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“Return to Learn” with Virtual Resources from San Diego Museums

San Diego schools are back in session, but like everything else in 2020, things look pretty different.

As kitchen tables become classrooms, families and educators alike are adapting to the challenges of a virtual learning environment. Local museums are doing the same, developing innovative ways to serve students with engaging virtual programs and digital resources. From virtual field trips to videos and activities that bring classroom curriculum to life, our museums are ready to help make the 2020-21 school year productive, meaningful and fun!

Here is a round-up of some of our favorite “Return to Learn” offerings from San Diego Museum Council member museums:


Birch Aquarium at Scripps – Virtual Youth and School Group programs with interactive STEM lessons that support Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for students in Grades PreK-12. Also, new six-week Virtual After School Series for Grades K-8 to explore ocean science.

Cabrillo National Monument – Three science education field trip programs have been adapted for online learning, including Science Sampler, Conservation + Comics, and Climate Kids: Ocean Acidification. Additional digital program offerings coming soon.

Fleet Science Center – Live virtual STEM lessons for an entire classroom, activities for individual students and curriculum support for teachers, all designed to keep kids engrossed as they explore science with hands-on activities using materials already found at home.

Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum – “Inside the Loop” video series featuring responses to kids’ questions by experts in the fields of aviation, space, military service and physics. Remote classroom visits from retired military pilots or aircrew. “Marines in Flight” art contest open to all San Diego County students in Grades 6-12.

Living Coast Discovery Center – Three options for virtual field trips based on NGSS and Common Core State Standards (CCCS), including virtual animal encounters with native wildlife, professionally pre-recorded lessons and live Zoom programs with an experienced educator.

San Diego Air & Space Museum – New remote learning experiences that move beyond “passive screen time” into actively engaging children’s critical thinking and creativity. Experiences last 45-60 minutes, with educators guiding participants through at-home engineering challenges, inquiry-based explorations, and behind-the-scenes virtual tours of the museum’s exhibit spaces.

San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum – Weekly activity videos featuring movement, tinker time, world culture, art and nature talks on Facebook, live weekday story times (on Facebook and Instagram), weekly STREAM activities (on the website), virtual school workshops (coming soon) and fall and winter virtual camps (November and December).

San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat) – Series of educational videos featuring instructor-led virtual experiences based on the museum’s most popular exhibits and field trip programs (of particular interest to K-5 students). First series will be available in early-October, with more videos/content to be released throughout the year. Additional resources for teachers include a “Nature to You” specimen and curriculum lending library, downloadable curriculum and online tools such as plant and animal atlases and more.

San Diego Model Railroad Museum – Virtual Steam for School program for Grades TK-8, which meets various NGSS and CCCS Math standards. Additional educational resources, videos and activities also available on the website.

Tijuana Estuary – Virtual field trips, webinars and digital resources for grades K-12 as part of the California State Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORTS) program.


Barona Cultural Center & Museum – Virtual presentations customized to various age groups to learn about the culture, heritage, customs and traditions of the Kumeyaay/Diegueño People and the history of the Barona People and Reservation. Ideal for third and fourth grades students learning about Native Americans.

Bonita Museum & Cultural Center Resource guides for the museum’s virtual exhibition Nuestra Frontera: Our South Bay Families at the Border and the Mexican Land Grant Era. Special exhibit on paleontology takes a deep-dive into Southern California history through fossils found in the geologic record in San Diego’s South Bay.

Maritime Museum of San Diego – Digital teacher and student lesson plan resources for grades 3-5 as part of EXPLORE (Experiential Learning On-line Resources for Educators), made possible by a previous NEH National Endowment of the Humanities Landmarks of American History and Culture Grant. Studies focus on the story of Cabrillo and his galleon San Salvador, which took place during the age of European exploration.

San Diego Archaeological Center – Virtual field trips designed to foster understanding of past and present cultures, including live or pre-recorded interactive archaeology projects. Additionally, a fun blog, “Dr. Arty Fax’s Archy Facts,” introducing kids to the world of archaeology.

San Diego History Center – Dynamic curriculum and activities for all grades, an interactive version of the “School in the Park” program and live lessons with museum educators.

San Diego Chinese Historical Museum – Online collection includes fine art, folk art, decorative arts, clothing, household and commercial goods, archaeological finds, historical photos and mementos of the Chinese community of San Diego.

Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) – Digital resources include cultural heritage tours of Old Town San Diego and Heritage Park, educational activities/lesson plans for the Whaley House Museum, digital exhibitions for the Marston House Museum & Gardens and Architect Irving Gill, and a plant survey project for Presidio Park.

USS Midway Museum – Distance learning programs (available at no cost to educators), including Everyday Heroes (Grade 2, social studies), City at Sea (Grade 3, social studies) and STEAM Mobile Device Tour (Grades 4-5, math) with video, audio and augmented reality (AR) opportunities. Midway Institute for Teachers now offering online educational resources to help teachers and parents with distance learning.


Lux Art Institute – Virtual & Digital Valise Project featuring pre-recorded videos and lesson plans or personally guided instruction by a teaching artist. Virtual school tours through artist galleries with artist Q&As. Also, virtual youth art classes and fall break camps for ages 5-15.

Mingei International MuseumEducator guides, video lesson plans and activities from the museum’s Outreach at Home and Family Sunday from Home The museum will also host a virtual professional development for educators event on September 30.

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego – Virtual resources for all ages to support remote learning, from short tutorials to in-depth lesson plans that bring contemporary art to life.

Museum of Photographic Arts – Digital curriculum, instructional videos and fun activities, including the museum’s new Photo Club for middle and high school students.

The New Children’s Museum – Downloadable lesson plans and enhanced DIY blog with step-by-step instructions for art projects and additional learning activities for children ages 4 and up. Coming soon: An interactive virtual tour of the museum for Grades K-5, with accompanying art kits for hands-on experiences. (Packages will be available for purchase by educators only. Free to Title 1 schools, while supplies last.)

The San Diego Museum of Art Educator guides and lesson plans exploring a variety of art topics, including European art, still life, art of East Asia and visualizing music. Video resource library and activities for students of all ages, abilities and educational settings available online through SDMA At Play. Virtual Educators Fall Preview event via Zoom on October 7 (5:00-7:00 PM).

Timken Museum of Art – Digital art collection, virtual museum tour, “Work of the Week” and video art tutorials with the museum’s teaching artist.

Visions Art Museum – Docent-led virtual walking tours through the museum’s gallery of contemporary quilts and textile art. “Stir Crazy” activities and creative resources to enjoy at home.


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