The new “passPORTS” program aims to create blended access to California State Parks for K-12 students that provide meaningful learning experiences.

The school field trip to California State Parks is being reimagined thanks to a new partnership between California State Parks, Parks California, and CUE. California is home to some of the country’s most unique and precious cultural, natural, and historic resources, and a new passPORTS online adventure will help make it possible for students from across the state to experience them.

The new pilot program, passPORTS, will use a blended access approach that combines quality teaching practices with the latest technology to reduce barriers to park access. Using videoconference technology and web resources, the Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORTS) program introduces K-12 students to live State Park Interpreters, allowing them to connect their classroom studies within the context of California’s state park system. “We are excited to embark on a new partnership with Parks California and CUE to provide deep and meaningful digital learning experiences for K12 students and invite them for an in-person class visit to our parks, recreation areas, natural reserves, and culturally important places when the time is right for schools,” says Brad Krey, PORTS Program Manager. Geoff Kish, Vice President of Programs at Parks California says, passPORTS is an exceptional opportunity for kids to connect with and learn about California’s State Parks from the comfort of their home. Programs like this play an important role in making state parks accessible for all people, regardless of where they live.”

This enhanced initiative builds on 15-years of successful PORTS programs with a new combination of digital instructional materials for use in the classroom, as well as in-park use, and provides funding to school districts to cover bus and transportation costs, giving students their passPORTS to the Parks. “We believe parks provide deep and meaningful interdisciplinary learning experiences for students regardless of physical, social, cultural, economic circumstance, or ability,” said Scott Shepherd, Parks Access Coordinator, California State Parks. “Our work will not only increase equitable access to parks for all California citizens, but in turn mobilize a new generation to play, learn, serve, and share in California State Parks.”

The goal of the passPORTS program is to provide more students with access to California State Parks through a blended access approach, using both online learning adventures now and in-person field trips once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. “The Parks offer interdisciplinary learning opportunities which afford schools a wide variety of curriculum engagement. California State Parks encourages students to learn more about nature, science, and history,” said Scott Shepherd. “These experiences not only support learning but also build respect for the natural environment and our diverse history and helps students to develop their understanding of California’s unique resources.”

Shepherd says, “Naturally, we want students, as well as their teachers and parents, to discover that our parks are learning laboratories, as well as places for environmental awareness, advocacy, and stewardship. But, we also want them to discover that these are places to enjoy the wonder of our state. Through collaboration with California State Parks and the K12 community, we aim to develop both sustainable and equitable access for the next generation of park  visitors and champions.”

For more information about passPORTS please visit our website at www.ports-ca.us.

The partner organizations involved are CUE, California State Parks, and Parks California.

About PORTS

The Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORTS) Program is a long-standing and award-winning K-12 distance learning program that has provided over 650,000 students with real-time digital access to California State Parks content experts. PORTS flagship resource is a live-interactive videoconference presentation between park staff and a class of students. PORTS also curates and promotes the use of digital resources for K-12 education so students have access to parks wherever they may be learning from. Please visit ports-ca.us to learn more.

About Parks California

As statutory partner to California State Parks, Parks California has a simple mission – to help strengthen parks and inspire all to experience these extraordinary places. From redwood groves and desert springs to urban parks and lighthouses, the organization works with partners to steward these natural wonders and make California’s parks more welcoming, accessible, and relevant to all visitors. For more information, please visit parkscalifornia.org.

Mercedes Maskalik

About Mercedes Maskalik