2009 Portland GSA Annual Meeting (18-21 October 2009)

Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:05 AM


LINDSAY, Lowell E., Paleontology, Anza-Borrego Foundation & Institute, POB 2001, ABF&I, Borrego Springs, CA 92004, LLindsay@Sunbeltpub.com

More students than ever are visiting Anza-Borrego Desert State Park- through innovative video technology. There’s a compelling need for this. More students live in urban areas where distance or economic or social barriers prevent them from experiencing, first hand, California’s many and varied state parks. As well, budgets and testing mandates are discouraging traditional field trips. In response, California State Parks (CSP) has initiated a Parks Online Resource for Teachers and Students (PORTS) program. By using the high-speed digital network that already connects California’s public schools, PORTS delivers live presentations to classrooms, with rangers and park scientists able to look directly into the eyes of students and engage them in conversation. CSP paleontologist George Jefferson has worked with program manager Luann Thompson, paleo volunteers, and local educators to develop an exciting curriculum that meets state teaching objectives for earth and life sciences at middle and high school levels. The programs showcase and describe biological and geological changes over the past three million years. The scientific process comes to life as students learn how paleontologists locate, identify, and preserve fossil specimens. A satellite dish allows videoconferencing from anywhere. Picture students talking to a ranger in a field of flowers or joining a badlands paleo dig. Now in its fourth season, PORTS received national recognition in the form of a $25,000 grant from the US National Park Service and Thompson received the “Star Thrower Award” which honors excellence in environmental education. PORTS is an introduction to career paths students might not have considered. Program size has doubled since founding in 2005 to reach over 8,000 students in 2009 with future demand limited only by resources available from charitable donors, state park staff and volunteers, and private organizations.

(Adapted with permission from ABF&I “Desert Update”)