State Parks Reached Thousands With Virtual Earth Day 2020 Celebration

California State Parks celebrated the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on Wednesday, April 22, with virtual events that reached more than 135,000 on Facebook, where the virtual events were hosted. Additional posts on Instagram and Twitter promoting the Earth Day events reached an additional 272,000 people.

Leveraging the power of social media and the talent of the State Parks interpretive team, the department offered hourly livestream events and prerecorded videos throughout the day with posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The virtual event was planned and coordinated by PORTS team members Jennifer Langer, Scott Shepherd and myself, and Interpretation and Education Division team member Peter Ostroskie.

The day began with “Coffee with a State Park Interpreter” at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve where audience members joined Interpreter Daniel Williford and some adorable harbor seals in Whaler’s Cove.

Up next came the “Parks In Your Home Challenge” created by the interpretation team in North Coast Redwoods District. Interpreter Angie Edmunds challenged viewers to “flip the script” and become interpreters for the day.

Those who accepted the challenge recorded a video of themselves sharing the story of something special in their home or yard and shared it with others using #ParksInYourHomeChallenge.

Interpreter Marnin Robbins responded with a video in which he shared the story of his family’s heirloom violin and delivered a short performance. (The challenge is still open on social media, so it isn’t too late to participate!)

Word of our virtual day of events began to spread through social media and more viewers began to tune in. The highlight of the morning was the first round of our Earth Day 2020 Game Show, which saw park interpreters go head-to-head to test their knowledge of animals, the environment and pop culture, all in the name of Climate Action. Fast-talking Interpreter Jeremy Lin from the Santa Cruz District played the role of the game show host, challenging contenders in multiple rounds of rapid-fire questions.

The Facebook livestream audience cheered on Nikki Kohls (Van Damme State Beach), Kristen Morris (San Elijo State Beach), Lydia Stinson (Anza-Borrego Desert State Park) and Angie Edmunds (Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park) as they shouted out answers, made wild guesses and played charades.

Lydia and Angie moved to the final Championship Round in the afternoon where Jeremy’s hilarious questions along with their physical interpretations of renewable energy resources had viewers in stitches. Ultimately, Lydia Stinson took the Earth Day Champion title and was awarded with a trophy to display at her park. More than 8,000 people tuned in to watch the two fantastic rounds of the Earth Day 2020 Game Show.

California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot spoke in the afternoon with special guests, livestreaming a special Earth Day edition of his Secretary Speaker Series where they reflected on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in today’s current climate and looked ahead to the next 50 years.

Later, audience members were in for a treat delivered by a collaboration between the Division of Boating and Waterways and the Puppet Art Theatre Company, which together presented “AquaSmart Live – Clean & Green Puppet Show.” The lighthearted puppet show shared safe boating practices and helped viewers understand the sources and impacts of plastic pollution in our waterways and ocean.

Wood Pile
Point Lobos Kelp
Parks in your home challenge
Violin music
Earth Day Game Show
River work in plaid
Earth Day 2020
Have your sketchbook ready.

Throughout the remainder of the afternoon, we continued the environmental messaging with a series of how-to videos, including “Learn How to do a iNaturalist Backyard BioBlitz” produced by Interpreters Lucy Chalgren and Sandy Tolzda of San Diego Coast District. Their video encouraged viewers to explore nature in their own yard and neighborhood and contribute data for scientific research.

Our audience then virtually traveled to the gardens of Hearst Castle to “Learn How to Compost,” produced by Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument Interpreter Tracy Kosinski. Hearst Castle Groundskeeper Shannon Elver taught viewers the components and steps to creating rich soil in your own yard. People tuning in from home were encouraged to hone their observation skills and deepen their connection to nature in our “Learn How to Nature Journal” video produced by Interpreter Heidi Ortloff at Carpinteria State Beach.

The day-long celebration concluded with a final livestream from Point Lobos State Natural Reserve where the late afternoon sun glistened off the water in Whaler’s Cove.

The tide had receded, creating more space for harbor seal mothers and their pups to haul out on shore and reminding us of the beauty and wonder of our California State Parks and our natural world. Interpreter Daniel Williford reminded us that every day is Earth Day.