It’s dawn in the redwood forest. As the sun rises, pale green light filters down through the foliage. High in the canopy, a varied thrush sings. The presence of these ancient trees is both calming and inspiring, something you feel in your soul. For the next hour, a skilled interpreter guides you through these hallowed groves, telling you about the trees, the wildlife, the way everything in the forest connects with everything else.
And then the lights go up.
Though wholly immersive, this was a virtual experience. It occurred in a classroom, not in a giant sequoia grove. But the impact of the Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORTS®) distance learning program is profound, inspiring and teaching students about California’s stellar state parks through online curricula, interactive videoconferencing and virtual reality technology.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park now offers free, virtual field trips for classrooms worldwide. By utilizing conferencing technology and tools you already have in the classroom, the challenges of organizing field trips such as limited funding sources and rising transportation costs are eliminated. The Giant Sequoia are excellent teachers on tree lifecycles, web of life, energy transfers, forest ecology and the importance of preservation. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to visit a forest with your class after the virtual field trip.