For the fourth consecutive year, 13-year-old Heather Schulman visited historic Jamestown, Va., but this time she didn't set foot outside her Arnold community.
On Friday, Heather and 19 other Severn River Junior High School students watched a satellite broadcast of archaeologists digging the Colonial settlement from the comfortable confines of the AVCOM Center at Anne Arundel Community College.
"This is better because we're watching it live and we can see everything right from here," said Heather, an eighth-grader. "I think it's cool."
The live transmission was part of a trend in electronics and education in which students take field trips to historic sites without leaving their schools.
"We try to bring the experience to the students that they can't get in a regular classroom," said Douglas Jovan, an enrichment resource teacher at Severn River. "This could be the future."
The broadcast was a cooperative effort among the junior high school, the community college and Prince William County schools in Virginia.
The Virginia school system recorded the event and beamed the transmission to a satellite, which relayed it to the community college.
The school, the only one in the county with a satellite dish for sending and receiving transmissions, projected the program onto a wall screen for the eighth- and ninth-graders.
The Severn River group is only the second from a county school to use the live satellite field trip. The college has been open to requests from other schools since buying the dish during the mid-1980s, said Mary Wells, director of the AVCOM Center.
"We've made it policy of ours over the years that if a county public school needed to use our satellite dish, we are more than happy to give it to them," she said. "This is a wonderful opportunity for the kids."
Electronic field trips have been gaining popularity, said Mrs. Wells. A recent live Maryland Public Television broadcast from Antarctica was one sign of this, she said.
Mr. Jovan said he got the idea for the satellite field trip from a newspaper article on the subject two years ago. In winter 1993, he made arrangements for a Severn River class to watch a live feed from the Luray Caverns in the Shenandoah Valley, but a snowstorm closed roads and forced a cancellation.
Mr. Jovan said the Jamestown event neatly coincided with a social studies curriculum that includes a review of Colonial history. The students participated in a week-long workshop and then taught fellow classmates what they had learned about Jamestown, he said.
"This is bringing history to life," he said of the live feed. "It's almost a form of living history because we can see the artifacts that tell us what happened."
Not all of the students preferred the broadcast.
"I like being in Jamestown," said eighth-grader Meghan Barron, 13. "You can see everything, not just what the camera shows you."
But learning about archaeology and history is invaluable, Heather said.
"It's sort of like evolution," she said.
"It tells us how different we are now from people back then. And maybe if we find something, it'll help society."