P.O.R.T.S. (Parks online resources for teachers and students)

The Conservancy and our cooperating partner California State Parks have been providing fantastic high-quality educational programs to local schools, utilizing Crystal Cove State Park’s precious natural and cultural resources to teach and inspire the next generation. Similar to The Conservancy’s own efforts to reach underserved schools, State Parks has been developing a solution to reach the same students via PORTS, the Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students, of which Crystal Cove State Park has been lucky to be a part of for the past ten years!

PORTS is a free distance-learning digital suite of content that uses the latest technology to stream State Parks interpretive staff from a multitude of parks and subjects and put them in classrooms all over the world. Students who are either too far away or are financially unable to make the trip can still participate and benefit from an interpretive program. Teachers in the classroom only need a laptop, projector and an internet connection to take advantage of this online suite of courses available, and Crystal Cove State Park is presented right to them in their own desks at no cost to them!

“Its just great to see kids who don’t get the chance to visit Crystal Cove in person, still interact and benefit from everything the Park has to offer as a teaching tool.” Says State Park Interpreter Francesca Manheim. Francesca has been involved in PORTS at Crystal Cove State Park since 2015 and runs it as a one-girl show; handling all the recruiting, scheduling, content creation, and teaching. She teaches two programs at Crystal Cove; Habitat Protection and Restoration, and Tidepool Ecology which both use real-life data from all State Parks departments to craft the most accurate and up-to-date content. The class is very flexible, with students usually guiding what the instructor focuses on, to tailor to their interests and make the class fun.

“Its all done through just an iPad and an internet connection, with teachers needing no more than a laptop and projector. Staying at the forefront of tech innovations has really helped us broaden our reach to students, and serves them with an easily accessible and informative course. Its exciting to be a part of!”

PORTS reached out 56,000 students in the 2017-2018 school year, 40,000 from California, 13,000 across the country, and another 2,600 around the world. One State Park site can reach up to 8,000 students, using the parks full potential as a teaching tool while at the same time lessening the human impact on the park itself. It’s a wonderful way to further reach the general public and instruct them on a love of the outdoors and a sense of stewardship in protecting it for years to come.

If you are interested in learning more about PORTS you can visit ports.parks.ca.gov. State Parks Interpreter Francesca can be reached at Francesca.manheim@parks.ca.gov. See you all out in the park!

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