Middle school children birdwatch and learn about the species of birds during the First State National Park's Bioblitz outside Wilmington, Delaware. On May 20 and 21, 2016, the Nature Conservancy and the National Parks Service partnered with National Geographic to execute the First State National Park's first Bioblitz. Over the course of the two-day event, over 800 observations were recording and more than 300 species were identified. More than 30 volunteers, 200 middle and high school students, and 100 community members participated in nature walks, species inventories and educational science experiments.
Connect With Nature Middle school children birdwatch and learn about the species of birds during the First State National Park's Bioblitz outside Wilmington, Delaware. On May 20 and 21, 2016, the Nature Conservancy and the National Parks Service partnered with National Geographic to execute the First State National Park's first Bioblitz. Over the course of the two-day event, over 800 observations were recording and more than 300 species were identified. More than 30 volunteers, 200 middle and high school students, and 100 community members participated in nature walks, species inventories and educational science experiments. © © Devan King/TNC

Stories in Oklahoma

Connecting with Nature in a World of Technology

Virtual field trips offer nature immersion experiences at home and in the classroom.

Katie Hawk Marketing & External Affairs

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Immerse Yourself in Nature

Take a Virtual Field Trip

There is a growing disparity between the time people spend indoors wired to technology and the time they spend outside enjoying nature.

One of the biggest challenges The Nature Conservancy has in using its amazing preserves for education is the remote nature of these places. Preserves can be excellent outdoor classrooms that immerse children and adults in near-pristine natural areas that educate them about plants, animals and ecology, as well as the key environmental issues of our time. However, the opportunities for on-the-ground conservation on a large scale are often in remote areas far removed from population centers where most of our state’s people live.

In this era of overloaded schedules and reduced funding for extracurricular activities like field trips, making a trek to a remote location has become even more difficult.

Students from Chamblee Middle School in Atlanta, Georgia and Nature Works Everywhere garden grant recipients use the online platform to plan their garden.
Learning in the classroom Middle school students use an online platform to plan a garden. © Nick Burchell

The Solution: Virtual Tours

Part of the answer to this perplexing problem lies in the problem itself; the reliance on electronic technology means that people have computer skills that allow them to navigate the internet in search of information. The internet offers anyone who is interested a wealth of information about places from the mountains of Nepal to the vast grasslands of the Serengeti.

If we can bring these far-away places to anyone’s computer, why can’t we do the same with the wild and wonderful places right here in Oklahoma?

The Nature Conservancy and Bank of America teamed up to overcome the challenge by bringing Oklahoma nature preserves online via OK360! We are using 360-degree high definition technology to transport children and adults via the internet to the remote places found on our preserves. OK360 is an online, interactive system that delivers  panoramic views of Oklahoma’s native and diverse landscapes, as well as engaging multi-media learning tools about ecology, ecosystems and keystone species like bison or deer.

Inspire, Engage and Learn!

OK360 is great for all ages! Bring nature to your fingertips without having to leave the city and immerse yourself in the scenic beauty of Oklahoma’s wild places.

  • Take a stroll through the prairie amongst the free-ranging bison at Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.  
  • Get an up close view of the Illinois River and woodlands in the foothills of the Ozarks at J.T. Nickel Preserve.
  • Embark on a journey through the rugged canyons and mixed-grass prairie at Four Canyon Preserve.
  • Experience the free-flowing waters of the Blue River at Oka' Yanahli Preserve.
  • Take a trek through the limestone glades and wildflowers at Pontotoc Ridge Preserve. 

There are all kinds of fun and creative ways to use OK360 to connect youth to nature in the classroom and at home. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Host an indoor field trip day.
  • Challenge them to an online scavenger hunt.
  • Incorporate into curriculum in math, English, geology or biology.
  • Develop sensory skills with the sounds of nature and wildlife behavior in featured videos.

Tips for Your Field Trip

  • OK360 works best in Firefox and Chrome web browsers on a desktop. Internet Explorer is not recommended.
  • If you are prompted to enter login information, click cancel and refresh the page. 

Katie Hawk is the Director of Marketing & External Affairs for The Nature Conservancy of Oklahoma (TNC). She has 20 years of experience in public relations and marketing and has worked for TNC since 2012. While with TNC, she has managed communications for a variety of projects including a $20 million capital campaign and statewide effort to save the monarchs. Katie also worked for a year on a reforestation campaign to save the orangutans in partnership with the TNC Indonesia program. Her love for animals goes beyond TNC. She co-founded Good Dogma, a non-profit that aims to reduce the pet overpopulation in Eastern Oklahoma County and has three furry children: Dock, Thelma and Astro – who all love digging in her garden at home. Prior to TNC, Katie was the Director of Marketing for an e-government firm and also spent a few years developing promotions and campaigns for Harley-Davidson in New Mexico. She graduated in 1999 from the University of Central Oklahoma with a degree in Public Relations and a minor in Criminal Justice.