information
COVID-19 safety and programs

Face coverings are required in indoor public spaces and many outdoor spaces. State policy
Access City programs, people and projects helping Portland recover. Portland United

information
Winter resources

Together we can weather storms. Care for yourself and others by learning about resources and signing up for alerts

School Field Trips | Guided Walks | Custom Nature Programs

Information
Outdoor nature education programs for students, classrooms, community organizations, or clubs. Programs last 1-3 hours and take place in neighborhood parks and natural areas. Learn in small groups through observation and hands-on activities.
On this page

COVID-19 Update - Face Coverings

Face Coverings: Due to state mandates, face coverings are required indoors (including bathrooms and portapotties) for everyone ages 2+. Face coverings are required regardless of vaccination status. They are also highly recommended outdoors for everyone ages 2+ due to the interactive nature of the program. For more information, see Mask Recommendations and Requirements from Oregon Health Authority.


General Information about group nature programs

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 Tuesday through Friday, between 8:30 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. Note: Nature birthday parties are only offered from March 1 through November 30.

Available dates are updated on our calendar at https://www.portland.gov/parks/environmental-education/available-dates.

Programs take place in Portland parks and natural areas. View our list of suggested sites at https://www.portland.gov/parks/environmental-education/common-locations.

back to top


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:

Content is connected to state science standards where appropriate. 

back to top


Types of programs we offer

Nature-based field trips (Grades K-12)

Grades K-5 (or ages 5-12)

  • Designed for school classrooms, organizations, and community groups
  • Program length: two hours
  • Lessons include sensory-based activities that are active and hands-on.
  • Content: Choose from one of our lessons on trees, seeds, pollinators, geology, decomposers, and more. Read more about nature topics and types of field trips at https://www.portland.gov/parks/environmental-education/field-trip-options.

Grades 6-12 or community groups ages 12-17

  • Designed for school classrooms, organizations, and community groups
  • Program length: Two or three hours
  • Lessons include sensory-based activities, exploration, reflection, and discussion.
  • Content: We will work with you to choose the topic and activities that make sense for the age group, or you can choose from the nature topics listed at https://www.portland.gov/parks/environmental-education/field-trip-options and we will modify it for older ages.

Guided Nature Walks (including Custom Ladybug Walks for ages 2-6)

Custom Ladybug Nature Walk (ages 2-6)

  • Designed for preschool and pre-K classrooms, playgroups, and families with young children
  • Program length: one and a half hours
  • Walks are child-directed and contain spontaneous open-ended exploration
  • Children borrow a small ladybug backpack containing seven tools that make exploration fun
  • Content: Dependent on the park, time of year, and children’s interests. Read more about customized Group Ladybug Nature Walks at https://www.portland.gov/parks/environmental-education/custom-ladybug-walks

City Nature Walk (youth and adults, ages 6+)

  • Designed for school classrooms, organizations, and community groups
  • Program length: one and a half to two hours
  • Walks can be open-ended, incorporating spontaneous exploration, or can focus on a specific topic.
  • Tools and supplies provided that encourage exploration
  • Content: Can be open-ended or focused on a specific topic. Choose a larger park if you hope to walk a longer distance. Walks can be adapted to accommodate different ages and abilities.

Custom nature programs (all ages and abilities) – help us shape your program

If you have a specific goal, program design, or location in mind, please provide as much information as you can. We will work with you to create a program that meets your needs. Programs can contain instruction, reflection, group-oriented activities, journaling, discussion, art, storytelling, etc.

Nature birthday parties (ages 3-10) – offered March through November

Ladybug Walk Birthday Parties (ages 3-6)

  • Designed for preschoolers
  • Program length: one and a half hours
  • Children take a nature walk and borrow a small ladybug backpack containing seven exploration tools. Parties can include a nature craft or activity.
  • Content: Dependent on the park, time of year, and children’s interests. Read more about Nature Birthday Parties at https://www.portland.gov/parks/environmental-education/nature-birthday.  

Nature-themed Birthday Parties (ages 5-10)

  • Designed for elementary-aged children
  • Program length: two hours
  • Children spend time playing games, exploring, hiking, and learning about a nature topic
  • Content: Choose a nature theme for the party like insects, birds, or fairies. Customize the program to meet your needs. Read more about Nature Birthday Parties at https://www.portland.gov/parks/environmental-education/nature-birthday.

Other programs and opportunities 

City Nature Explorers (Ages 6-9, pre-registration required)

Nature-based classes for youth ages 6-9 where children learn about the plants and animals around them. Classes meet monthly and are led by our trained nature educators. Registration required. Read more about our City Nature Explorers classes at https://www.portland.gov/parks/environmental-education/city-nature-explorers.

Life-Long Learning Sessions (Parent or teacher groups)

One-hour or two-hour instruction sessions on the benefits of learning through nature play. Two sessions available:

  • “Practical strategies for working with young children in nature"
  •  "How to benefit children through unstructured, outdoor play"

All sessions are offered by Chrissy Larson, M.Ed. Chrissy has 25 years of practical experience in outdoor nature education with young children and researched a graduate thesis titled, "A Comparison of Structured and Unstructured Play in Kindergarten Children", 2006. Contact Chrissy for more information at enviroed@portlandoregon.gov or 503-823-1149 (call/text).

Ladybug Nature Walk volunteer (ages 18+)

Train to become a volunteer in our Ladybug Nature Walk program. Your experience will begin with observation through shadowing our current educators. After getting familiar with the program in action, volunteers are asked to attend training on child development, teaching methods for young children, and inquiry-based learning. Contact Chrissy Larson for more information at enviroed@portlandoregon.gov or 503-823-1149 (call/text).

Volunteer Nature Educator (ages 14-25)

Spend time observing programs and practicing the skills of outdoor education with our team of educators. Join staff as they plan lessons, evaluate programs, and work on projects related to nature education. This is a great way to find out more about the field of environmental education and learn about paid opportunities related to nature education in the local community. Contact Chrissy Larson for more information at enviroed@portlandoregon.gov or 503-823-1149 (call/text).

back to top


COVID-19: Requirements and recommendations to participate

All children, teens, and adults will need to be able to follow these guidelines to participate:

  • Face Coverings: Due to state mandates, face coverings are required indoors (including bathrooms and portapotties) for everyone ages2+. Face coverings are required regardless of vaccination status. They are also highly recommended outdoors for everyone ages 2+ due to the interactive nature of the program. For more information, see Mask Recommendations and Requirements from Oregon Health Authority. (Please note that K-12 & Early Childcare Education Programs may have different masking requirements. These Programs are responsible for ensuring compliance with all applicable mandates. For further information, please consult the Oregon Department of Education COVID-19 Guidance and/or the Early Learning Division COVID-19 Guidance.)
  • Contain the spread of COVID-19. If someone in the household of any participant (child or adult) has a positive or presumptive case of COVID-19, has a known exposure to COVID-19, or is awaiting results to a COVID test, please do not attend the program.
  • Please only attend if you are healthy!
    • If you are showing any symptoms of COVID-19, including a new or worsening cough, fever, shortness of breath, or recent loss of taste or smell, please do not attend.
    • Check for fever before you arrive. Please take the temperature of all participants before arriving for the program and stay home if you are ill. 
  • Physical distancing of six feet is recommended during the program when possible. Please keep in mind that due to the nature of outdoor exploration and the ages of our participants, we cannot guarantee six feet of distance during this program.
  • Follow general sanitation guidelines. Please make sure to wash or sanitize your hands when you arrive, after using the bathroom, and after sneezing or coughing.
  • Contact tracing information is required for anyone attending a field trip, guided walk, or custom nature program. First and last name, phone number, and email (parent email if the participant is under 18) are gathered for each participant. Information is only used in the case of exposure to COVID-19.  

back to top


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 and guided walks are charged per participant.

Rates for June 2021 – August 2022

  • $1/participant - Schools that qualify for federal funds (Title I and Head Start)
  • $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

Custom Nature Programs are charged by the hour per educator. Each educator can work with groups of 10-16 people, depending on the age and ability level of the group. The cost for each educator is $50 per hour. The fee covers all planning, preparation, travel, and instruction.

Nature Birthday Parties are charged a flat fee depending on the ages of the participants and the size of the group. Find information on birthday party rates at https://www.portland.gov/parks/environmental-education/nature-birthday.

Participant fees help cover the costs of teaching, program coordination, lesson development, evaluation, materials, and supplies.  

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.

back to top


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

Please note Nature Birthday Parties may have different maximum numbers. For details, please visit https://www.portland.gov/parks/environmental-education/nature-birthday.

back to top


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:

  1. Fill fill out the Fee Reduction Request Form. 
  2. Save the form as "Fee Reduction Request - School/Group Name"
  3. Next, fill out out the program application.
  4. In the "Cost for Program" section, upload your Fee Reduction Request form. 

back to top


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  

back to top


Group Program Policies

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 policyIf 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 policyGroups 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.

Weather-related program policies

Air Quality Policy– 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 Policy 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 Policy 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. 

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 during the program times at the program location (lower than 32°F), the program will be canceled. (Take note that programs scheduled at Mt Tabor and Hoyt Arboretum may experience inclement weather differently due to the higher elevations.)

back to top