PALM DESERT – Students from Ronald Reagan Elementary School are going to explore the ocean, tide pools, and marine life. but instead of getting onto a bus, they gather in the media center. By using a video conference system, the students take a virtual field trip to Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach.
“They can get a live look at the tide pools,” says Brad Krey, who runs the California State Parks PORTS Program.
The Parks’ Online Resources for Teachers and Students, or PORTS program, allows students to explore a variety of state parks for free.
As budget cuts cutout field trips for many schools, this trend is growing. Through PORTS, students visit far away places without sky high prices. There are no entrance fees to parks and museums and no fuel costs.
“It’s just really expensive to go on field trips,” says Desert Sands Unified’s technology project teacher Cyndi Furr.
Through PORTS, the students can interact with a park ranger hundreds of miles away. Using a camera and speaker system, the ranger hears and sees the students as they watch him and the waves in the background. Although the students can’t touch the water or smell the ocean air, the program gives a look into the underwater life they may otherwise never see or learn about.
“They get to see the animals in their natural habitat,” says Furr.
These trips save schools thousands of dollars while the students get a priceless experience.