Meet Me at the Corner: Virtual Field Trips for Kids
Dec 19, 2007 12:00 PM,
By Linda Seid Frembes
According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, there 1.9 million to 2.4 million children who are home schooled in the United States. Meet Me At The Corner (MMATC), billing itself as the “Educational YouTube” for home-schooled children, provides virtual field trips for ages eight to12. The website offers 26 three- to four- minute episodes, including visits to New York historic and cultural landmarks such as Broadway and the Forbes Museum and a bird-watching expedition in Central Park.
“Real-world field trips are expensive. With school systems all over the country cutting back on money spent on buses and admission fees, virtual field trips are a good alternative for the teacher who wants to introduce his or her students to a whole new world,” says award-winning children’s author Donna Guthrie, who developed the website. “Our video podcast trips can be viewed repeatedly and include post-show links of recommended books and activities, and the best part is the web page is just a click away and it’s free.”
About two years ago, Guthrie began thinking about storytelling for the 21st century. “I love books, I read books, and I write books. But as the Internet has evolved and the popularity of websites like YouTube, I began to think that a video podcast could be this generation’s new way to tell a story,” she says.
MMATC also offers interactivity with its viewership. Guthrie encourages viewers of the Empire State Building episode to research and report on the tallest building within their own neighborhood. After an installment with award-winning children’s author D. Anne Love, kids are encouraged to interview and videotape interesting members of their community. The site also provides extensive instructions on how to create and submit videos. The site’s creative staff will then edit and upload the segments to the site.
The site’s content epicenter is New York. “New York City is big, very big. It is filled with interesting people, places and events all easily accessed by a subway ride,” Guthrie says. “I feel that the possibility for interesting shows is limitless. We want to show kids around that country that New York is open, friendly, and an exciting city to explore. So many times, people outside of the city are intimidated by New York. MMATC makes the city quite accessible to those who’ve never visited. But we’re not stopping with just New York. This winter, we are doing a video podcast from San Francisco Ferry Building about collecting wild mushrooms and at an Albuquerque dance studio where kids are practicing their elite jump-roping skills.”
According to Guthrie, future shows include a visit the New York Humane Society to find out how to adopt a pet and an interview with a beekeeper who keeps his beehives on the top of an apartment building in downtown Manhattan. “One of my upcoming favorites is an interview with a photographer who worked with Arab and Jewish children in Jerusalem for a photo exhibit called Beyond the Wall,” she says. “He talks about his experience and then tells our viewers what it takes to make a good photograph.”
MMATC’s content is available to both public and private schools. Guthrie says she hopes that the site would be picked up by teachers and parents across the country. “I started with the home schoolers because from a marketing standpoint, the idea of introducing this idea to children ages eight to 12 all over the United States was overwhelming,” she says. “Where would I begin? So I decided to begin this program with the home-school market with the hope that both public and private school kids, teachers and parents would find out about us.”
Currently, the site offers a list of recommended books and links to interesting sites attached to each of the video podcasts. The sites usually offer activities that children can do by themselves and don’t require adult supervision. “At this point, my goal is to encourage kids to send in their own videos that will be edited and added to the content of the show,” Guthrie says. “For instance, MMATC toured the Empire State Building. But I’d like to have a viewer from Pueblo, Colo., or Lafayette, La., videotape the tallest building in their town and tell us about it.”
You can reach Linda Seid Frembes at [email protected].