Innovative Distance Learning Program Helps Students Discover the California MPA Network

SP interpreter
PORTS interpreter, Crystal Cove State Park

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and California State Parks have teamed up to teach California students about the state’s network of marine protected areas (MPAs). Through the power of live videoconferencing and online interactive lessons, thousands of students are now learning about California’s MPAs. The lessons showcase the important role that individual MPAs, and the MPA network as a whole, play in safeguarding California’s marine resources.

The collaborative project is part of California State Park’s PORTS (Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students) program.  PORTS is a free distance learning program that helps schools meet academic content standards in the context of California State Parks.  The program features ten different state parks, and reaches roughly 50,000 students each year.

PORTS in a classroom
See a 5 min. introductory video to the MPA PORTS project

With the MPA PORTS project, students are now learning about MPAs as well as state parks. The project focuses on three MPAs: Crystal Cove State Marine Conservation Area in Southern California, Año Nuevo State Marine Conservation Area on Monterey Bay in central California, and Pyramid Point State Marine Conservation Area on the California-Oregon border in northern California. During the 2014-2015 academic school year, which was the pilot year for the project, 13,600 students in 27 California counties learned about MPAs and the diverse habitats they protect through the PORTS program.

Beginning this fall, the MPA PORTS project will debut an online MPA curriculum that can be used in tandem with the live videoconferences.  The project will also expand to a fourth MPA: Point Lobos State Marine Reserve.  In the 2015-2016 school year, over 15,000 students will be able to enjoy and learn from MPA PORTS videoconferences.

To learn more about the MPA PORTS project, contact the project coordinators Marnin Robbins ( or Brad Krey (

post by Marnin Robbins, CDFW Fish and Wildlife Interpreter II ♦ CA State Parks photo of interpreter at Crystal Cove State Park by B. Baer; image of PORTS in the classroom from CA State Parks video

2 thoughts on “Innovative Distance Learning Program Helps Students Discover the California MPA Network

  1. What a great initiative! Ask students what a national park is, but I’d bet most students have no idea what a MPA is… and reaching 50,000 students with that message is an amazing achievement!

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