Dallas Museum of Nature and Science Hosts Virtual Field Trips via HD Video Conferencing

The Museum of Nature and Science (MNS) in Dallas, Texas is the result of the merging of three museums: the Dallas Museum of Natural History, The Science Place and the Dallas Children’s Museum. Established in 2006, MNS has a wealth of exhibits to educate students of all ages. Unfortunately, MNS was unable to reach a number of students due to geographical and economic constraints. They realized if students could not visit the museum for a traditional field trip, the museum would have to come to them.

After receiving a grant from the United Way of more than $75,000, the museum decided to implement a video conferencing system to host virtual field trips. The director of technology began a thorough evaluation process to choose a vendor that fit all of the museum’s needs.

“I went out and looked at several different vendors, namely Polycom, Cisco and Lifesize,” said Justin Ashford, director of technology. “In my opinion, Lifesize compared favorably from a performance and cost perspective. Lifesize met all of our criteria and it was great for our long-term goals. It far exceeded any other solution I evaluated.”

MNS purchased two Lifesize endpoints and placed them on portable carts. That way, the cameras can zip around the exhibit halls with ease, almost as if the children were in the museum and walking on the tour themselves. In addition, MNS also uses Lifesize to record field trips for schools that are unable to join over video.

Now, the museum is hosting all kinds of fascinating “sciencecast” field trips, from deep sea shark exploration to a real-life fossil preparation lab.

“I was a science teacher for ten years and I know how powerful good instruction can be,” said Steve Hinkley, director of education. “I am personally proud to offer such rich learning experiences for these kids. We wanted video technology for so long and tried so many times. Now that it is here, the sky is the limit on what we can accomplish.”

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