Take a Virtual Trip Through California’s Majestic State Parks

The PORTS program connects K-12 students to California's diverse cultural, natural, and historic resources through virtual field-trip experiences.

Looking for an engaging way to connect students to science and history or to bring real-life nature experiences into the home or classroom?

California State Parks offers K-12 students the opportunity to engage and connect to California parks resources through their PORTS program (Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students).

The PORTS program connects students to California’s diverse cultural, natural, and historic resources through virtual field-trip experiences.

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Connecting students to California state parks

California is home to over 280 State Parks which offers access to 340 miles of coastline, 4500 miles of hiking trails, and more than 75 million visitors annually. Due to the pandemic, instead of taking in-person field trips, many students are homeschooling or taking classes at home.

PORTS offers K-12 students from around the country an opportunity to engage with California State Parks through their home Learning Programs, and On-Demand Programs for connections with students in their digital or in-person classrooms.

Experience over 20 different California state parks and topics ranging from science and history to language arts and math.  At Anza Borrego Desert State Park, students can learn about ice age fossils, desert ecosystems and ecology.  In other parts of the state, students can explore giant redwood forests, historic Hearst Castle, and state history from the California State Capital Museum.

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Lydia Stinson, State Parks Interpreter for PORTS conducting virtual learning at Anza Borrego Desert Park
A passion for educating students about nature

Lydia Stinson loves connecting with students.  As a State Parks Interpreter with Anza Borrego Desert Park, Stinson often stands in front of her green screen studio to educate students about California’s largest state park. The green screen allows her to be anywhere in the park, which is good since there are over 650,000 acres to cover.

Stinson says the green screen allows her to take students to different areas of the park they might not be able to see on a regular school field trip.

She covers a wide range of topics about the park including plants and animals, how they adapt for survival, landforms, geology, and lots of information about ice age paleontology and fossil records.

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Lydia Stinson using a green screen to educate students about Anza Borrego Desert State Park
How you can be a part of the PORTS program

Program Manager Brad Krey says the program is perfect for homeschoolers, families learning from home, or a teacher wanting to augment their virtual classroom with live standards-based content.

Krey explains why the program so valuable, “It’s important that students here in California know that these are their resources, these are their places to come and learn, explore and play. So it’s important that we give them an introduction.”

Even though the virtual aspect is important for those students learning from home, Krey says that the goal is to eventually get kids back to in-person field trips and back in the parks.

PORTS is available to all K-12 students from around the country. If you’re interested in learning more about the California State Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students, visit their website for more information.