Project overview: Launch two “Virtual Learning Labs” where rangers and educators can use 360-degree videos and broadcast technology to provide interactive online learning experiences for schools, community groups and visitors.

How your support helps: When the COVID-19 pandemic upended traditional in-person educational programs in Yosemite in 2020, and put many school and youth program field trips on hold, rangers turned to online content, including videos, downloadable worksheets and social media, to teach fun ecology lessons, read nature-themed books aloud, host virtual campouts, go behind the scenes with the bear team, and much more. That outreach helped rangers connect with people, especially students, who couldn’t spend time in the park in person.

Now, with your support, the park’s educators are getting a new way to dream up, produce and share even more engaging, interactive online programming: two soundproof broadcast studios, or “Virtual Learning Labs,” where rangers can livestream lessons and connect with students remotely, in real time. In addition to underwriting the two studios — one in Yosemite Valley, one in Mariposa — this grant funds the equipment and production costs necessary for park staff to film, edit and share 360-degree videos that will give people an immersive look at different parts of the park. Using the videos, park-based curriculum and livestream technology, rangers and educators aim to reach as many 3,000 students through virtual programming in 2021.

In addition to providing interactive ranger-led lessons for schools and youth organizations, including NatureBridge, the park anticipates this new technology could be used for broader public education efforts, or even for personalized visitor orientations. The Virtual Learning Labs’ utility will extend well beyond the pandemic. Thanks to your support, these studios and technology will help Yosemite rangers reach across time zones and geographic boundaries to connect with students, community groups, youth organizations and the wider public for years to come.

Project partners: Yosemite National Park and NatureBridge.

Laura Goforth

Interpretation and Education, Yosemite National Park

Project Notes

“We need to reinvent park education programs by creating a place (Virtual Learning Labs) where students and rangers can still meet to study and explore Yosemite together.”