Marshall Gold Embraces New Distance Learning Program
By Holly Thane, Interpreter I
It is safe to say that we really missed all our fourth-grade visitors this year! Because we still want to share our park and its history with schoolchildren around the state, and because we are not likely to see classes in the park in spring 2021, we decided to join California State Parks PORTS team!
PORTS is an acroynym for Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students. This program enables teachers to schedule their class for their own personal virtual field trip of the park. Twice a day on Tuesdays and Thursdays, park Interpreter I Holly Thane has been signing on to Zoom with classes across the state and providing them with a 45-minute tour of the park. As with anything technology, there were a few rough starts as we learned how to integrate the technology and WIFI hotspot so to ensure there was a stable internet connection during each program.
Most classes that have participated so far have all their students doing distance learning from home. that means each individual child is logging in from their bedrooms, living rooms, or kitchen tables -- sometimes with a sibling or two in tow!
Other classes are using a hybrid model with some students in the classroom and others at home. It feels odd compared to what we are used to, and it may not be perfect with technical difficulties, but virtual tours allow us to share our park with these inquisitive fourth grade students. Getting asked the wonderful questions we all know and love and getting to see their faces light up when they see real gold makes it all worth while.
Providing these virtual programs through the PORTS program will also enable us to offer virtual field trips to schools that can’t afford to bring their classes to the park. This will also make us more accessible to people across the country and around the world as we can offer webinars for up to 500 people at a time.
Our new PORTS program is already a hit! We are currently booked every Tuesday and Thursday through mid-June. We are excited to be able to continue to tell the story of the gold discovery hundreds of students even if they can’t physically visit the park.