The PORTS statewide program began in 2004 as a collaboration between California State Parks and the California public school system. This alliance puts the great outdoors into the classroom through videoconferencing with Park Rangers and Park Interpreters, as well as augmenting a school districts’ environmental science courses with enhanced curriculum. Videoconferencing allows Park professionals to engage and interact with the students on a personal, customized basis. An “On-Line, On-Demand” element provides lesson plans, digital videos, and other materials via the PORTS website. It is an extraordinary way to connect students with faraway natural resources and parks.
The mission of PORTS is to create as many regional, distance-learning centers from which PORTS programs can be produced, presented, and managed for the state parks in that region. A few of the flourishing PORTS programs are at the North Coast Redwoods, where students learn redwood forest ecology; Crystal Cove State Park, where curriculum is focused on tide pool ecology; and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which highlights geology and paleontology.
With the generous support of Toyota USA Foundation, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Union Bank Foundation, the PORTS program is able to expand into the Los Angeles area with a new learning center at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, near Culver City. The park provides important natural habitats and is the last remaining example of the vast system of swamps, grasslands and riparian areas that once made up this area. Toyota USA Foundation awarded a 3-year, $558,844 grant to establish the learning center, buy necessary equipment, and hire a PORTS interpreter. Sony Pictures Entertainment donated many electronics, including digital SLR cameras and video cameras, LCD monitors, and a laptop with accessories.