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.