Organize a day of outdoor learning for your classroom, community group, or club through Portland Park's City Nature program!
City Nature field trips and nature walks
Exploring in nature is a personal experience that improves with time and repetition. Observation. Rest. Activity. Reflection. We must make space for it all. Research tells us that time in nature improves our health. The same is true for children - and we would argue - is of even greater importance in a growing mind. When young people are guided to think, observe and explore, they begin to connect the world around them.
We offer programs for children and youth that encourage meaningful learning. Our hope is to take children to outdoor spaces and let them build on what they know. We help them ask questions and nurture their connection to the natural world.
Our approach to teaching children and youth
Our programs teach to the whole child. Here's what you can expect during a program:
- Educators with a knowledge of teaching, ecology, and child development.
- Lessons created with an equity lens that build on a child's prior relationship to the world.
- Teaching methods that encourage exploration, inquiry, and the senses.
- Lessons that contain a combination of large and small group learning.
- Activities that cater to a range of learning styles.
- Spontaneity while teaching - we diverge temporarily from planned lessons if nature is showing us something different.
- Emphasis on appreciating the world around us in any kind of weather.
Content is connected to state science standards where appropriate.
What participants are saying about the program...
"Our field trip was very fun and met our science standards. The naturalists were very knowledgeable and engaging."
~(Amphibians field trip, Spring 2018)
Program changes during the COVID-19 pandemic
All programs during the COVID-19 pandemic will be customized to fit your needs and comply with all CDC, state, county, and local guidelines. If you are interested in participating, please read details carefully.
We can work with groups of up to 12 people (ages 3-8) and groups of up to 18 people (ages 9+). Upon arrival at your program, participants will be further divided into three small groups, each led by one of our nature educators.
All participants need to be able to follow these guidelines to participate in a walk:
- Pre-registration is required. We must know the names, email (parent email if a minor), and phone numbers of each person planning to attend prior to the day of the program.
- Group sizes are limited to 15-18 people, depending on their age. (Maximum number is 12 for ages 5-8 and 18 for ages 9+)
- Physical distancing is required. Everyone must stay 6' feet apart from people not living in the same household.
- Face coverings are required for everyone age three and older (3+).
- Signed liability waiver is required. A COVID-19 waiver must be completed for everyone attending prior to the day of the program. (A waiver signed for a child also covers a parent who signs the waiver.)
- Participants will be screened for COVID symptoms upon arrival. Our staff will be screening everyone arriving for COVID-like symptoms on the day of the program. If participants are having any symptoms of COVID-19 on the day of the program, please make sure they do not attend. We will email "day of program reminders" to anyone signed up to participate the day before the program.
- Supplies or equipment should not be shared, or must be disinfected between uses.
- Follow general sanitation guidelines. Please have all participants wash or sanitize hands when they arrive, after using the bathroom, and at the end of the program. Cover your coughs and sneezes. Stay home if you are ill.
Schedule a school field trip or group nature walk
Before scheduling a field trip, nature walk, or customized group program, visit these pages for additional information:
- Types of programs we offer
- Suggested sites for field trips and nature walks
- Cost for group programs
- Group program policies (late policy, cancellation policy, no-show policy)
Ready to schedule? Click here - How to schedule an Environmental Education Program
Types of programs we offer
We offer programs for children and youth September-May each year.
- Field Trips
- Grades K-3 | Minimum group size = 6| Maximum group size = 12
- Grades 4-8 | Minimum group size = 6| Maximum group size = 18
- Read about our Field Trip Options (by grade level).
- Ladybug Nature Walks
- Ages 3-6 | Minimum group size = 4| Maximum group size = 12
- Read about our customized Group Ladybug Walks
- Customized nature education program - all ages and abilities
- Contact us with any questions - we can work with you to support your individual needs
- Email email@example.com or call 503-823-1149
- High school and adult programs
- Grades 9-12 (We will work with you to choose the topic and activities) | Minimum group size = 6| Maximum group size = 18
- Parent or Teacher groups - Two-hour sessions available on "Strategies for working with young children in nature" and "How to benefit children through unstructured, outdoor play" (These sessions offered by Chrissy Larson, M.Ed, and are based on 20 years of practical experience teaching Early Childhood Environmental Education and her graduate thesis: "A Comparison of Structured and Unstructured Play in Kindergarten Children", 2006. )
- Adults who love children and nature - train to become a Ladybug Walk volunteer! Call or email for details.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 503-823-1149
Cost for group programs
- Nature-based field trip | 2 hours | Location of your choice =$8.50/student (Title I status = $4/student)
- Customized Group Ladybug Walk |1.5 hours | Location of your choice = $7.00/child (Head start programs = $3/child)
Fee Reduction Option
Even if you cannot pay the full cost, we want you to participate. For a reduced fee, please follow these steps:
- Fill out your program application first.
- Next, fill out the "Fee Reduction Request".
- Save the form as "Fee Reduction Request - School/Group Name"
- Email the completed form to email@example.com
Participant Fee Information
Our educators are well-rounded, highly experienced, and paid living wages. They have backgrounds in teaching, ecology, child development, and group dynamics. Much of their work is done behind the scenes. Extra care is taken to offer culturally responsive, trauma-informed programs for all students, regardless of background.
Participant fees cover the full cost of running your program:
- Program coordination
- Lesson development
- Equipment and supplies
- Educator teaching time
- Frequent program evaluation using an equity lens
Group Program Policies
Please make sure you are familiar with our policies related to securing your date, cancellations, late arrivals, and "no-shows".
- Please be on time to begin your program. Traffic, parking, and bathrooms can add 15-30 minutes to your trip.
- Programs end at the scheduled time, even if you arrive late. This is in fairness to our staff who may have other obligations.
- If your group arrives late, our educators will adapt the content to the time available.
Program Cancellation policy
- Full refunds offered for any program canceled at least seven days in advance.
- Partial refunds offered for any program canceled inside of the seven-day window. We will keep the $50 partial payment for each canceled day of programming. The difference will be refunded.
- Credit card payments are refunded to the same card used for payment.
- Cash and check payments are refunded by check.
- Please allow 10-14 days for any refund to be processed.
- A fee of $150 per day of program will be charged to any group who does not show up for their scheduled program.
- This is in fairness to our staff. We spend numerous hours planning and preparing for each program.
- Groups who paid the $50 partial payment will be sent an invoice for the remaining $100.
- Groups who paid more than $150 will be refunded the difference.
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.
Meet the Educators!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
When are programs offered?
Mid-September through the end of May each year. Check to see what dates are still available by clicking here. Due to our full summer schedule, we do not offer field trips or customized group Ladybug Walks in June-August.
Where are field trips located?
What topics are covered on the field trip?
On our Field Trip Options page, browse a list of ecology topics for each grade level. There you can find information about cost, locations, and content.