For a lesson on France, second-graders at Worthington Elementary studied textbooks and maps, then toured the Louvre museum and gazed at the Parisian skyline from the Eiffel Tower.
Thanks to University of Maryland, the Ellicott City school is plugged into the Internet, a worldwide computer system of 25 million users that provides everything from tours of the White House to the latest satellite photos of the solar system.
"It can take them anywhere," said second-grade teacher Donna Mamula, whose students are planning to take an electronic field trip to see volcanoes in Hawaii in March.
Since October 1992, University of Maryland has provided free access to the state's schools and small colleges. This year, it is providing access to 888 schools, including most schools in Howard County.
The Internet "just tears the walls down," said Joe Campbell, a parent volunteer and chairman of Worthington's PTA Technology Committee.
In Howard County, many schools have used the Internet to supplement information once available only through textbooks.
At Glenwood Middle School, for example, sixth-graders are using the Internet to talk to scientists exploring the Antarctic.
At Lisbon Elementary School, students are following the adventures of a Texas man traveling around the world.
"You can go a lot further, and you get a lot more information," said Dianne Wells, a gifted-and-talented resource teacher at Glenwood Middle overseeing the Antarctic expedition and other computer projects.
At Worthington Elementary, classes are "surfing" -- browsing -- through the computer network looking for topics of interest. Students, can examine the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example, or learn about shifting political boundaries in volatile Russia.
"We actually have more recent information than what's in textbooks," Ms. Mamula said.
In Ms. Mamula's class, students supplemented a lesson on France with a walking tour of Paris where they stopped at the Louvre museum to gaze at Vincent van Gogh's masterpiece "Starry Night" and strolled along the Champs Elysees, among other sights.
"We went into the catacombs," said Stephen Fedderly, 8. "It's the underground graveyard."
And 7-year-old Amy Rose can't forget tormented Dutch painter Van Gogh.
"He cut off his ear and mailed it," she said, tugging on her earlobe.
Three of Worthington's 20 computers are hooked into the Internet, but Mr. Campbell hopes to increase that number.
During the next academic year, the school expects to receive 20 more computers under a technology equity program designed to distribute such equipment to all county schools.
Although the school needs more hardware, Worthington principal Fran Donaldson is thrilled with how computers have transformed education.
"It's changed a lot," Ms. Donaldson said. "It's like a window on the world."