PORTS: Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students


Looking for a meaningful and engaging way to connect students to science or history while incorporating technology?  Want to bring real-life experiences into the classroom?  California State Parks offers you the opportunity to dynamically engage and connect K-12 students to park resources and professionals with free videoconferencing through the Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORTS) program. 

PORTS is an established and successful Distance Learning program that serves more than 50,000 K-12 students each year by providing an engaging experience with California State Parks through high-quality interactive videoconferences. PORTS provides a highly interactive learning tool K-12 teachers can use to bring science and history concepts to life in the context of state parks.  PORTS uses the powers of California’s K-12 High Speed Network and interactive videoconferencing to enable students to speak live with a state park interpreter about life in a tide pool or to relive the excitement of gold rush days while visiting a living mining town without leaving their classroom. 

From its beginnings in 2003, PORTS has presented opportunities to technologically engage students in urban areas. These economically disadvantaged, diverse communities have long been underepresented in visitation to state parks. Presentations on natural and cultural history topics as diverse as the state itself are covered in these live, active and entertaining videoconference sessions. Programs are delivered from eight state parks across California, including Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Crystal Cove State Park, Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, Columbia State Historic Park, Seacliff State Beach, California State Capitol Museum, and North Coast Redwoods District.

The various PORTS units of study address a wide range of academic content standard areas and grade levels, exploring subjects like geologic processes, animal adaptations, and California history.  Lessons are designed to supplement and support classroom curriculum, and they challenge students to consider their role in and impact on California’s natural and cultural environments. One lesson in each unit of study is an interactive videoconference program with a state park interpreter on that particular topic.

The magic of the PORTS videoconferencing experience lies in the interactive, personally delivered, program. Park staff works hand-in-hand with educators to ensure program content reinforces classroom teaching. Our state park interpreters fully engage students using multiple modalities of learning.

During a PORTS program, the technology appears to fade into the background as the relationship and interaction between the class and state park interpreter take the limelight. However, the effective use of technology is at the forefront of PORTS. This program has been a pioneer in employing videoconferencing technology in educational situations. Whether it's videoconferencing from the edge of the sea with a wireless network; from miles deep into the desert badlands with a satellite vehicle; from the streets of a gold rush town; or with a state legislator from under the Capitol dome, PORTS leads the way in innovative educational programs using videoconferencing.

PORTS is a unique and mutually beneficial partnership between California's K-12 educational community and California State Parks. The ultimate goal of PORTS is providing an engaging lesson of high academic value that is taught in the context of California State Parks. For more information visit the PORTS website at www.ports.parks.ca.gov.