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CA PORTS Program Brings California Parks Into the Classroom

March 22, 2022

The CA PORTS (Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students) Program is an award-winning distance learning program that has served K-12 teachers, students, and education partners with live, interactive video-conference presentations from our California State Parks. The PORTS Program provides free, interactive, virtual field trips for K-12 students across the state of California. Per their website, this program “connects students to California State parks and allows them to explore [these] parks with California State Parks interpreters.”

The program, that began in 2004, has been offering PORTS On-Demand programs for 18 years with the last two years being their most popular years yet. During the 2019-2020 school year, PORTS served over 170,000 K-12 students with live synchronous distance learning opportunities! During the 2020-2021 school year, for the first time in their 17-year history, all PORTS On-Demand programs were fully booked.

Teachers and students have a plethora of offerings to choose from within the PORTS Program. From immigration history at Angel Island State Park to elephant seal adaptations at Año Nuevo State Park to desert animals and habitats at Anza-Borrego, there is no shortage of programs that reach across grade levels and subject areas. The PORTS Program provides students with a unique experience to learn more about California’s natural, cultural and historical resources.

My first experience with the CA PORTS Program was three summers ago when I was teaching 4th grade science during a summer school program. We had the opportunity to speak with an interpreter from Anza-Borrego State Park. My students had 45 uninterrupted minutes with a knowledgeable interpreter who was generous with her time, conscientious of my students’ needs, and answered all of the questions that were spurred by their curiosity over animal habitats and fossils.

With distance learning these past two years, I knew these field trips would be invaluable learning experiences for my young 1st and 2nd graders – so I started booking my field trips as soon as their booking window opened. This year, I was able to snag FIVE different field trips, across the state of California.

This year, my students have traveled (virtually) to San Elijo State Beach for their “Connect Me to the Sea” and “Jellies: Sensational Stinging Survivalists” programs. Both of our park interpreters were knowledgeable, patient, and able to adapt based on the needs of my classroom. My students had the opportunity to showcase what they’ve been learning, while also getting their questions answered by interpreters working in the parks.

The PORTS On-Demand offerings still have some open availability – check out their site for more information and to book today! There are also still ways to connect your students with California’s State Parks. PORTS Home Learning Programs were created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and are still going strong. These free, live public broadcasts (webinars) empower students, teachers, and families to explore California State Parks from wherever you are.

Teachers are able to register for these webinars and then share the link among their students. PORTS Home Learning Program has available webinars through June 16th. For more information, please visit their website here.

Apart from their Home Learning Program, PORTS also offers a variety of pre-recorded broadcasts, filmed and featuring their State Park interpreters. For a list of previous broadcasts and digital content, check out this page.

Because of programs like PORTS, I can provide my students with FREE, enriching experiences that allow them to make real-world connections in science, social studies, and California state history. If you’re an educator and haven’t had the opportunity to experience a PORTS On-Demand program yet, check out their website and sign up when offerings for next school year open. You won’t regret it – and your students will be begging you for more!

For more information, follow CA State Parks PORTS Program on Twitter.

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