Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Lucas Vasconcelos


The number of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs available in the United States will soon outnumber those qualified to fill them, and there is a decrease in the number of students pursuing STEM careers. Promoting students’ interest is an effective way to influence career choices. Field trips offer students hands-on, experiential learning opportunities that have an impact on students’ interest levels. Yet, not every teacher can take field trips due to logistical, financial, and geographical constraints. Standards-based virtual field trips are a promising strategy to support student interest in science, STEM fields, and meet the educational needs of teachers and students. The purpose of this action research was to determine the impact that virtual field trip programs have on elementary students’ interest in specific science domains and STEM fields. This convergent parallel mixed methods study was guided by the following questions: (1) Do virtual field trip programs affect participants’ interest in specific science domains and why?, (2) Which activities are most interesting for students during a virtual field trip program offered by the science center and why?, and (3) Do virtual field trip programs affect participants’ interest in STEM fields and how?

A total of 19 third and fourth grade study participants were enrolled in camp at a sports community center. Throughout the study, participants attended four standards-based virtual field trip programs related to chemistry, geology, meteorology, and astronomy. Quantitative data was collected through Likert-type pre- and post- surveys and qualitative data was collected from focus-group interviews and open-ended surveys to evaluate participants’ interest. Findings from this study, though not statistically significant, suggest that participants’ interest had a modest increase following virtual field trip programs in all science domains and STEM. Qualitative findings also revealed that participants with an initial interest in a science domain expressed an increased interest in the science domain following the virtual field trip. Findings regarding activities indicated that participants enjoyed working with professionals, hands-on, active lessons, and taking a role in the scenario. This research has implications for the impact that virtual field trips have on participants’ interest. Recommendations are provided for virtual field trip design and future research.