Field trips are supposed to be, educational, fun and engaging and now they can be that and more. California State Parks has field trips that are truly cutting edge and one of the best parts — no permission slips are required. By using the power of technology, the California PORTS Program has lowered the economic, geographic and social barriers of state park field trips and are bringing the field trips to classrooms.
In 2004, California State Parks introduced The PORTS (Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students) program, virtual field trips that allow students to experience the California State Parks without leaving the classroom.
These innovative, and immersive, field trips allow children to have real-world experiences through digital access. From the mountains, deserts and beaches, to urban parks and historic sites, students from all over the world can “visit” California’s natural and cultural resources while interacting with a park expert in real-time. Full access to all the California State Parks without any boundaries deliver true, interactive, virtual adventures.
The PORTS program lets students from all over the world connect with live, interpretive staff who can answer questions and showcase what the California state parks have to offer. The program was designed to give students and teachers digital access to state parks at no cost, opening the door for underserved students to have the “field-trip like” experiences.
“Bringing the beauty and magic of our state parks through the PORTS program will allow students to be transported to a different part of their world, one they may not have even known existed,” Lisa Mangat, director of California State Parks, tells Parentology.
These virtual, and customized, visits help deepen an understanding of what students are learning. PORTS presentations are individually delivered from one of 20 different California state parks one classroom at a time, providing personalized learning experiences every session
Imagine taking a trip to the Sequoia National Forest without having to endure a long bumpy bus ride. Add to this a skilled, personal tour guide leading exploration and lending insight into flora and fauna and how they connect to the planet.
Sixth-grade teacher, Marisol Garcia tells Parentology, “It felt like going on a true nature walk. The kids loved seeing the enormous trees. It felt as though we were actually there.”
Mission accomplished. For, as Mangat says, “Our virtual field trips are intended to give students that have limited access to our parks the opportunity to engage with our expert staff and help deepen the learning experience within, and beyond the classroom environment.”
Mangat continues, “By doing so, California State Parks empowers a community of global citizens who will inherit the responsibility of protecting our open spaces and culturally significant places. It’s a tremendous effort by our partners and interpretive staff who coordinate with educators to showcase what our unique state parks offer.”
Students love being engaged and immersed in experiences outside the classroom, something they can now do without the limitations of time and budget. Just waiting to be discovered: California’s 20 magnificent national parks.
California PORTS Program — Sources:
Lisa Mangat, California State Parks Director
California State Parks PORTS