Distance Learning

Mobile Classroom to Connect Thousands of Students to Killer Whales


Thousands of elementary students from across the United States are expected to travel virtually to Washington state’s Penrose Point and Lime Kiln Point state parks in May to see orcas and other aquatic life in their natural habitats through Journey to the Parks, a series of high-tech distance learning experiences.

The free, interactive events, funded by the Washington State Parks Foundation, facilitated by Inspired Classroom and provided by the experts at Killer Whale Tales and Harbor WildWatch, will leverage a state-of-the-art satellite-based mobile classroom from GCI (General Communications Inc.), Alaska’s largest telecom, to connect students with wildlife and experts. The Penrose Point experience will be held May 9-11, while the Lime Kiln Point experience will be held May 15-17.

“To virtually transport students from across the country to remote state parks in Washington, strong, reliable broadband connectivity is key,” said Pam Lloyd, vice president of GCI Education and Healthcare, in a statement. “Our mobile classroom gives students the opportunity to visit faraway places they’d never experience otherwise. It’s exciting to see technology and education come together to offer students a one-of-a-kind learning experience.”

In addition to GCI, technology partners Polycom and VisionNet will empower classrooms to connect remotely to the events.

Participating classrooms will get to see biologists at work, take virtual park tours and learn about orca identification and research, including: the specific criteria that whale researchers use to identify whales; and why tracking whales is an important part of whale research.

Students will also participate in a hands-on activity where they will experience what it is like to communicate using only sound. During the event at Penrose Point State Park, students will take a close look at marine invertebrates using a virtual microscope. Naturalists and marine biologists will discuss the shoreline ecosystem near the park.

“Our intention is to expand this educational service by utilizing the signature experience of state parks as learning platforms and, as a result, bring state parks within reach of a wider range of children and families,” said John Floberg, executive director of Washington State Parks Foundation, in a statement.

Classrooms interested in participating in can register at this site.

Inspired Classroom, an interactive distance learning company, will record the content and provide it to classrooms around the globe, the company said.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].