PORTS News

Explore The Refugio Symposium

Nearly 100 years ago, the Refugio State Beach Education Center sat nestled amongst simple Beach cottages dotting Refugio cove along the channel coast of California.

On September 25 of 2021, despite the ongoing pandemic and countless existing issues creating barriers to accessing our parks for Californians, the education center was finally used for its original purposes: education. Among the glassy waves and misty wisp of fog flowing down the coast of California, state park lifeguards can be seen floating in kayaks and on rescue boards accompanied by 15 K-12 educators inspired to care for and protect our state's precious natural, cultural, and historic resources.


The California State Parks PORTS Program (Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students)® has always recognized teachers as allies in our efforts to share our parks with the public. Since 2004, PORTS has provided LIVE, FREE virtual field trip experiences for K-12 students learning in their virtual and in-person classrooms. Today, as a part of Parks Califronia’s effort to create routes to parks, the new passPORTS project, hopes to formalize our existing partnership with K-12 educators to reimagine the K-12 field trip through “blended-access.” More specifically, we hope to combine virtual and in-person opportunities to provide deep and meaningful, multitouch, sequential learning opportunities for our students in California State Parks. As a part of this project, PORTS is offering funding to open our doors for interdisciplinary learning opportunities nested in local, real-world issues for all K-12 students. As a part of this project, on September 25th at Refugio, these educators joined forces with California State Park interpreter Parker Grand of Refugio and Gaviota State Beaches, accompanied by PORTS coordinators Scott Shepherd and Brandon Caskey, with the mission to increase equitable and sustainable access to our parks.

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Teachers exploring Refugio State Beach!

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Teachers Collaborating at Refugio State Beach

CUE Interim Executive Director Mike Vollmert and Director of Academic Innovation Joe Marquez join teachers at Refugio State Beach

The new education center sat ready at 9:00 am equipped with pelts, skulls, microscopes, fossils, and so much more to showcase the stories and experiences to discover at Refugio State Beach.


Not unlike a field trip, upon arrival teachers were split into two groups and engaged in two separate activities: a guided kayak adventure along the Gaviota Coast from Refugio Cove and a collaborative curriculum design session in the education center. Prior to their arrival, Parker and Scott worked to create the digital counterpart of our in person education center. Teachers were equipped with a curated database of related reading, videos, photos, lesson plans, and much more developed over decades of interpretive resources and opportunities. Where teachers would have previously spent hours googling to find the perfect photo or video, equipped with new passPORTS instructional resources, teachers designed robust and meaningful lessons designed to engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate student learning on local resources focused on Refugio State Beach.


CUE (formerly Computer Using Educators), collaborated with the PORTS team to assemble this team of innovative educators from local affiliate networks. Interim Executive Director Mike Vollmert and Director of Academic Innovation Joe Marquez both joined PORTS team members on the beach in-person to support collaborative design with teachers and document this amazing experience. With the support of CUE, we hope to continue offering passPORTS symposium’s all across the state! Sign up for our mailing list to learn more about symposiums happening near you!