NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A new school year has begun for many students across the state, which can only mean it’s back to learning and of course, class field trips.

St. Joseph Center in North Little Rock, is helping to bring education, fun, and a few farm animals to local classrooms with their new virtual field trips, says Scott Shellabarger, a volunteer at the nonprofit farm.

“We used to have field trips come out here for school and they could walk around and meet all the animals. Now we have to do that virtually,” explains Shellabarger.

Since the pandemic started, he says the center has been creatively looking for ways to keep many of its educational services.

“We’ve seen some success with our virtual meetings and our virtual farm stand has gone well,” says Shellabarger. “We want to be able to offer this to people and understand that we are flexible too.”

Goats, sheep, and cows are just some of the animals’ students will meet while touring the 63-acre farm.

The virtual field trip allows students to learn about sustainable farming and local food production while having fun with some furry friends.

“You’re sitting at a desk looking at a teacher for interaction and now you can look at a goat,” he says.

The tour runs approximately one hour and students are encouraged to participate by asking questions about their favorite animals.

Those interested can reserve a tour time by visiting their website. The farm asks for a donation. Proceeds go towards the upkeep of the farm and feeding the animals.

“We have already done at least two tours and we had a cow lick the camera,” Shellabarger says.

Recently, the center confirmed it will also offer a limited number of in-person field trips for schools in addition to the new virtual tours.

However, visitors will be required to wear face shields throughout the duration of the tour.

The tours can be given on almost any virtual platform. The center has used Zoom, Google Hangouts, FaceTime and Microsoft Teams in the past.

For more information on the virtual tours, click here.