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Connecting Students to State Parks for Nearly Two Decades

Almost 20 years ago, PORTS Programs (Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students)® started a new idea that our parks could look a student in the eye, ask a question, and solicit a response through live, interactive virtual programs just as they would if together in forest, deserts, beaches, and historic structures of our California State Parks.   

Once considered sci-fi, video communications have now become an essential tool of learning, and a cornerstone to PORTS programming and impact. Today, PORTS delivers virtual field trips dozens of times each day from all across the state to showcase California’s natural, cultural and historic resources.   

 At the onset of COVID-19, PORTS leaned into its 20 years of experience to offer innovative and engaging learning experiences for K-12 students. Over the 2020-2021 school year, PORTS has expanded to more than 50 California State Parks for K-12 teachers and students to discover.   

 What may have once been considered an ambitious dream has now reached over 1,000,000,000 students with deep and meaningful learning experiences in, for, and about our California State Parks.  As we look to the future, the new passPORTS project in partnership with CUE and Parks California is working with educators from around the state to re-imagine the school field trip through funding for “blended-access” or sequential, multi-touch, virtual and in-person connections to parks.   This project believes that giving students the chance to build a relationship with a person and a place prior to their arrival builds excitement and curiosity.  Just ask this teacher from San Diego California  

 “So much of the PORTS program was building a relationship. We have loved every single one and learned so much! My 5th graders even recognized the interpreter from Hendy Woods State Park, they saw him in 4th grade, and when we came back in 5th grade and said, ‘Hey! We know you!” 

 We know that our relationships with our natural world have never been more important, and PORTS is making it possible to connect with these places like never before! To learn more about PORTS and our hopes and dreams for the future, click here 

About the Author 

Scott Shepherd, K-12 Access Project Coordinator for California State Parks PORTS Programs (Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students)®, is a passionate environmental educator who has spent his career working to increase equitable and sustainable access to our public outdoor spaces.  As a part of the new passPORTS program, Scott is working to develop deep and meaningful learning experiences for K-12 teachers and students. Click here to learn more!