Field Trip Options (alphabetically by topic)

Information
Inner Gall - Field Trips by Grade
School field trips for students in grades K-5 are organized alphabetically by topic. Each field trip contains a welcome and orientation, preparation for our time together, hands-on nature content, and a time of reflection.
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Field Trip Topics – General Information

All nature-based field trips use methods such as observation, discussion, journaling, sensory learning, guided exploration, and physical activity to learn more about the requested topic. These activities help build relationships with one another and the space we are in. We finish the program with a chance to reflect together on our experience.

We provide any tools, guides, or other materials needed for each topic.

A group of children get energy and vitality from hugging a tree.
Tree huggers at a Mt Tabor summer camp.

Amphibians (February 1 - April 30)

Thanks to many years of active restoration, Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge is home to interesting and rare species of amphibians. Through guided exploration and data collection, students look for salamanders and frogs in both wetland and forest habitats. After careful observation, they have a chance to reflect on species diversity and habitat restoration.

Oaks Bottom is the recommended location for this field trip.

Big ideas explored on this trip:

  • Most amphibians go through a complete metamorphosis, but some give birth to young that are small versions of the adult.
  • Amphibians are an indicator of habitat health.
  • Amphibians spend their lives in or near water, in the forest, or both.

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Birds (Common Urban Birds)

We don’t have to travel to remote, natural areas to find birds – they are living around us all the time. Learn some common birds we find in our neighborhood parks: chickadees, robins, juncos, nuthatches, creepers, flickers, owls, hawks, corvids, and more!Students will spend time listening for bird language, making observations, and reflecting on how birds adapt to their built environment.

Big ideas explored on this trip:

  • Birds can be observed everywhere in the urban environment.
  • Birds use just a few common calls to communicate – alarms, companion calls, feeding calls, mating calls, and territorial calls.
  • The built environment impacts a bird’s feeding, drinking, nesting, and flight patterns
  • Birds adapt and use the noise in the urban environment to their advantage.

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Birds (Corvid Intelligence)

Crows, ravens, and jays are all members of the ‘corvid’ family of birds. These bossy birds are around us most of the time, but we generally ignore them. Corvids are very smart and use observation, problem-solving, and imitation to thrive in urban areas.

Big ideas explored on this trip:

  • Corvids are a family of birds that include crows, ravens, and jays.
  • Corvids are smart and have developed special strategies for living in urban areas.
  • Corvids are problem-solvers and work hard to overcome challenging tasks.  

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Decomposition (Fall/Winter only)

Meet the forest's FBI - Fungus, Bacteria, and Invertebrates! These mostly hidden organisms do all the dirty work of changing dead plants and animals back into nutritious soil that sets the stage for new growth. Students will learn about the nutrient cycle, understand the different types of decomposers, and use tools to find which decomposers are living in the park. Decomposers play one of the most important roles in the natural world by continually recycling nutrients.

Big ideas explored on this trip:

  • Dead plants and animals break down into nutrients and organic matter through the process of decomposition.  
  • Detritivores (certain vertebrates and invertebrates) break down dead or decaying organic matter by digesting it internally.
  • Saprophytes (certain bacteria and fungi), break down dead or decaying organic matter by digesting it externally.
  • The organic material on the forest floor is directly related to the trees, shrubs, and plants above it. Different organic matter attracts different decomposers.

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Geology (Volcanoes and Geologic Time)

Oregon's topography was greatly impacted long ago by volcanoes, lava flows, sediment deposits, and huge floods. Our state has seen some of the largest lava flows to have ever occurred anywhere on Earth, making it a perfect landscape to talk about geology. Come act out the eruptions, flows, and floods that make up Portland's geologic timeline all while standing atop an actual cinder cone volcano.

Mt Tabor Park and Powell Butte Nature Park are the recommended locations for this field trip.

Big ideas explored on this trip:

  • Oregon's geologic timeline began forty million years ago and is still changing today.
  • Magma that erupts from the earth’s surface is called lava.
  • Cinder cones, shield volcanoes, and stratovolcanoes can all be seen from Portland.

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Geology (Rocks and Minerals)

We can observe the geologic past by observing the evidence around us. Rocks and minerals found in Portland’s parks give us clues to the events that took place in our region. Through questions and observation, students will inspect different rocks and break them open to learn about the history of the land.

Mt Tabor Park, Powell Butte Nature Park, and Marshall Park are the recommended locations for this field trip.

Big ideas explored on this trip:

  • The three classes of rocks we find are igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic.
  • Scientists use specific language to describe rocks. (Luster, fracture, breakage, streak color)
  • Rocks and minerals give us clues to past events.
  • Erosion happens quickly or over a long period of time. It is caused by humans or occurs naturally.

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Habitats (Food, Water, Shelter, Space)

For all creatures, including humans, where we choose to live explains what we need to survive.Through games and observation, students understand how organisms use the space, compete for resources, and adapt so they can thrive. To tie everything together, students spend the last portion creating a habitat for an animal.

Big ideas explored on this trip:

  • Habitats provide food, water, shelter, and space for animals.
  • Plants and animals adapt to their environment to become better suited to survive.
  • Each organism in the habitat has a specific role and function.
  • All living and non-living things in a habitat are connected in some way.

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Invertebrates

Gather your exploration tools and practice your observation skills. Use spoons to dig, magnifying lenses to explore tree bark, and carefully lift logs to find invertebrates of all types. Students study the physical appearance of insects, spiders, centipedes, and more to categorize their similarities and try to figure out what they eat. (Note: This topic can be tailored to focus on a specific group of invertebrates.)

Big ideas explored on this trip:

  • Insects, spiders, slugs, snails, worms, centipedes, millipedes, and pillbugs are all in the group called invertebrates.
  • Some invertebrates are carnivores, some are herbivores, and some are detritivores (eat dead or decaying matter).
  • Each invertebrate in the habitat has a specific role and function.
  • Each group of invertebrates is categorized by specific characteristics.

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Plants (Observation, Growth, Uses)

From the shortest blade of grass to the tallest Giant Sequoia, Portland’s parks are a great place to study plant diversity. Through observation, games, and body movements, students study the different layers of plants, the plant life cycle, and how animals use them to survive.

Big ideas explored on this trip:

  • Plants need soil, water, sun, and space to grow.
  • Some plants grow low to the ground, some grow tall, and some are in-between. Each layer has a special function in the habitat.
  • Animals, including humans, use plants for food and shelter.                   
  • All plants have a life cycle and reproduce in different ways.

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Pollination and Pollinators (Spring/Summer only)

Pollination is not just the work of busy bees! Many animals help move pollen from the male flower parts to the female flower parts. Through observation, games and activities, students work to match different pollinators with specific plants.

Big ideas explored on this trip:

  • Pollination is the reproductive process of transferring pollen grains from the anther to the stigma of a flower.
  • Both wind and animal movement help spread pollen.
  • Bees, birds, bats, ants, beetles, butterflies and moths are the most common pollinators.
  • Plants attract pollinators through scents, colors, and patterns.

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Seeds (Fall only)

Seeds travel using numerous methods. Some plants let gravity do all the work, while others eject their seeds with explosive force! Why are some seeds designed to cling to fur while others are hidden inside delicious fruits? Through careful observation and documentation, students find seeds and try to guess the dispersal method and how it is adapted to the habitat.

Big ideas explored on this trip:

  • Seeds need soil, sun, water, and space to survive.  
  • Seeds must travel away from their parent plant to grow.
  • Plants spread their seed by many dispersal methods including wind, water, animals, human behavior, and ejection.
  • Birds and mammals play a large role in moving seeds around in a park.

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Social and Emotional Learning in Nature

Through observation, journaling, and games, students explore what it means to be at their growth edge and practice stretching their comfort zone. Students are encouraged to notice their own feelings, show empathy to others, offer support, and be positive members of a team. This lesson contains times of hands-on nature exploration and activites as well as times of discussion and guided reflection.

Big ideas explored on this trip:

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process where we gain the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop in five interrelated ways:

  • Our emotions are valid, complex, and influence our behaviors.
  • We can work to manage our emotions and achieve our goals.
  • Working to understand other perspectives helps us show empathy to others.
  • Developing and maintaining healthy relationships is important for our trust and confidence.
  • With practice, we can learn to make responsible decisions.

Social and emotional learning concepts used in this field trip were developed by the BEETLES Project (http://beetlesproject.org/resources/for-field-instructors/selroutine/).

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Trees (Observation, Growth, Uses)

Portland’s vibrant tree canopy offers shelter, clean air, and food for animals. As humans, we use trees for shade, inspiration, and to calm our bodies and minds. Through games, observation, and exploration, students study the physical characteristics of trees and how animals use them as a place to live and survive.   

Big ideas explored on this trip:

  • Trees need water, sun, nutrients, and space to grow. 
  • Coniferous trees grow seeds inside cones. Broad-leaved or flowering trees grow seeds inside fruit or pods.
  • Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall. Evergreen trees lose some of their leaves throughout the year while also growing new leaves.
  • A needle or scale is a modified leaf.
  • Animals use trees for food and shelter.

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Urban Nature Exploration

Nature is all around us – even in our urban spaces. During this field trip students explore in a Portland park or natural area using tools and open-ended discovery, and documented using words and pictures on a nature activity guide. Lessons incorporate sensory learning, individual and group exploration, journaling, and discussion. This field trip was designed as a three-part series where students visit the same location and build on concepts over time. The program can also be adapted to be a two-part series or a single field trip experience.  

The three nature activity guides used during this field trip were created by a diverse group of PP&R nature educators in partnership with Super Nature Adventures LLC. Activity guides are available for students in English and Spanish.

Big ideas explored on this trip:

  • Nature observations include things we see, hear, smell, touch, taste, and perceive.
  • Sensory observations can be written, drawn, observed, or discussed.
  • Each person’s history, culture, and influences help shape their personal story about nature.

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