El Paso- Chamizal National Memorial (NM) launched its first educational web-conferencing program. Without having to board a bus or turn in a permission slip, students from Silva Magnet High School took take a virtual field trip to Chamizal NM. They learned about the historical significance of the park as well as the basic structure and function of the National Park Service (NPS) as a whole. Equipped with a webcam, microphone, and internet connection, the coordinator at Silva Magnet turned the school library into a classroom capable of interacting with rangers at the park.
Rangers not only taught students about the NPS and Chamizal NM, but also focused on the U.S. federal government in accordance to state-approved grade-level knowledge standards. The conference featured an interactive format where students competed for points based on their participation. Along with on-line scavenger hunts, video clips, and real-time interpretive talks from rangers, the teleconference proved well-paced and engaging to students who were physically miles away.
When asked about the benefits of web-conferencing with school groups, education ranger J.R. Lujan had this to say:
“It’s an effective, interactive way to bring visitor services into the classroom. I think it’s perfect for engaging high school and middle schools students who are all becoming increasingly tech-savvy with social-networking software. I can’t wait to do this program with another school and even different schools at once.”
The education department looks forward to implementing more lesson plans via web-conferences. With the basic internet connection and minimal media equipment, schools across the world can learn about the NPS mission and unique story of Chamizal NM.