The Investigators: The field trip has gone virtual. Will the places that rely on the revenue survive?

The Investigators: The field trip has gone virtual. Will the places that rely on the revenue survive?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - In this time of social distancing and virtual learning, the field trip now looks different.

The hands-on experience a field trip usually offers has been brought to an online platform.

“The field trip ultimately, in my opinion, is vastly important,” said Alex Eilers, administrator of programs at the Pink Palace Museum in Memphis. “To do it and to see it and to actually get the emotion involved in that type of learning just enhances and solidifies that understanding so much more.”

The Pink Palace classroom that is usually used for field trips can accommodate up to 100 students at a time. It now sits empty, and has been for months. The hands-on exhibits remain untouched.

“We definitely miss the kids. When you have 50 or 100 kids running around it’s fun,” said Kevin Thompson, Pink Palace executive director. “The field trips themselves - that’s key to our mission.”

Field trips are also a significant revenue stream for the Pink Palace, says Thompson. They account for about a third of the museum’s budget.

By the end of the year, the Pink Palace expects to lose up to $1 million because of field trips that have been canceled or not booked at all.

“We’re working on alternatives to generate different types of revenue to continue to engage with the community and do things differently,” said Thompson.

Each one is disinfected after every use.

The Pink Palace also offers live virtual tours - bringing the field trip experience straight to the student in his or her home or classroom.

Shelby Farms is also taking its field trips online by bringing the outdoors, inside.

“We’ve taken a big hit in our ability to connect with students and to generate revenue through those field trip programs,” said Rebecca Daily, Communications and Creative Specialist for Shelby Farms.

The park is offering free online guides for parents and live or taped virtual tours, which schools or teachers will pay for.

“It’s a great opportunity for teachers to connect their students to the park,” said Daily. “Our certified educator leads the program. She’ll take students on a virtual video hike of the park so there’s still getting access to scenes of nature and spotting wildlife, but they’re doing it virtually now.”

According to Daily, this time last year 70% of Shelby Farms’ field trip capacity was booked for the fall semester.

This semester, there are no field trips booked at all and won’t be for awhile.

“We look forward to the day we can get them back in the park for now, this is a fun and unique opportunity to still be involved with nature,” she said.

The park itself and its trails are still open and ready for use.

The Pink Palace is also still open to visitors though demand is way down.

The Museum expects to lose over $2 million this year overall.

“Shutting down like this is certainly something we have not done like this ever and trying to manage through that both from a revenue and engagement with the community standpoint has been a real struggle,” said Thompson. “We’ll get through it, i’m confident but we’re not there yet.”

Unfortunately, they’re not alone.

The Memphis Zoo has lost $5.6 million because of the pandemic but it is also offering virtual content for a fee.

The Orpheum Theater offers virtual content as well.

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