world. We are encouraged to find new things for students to experience and bring back trips that students enjoyed and were popular,” Smith said.
For more information on Wyoming Connections Academy, visit their website here.