Dive into the deep sea off the Northern California coast, explore a forest of towering redwoods, or catch a glimpse of one of California’s largest land mammals, the tule elk. These are just a few of the interactive virtual field trips offered by the Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORTS®) program with California State Parks.
PORTS has been around since 2004, evolving from a green-screen operation to a comprehensive distance-learning program powered by Zoom, offering live field experiences, on-demand digital content, and blended learning opportunities — all at no cost to schools and students.
It took the PORTS program 15 years to reach half a million students and just two more years to double that number to 1 million students, with demand skyrocketing significantly during the pandemic. In 2020 alone, park staff delivered more than 5,000 interactive virtual field trip sessions to 250,000 students. For the 2021-22 school year, PORTS has already booked more than 5,300 sessions at state parks across California.
Brad Krey, program manager for California State Parks, shared in our case study how the PORTS program evolved and elevated the experience over the years using video technology: