We strive to offer culturally responsive and inclusive nature education programs for all ages and abilities. We hope that each participant has an opportunity to build on their prior experiences while connecting to each other, the educators, and the world around them.
We schedule programs Monday through Friday, between 9:30 am – 3:00 pm. Weekend, afternoon, and evening programs are possible if staff capacity and schedules allow. Please fill out the program application as early as possible for the best chance at getting your first-choice date.
When and where are programs offered?
We offer programs year-round for children and adults. Programs scheduled during December and January can have unpredictable snow, ice, or cold temperatures and have a higher chance of being canceled or postponed.
Available dates are updated on our calendar.
Programs take place in Portland parks and natural areas. View our list of suggested sites.
Our teaching approach
Most park properties in Portland are places where nature and the urban landscape interact. Exploring nature in the city offers a unique space for making connections to plants, animals, and the land. The story of Portland, along with each story we bring from our past, helps inform our collective connections to parks and nature.
As nature educators, we believe that all of us are connected to nature in some way. Our goal during a program is to learn more about each person’s ecological lens and then help them find personal ways to connect to nature in a new or different way through a positive, hands-on experience. We believe that each person’s culture, background, values, and knowledge shape their view of nature and give the entire group a wider and more thoughtful experience in nature.
Our programs are designed to teach to the whole person. We find value in each experience and work to find common ground as a group. In addition to planning lessons, the educators spend time learning and growing individually and as a team. We gather information about different perspectives on ecological knowledge and evaluate content for cultural responsiveness. We seek out training, workshops, and events that will broaden our experience and develop our skills as educators.
Here's what you can expect during a program:
- Lessons and activities are created in a culturally responsive way and build on a person’s prior relationship to the world.
- Teaching methods that encourage observation, curiosity, physical activity, and sensory learning.
- Lessons that contain a combination of large and small group learning, hands-on activities, journaling, and discussion.
- Activities that cater to a range of learning styles, are meaningful, and encourage everyone to have fun.
- Spontaneity while teaching - we diverge temporarily from planned lessons if nature or the group is pulling us in a different direction.
- Emphasis on appreciating the world around us. We appreciate all types of weather and the unique nature of each park.
Educational models and communication styles we use to develop our programs:
- The BEETLES Project
- North American Association for Environmental Education
- Inquiry-based learning
- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk
Content is connected to state science standards where appropriate.
Meet the Nature Education Team!
Learn more about the Nature Education Programs Team with this link:
Program Info - Nature-based field trips (K-12) and Custom Nature Programs (all ages)
Fee Reduction Option
We recognize that not every school or organization can cover the cost of the program. To request an additional fee reduction, please follow these steps:
- Fill out the Program Fee Waiver and Transportation Cost Reduction Form.
- Save the form as "Program Fee Waiver - School/Group Name"
- When filling out the program application, upload your Program fee Waiver form in the "Cost for Program" section.
|School Field Trips (Grades K-12)||Rates for September 2022 - June 2023|
|Custom Nature Program (all ages)||Rates for September 2022 - June 2023|
|Optional classroom instruction for school field trips||Some field trip topics or groups of participants benefit from indoor classroom learning before arriving on the field trip. Our educators are available to visit a classroom in person to introduce field trip content for an additional fee.|
The cost is $25 per hour. Lessons can be shorter than an hour but cost a minimum of $25.
Cost for programs
Each participating school or organization should choose the appropriate cost for their situation. The average school or organization pays $5/participant. Schools that qualify for federal funds have a reduced fee.
Schools and organizations with additional means also have an option to pay for their participants plus two dollars. The additional revenue help cover the cost for groups who cannot pay the full fee.
School field trips, Guided Walks, and Custom Nature Programs are charged per participant.
Rates for September 2022 - June 2023
- $1/participant - Schools that qualify for federal funds (Title I, Head Start, or organizations that demonstrate financial need)
- $5/participant - Schools/Organizations not qualifying for Title I
- $7/participant - Schools/Organizations with the means to pay for their students and help other schools/organizations who cannot pay the fee
Participant fees help cover the costs of teaching, program coordination, lesson development, evaluation, materials, and supplies.
Minimum and maximum group sizes
Minimum group sizes
For ages 2-5, programs require a minimum of six children (not including accompanying adults). For ages 6+, programs require a minimum of eight participants.
Maximum group sizes (not including accompanying adults)
- Ages 2-3: 15 participants
- Ages 3-5: 24 participants
- Ages 5-12: 30 participants
- Ages 13 and older: 36 participants
How to schedule a program with us
Please visit our “How to Schedule a Program” page to get started. Click below to get started.
How to schedule an Environmental Education Program
Policies: Securing program dates, late arrival, no-shows, and cancellations
Please make sure you are familiar with our policies related to payments, cancellations, late arrivals, no-shows, air quality, extreme heat, and inclement weather.
Payment and Program Confirmation – To confirm your program and secure your date(s), please sign and return the service agreement and the $50 partial payment (or full payment) within two (2) weeks. Full payment is required if the total cost is less than $50. If we have not heard from you within two weeks, we will contact you once with a gentle reminder. After three weeks without payment, the dates will be released.
Payments can be made by cash, check, or credit.
- Credit card payments can be made by calling our office at 503-823-3601.
- Check payments should be made out to “Portland Parks & Recreation” and can be mailed to our office (Attn: Field Trip, PP&R Environmental Education, 2909 SW 2nd Ave, Portland OR 97201).
- Cash payments must be dropped off in person.
Late policy – If your group (or part of your group) arrives late, we will begin the program as soon as possible, however, we will still be ending at the agreed-upon time. This is in fairness to our staff who often have other obligations.
Cancellation policy– We will issue a full refund for cancellations made at least seven (7) days prior to the day of programming. If a program is canceled inside of the seven days, the $50 partial payment (or full payment if the total cost was less than $50) will not be refunded.
No-show policy – Groups that organize a program but do not show up lose the $50 partial payment (or full payment of total cost was less than $50). This is in fairness to our staff, who plan and prepare for each program.
Photo policy– Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) reserves the right, and may give permission to the media, to photograph classes, programs, and participants at any of our facilities and properties or any sponsored activity. Please be aware that these photos are for promotional purposes and may be used in future publications and media communications in any format. If you do not wish to be photographed, please inform staff and we will make reasonable efforts to honor your request. If you see staff taking pictures, and you do not wish to be photographed, please let us know. If you see a photo of yourself or a family member that causes you concern, please notify us. As a courtesy, we will make every reasonable effort to dispose of the image, and will not use it in future publications. However, we will not be able to retrieve, destroy or discontinue existing printed publications in which the photograph may have been included.
Policies: Air quality, extreme heat, lightning, wind, and inclement weather
Air Quality Issues– Due to the outdoor nature of our programs, we will make the best decisions for participants and staff in the event of poor air quality. If the air quality index (AQI) for the program location is forecasted to be listed as UNHEALTHY (AQI = 151 or higher) throughout the program according to purpleair.com and airnow.gov, the program will be canceled. Groups will receive a full refund or can reschedule if dates are available. Our program reserves the right to make decisions in real-time as conditions change.
Extreme Heat – If temperatures exceed 90 degrees, activities are modified and participants are offered extra water and electrolyte replacement drinks. If temperatures are predicted to hit or exceed 100 degrees during the hours of scheduled programming, programs are canceled. Refunds are given if participants miss a full day of programming. Our program reserves the right to make decisions in real-time as conditions change.
Lightning – Thunder and lightning are rare but can happen during certain months of the year. In the event of a lightning storm, groups are asked to walk or run to the nearest structure if it is safe to do so. If the storm is overhead and travel to a covered structure is unsafe, staff space participants out underneath the canopy of a medium-sized tree, having them squat down with only their feet touching the ground. As soon as they are able, the group continues toward the nearest structure for cover until the storm passes.
High winds - If wind speeds are 25mph or more or there is a wind advisory for the area, programs will be canceled due to safety issues related to the possibility of falling tree debris.
Inclement Winter Weather – If local schools and/or the City of Portland issues a delay or closure due to snow, ice, or freezing temperatures, the program is canceled. If the temperature during the program is predicted to be below freezing or lower than 32°F at the selected location, the program will be canceled. Take note that programs scheduled at Mt Tabor and Hoyt Arboretum may experience inclement weather differently due to their higher elevations.