School Field Trips and Nature Walks

Educator leading game at field trip at Powell Butte
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.
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Our nature programs provide an opportunity for your group to practice science and connect to nature. Nature educators lead your students through a variety of activities to help them learn about the plants, animals, and geology of Portland.  We use small group exploration, inquiry, observation, data collection, sensory experiences, play, and discussion.

Walks can be bilingual upon request. Nature Educators speak Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Zulu, Hebrew, Shona, Thai, and Nepali.

Request a Program

Programs are rain or shine, year-round!  We usually schedule programs Tuesday - Friday between 9am and 3pm.  We can usually teach up to 40 children at one time. 

Spring 2024: We have very limited availability. Please fill out the form, and you will be contacted with any open dates. By filling out the form, you will be added to a wait list in the event of a cancellation.  You will also receive emails when booking opens for summer and fall. 

Summer 2024: We will begin scheduling for summer in mid-April.  Fill out the form, and you will be contacted by mid-April.

Fill out this form to request a field trip or nature program.

Cost for programs

Studying Bees on a Pollinator Field Trip
Studying bees on a pollinator field trip.

Field tripsare charged per participant.  Each participating school or organization should choose the appropriate cost for their situation.

Rates for 2024

  • $5/participant - Schools and programs located in Portland
  • $7/participant - Schools and programs located outside of Portland
  • $0/participant - Schools that qualify for federal funds (Title I, Head Start), or organizations that demonstrate financial need. 

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

We offer priority scheduling to schools and organizations located within Portland. 

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Field Trip Topics

  • Amphibians
  • Bees and Other Pollinators (May - September)
  • Birds
  • Exploring Emotions with Bugs
  • Habitats of Oaks Bottom
  • Ladybug Nature Walk (age 2-6 only)
  • Life in a Rotten Log
  • Nature Hike
  • Volcanoes in Your Backyard 

We may also be able to build a custom program for your school, club, or organization. Please inquire.


Student holding salamander.
Student holding a salamander on an "amphibians" field trip.

This is one of our most immersive and engaging nature experiences. Students get the opportunity to get up close and personal with wildlife. Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge was originally a wetland but people turned it into a landfill in the early 1900's.  The City bought the property in 1969 and began work to bring back habitat for wildlife.

Students will try to answer the question: can restoration work?  During this field trip, students look for salamanders and frogs in both wetland and forest habitats and collect data.  After careful observation, they have a chance to reflect on species diversity and habitat restoration.

ParkOaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge

Season: March to early June

Possible activities:

  • Visit a pond. Catch, observe, and learn to identify frog tadpoles and salamander larvae. In February and March, we may see egg masses.
  • Look for adult salamanders and frogs in the forest.
  • Collect data about the amphibians we find.
  • Discuss amphibian life cycles.
  • Learn how to protect and create habitat for these important creatures!

Bees and Other Pollinators (May - September)

Child looking at a bee.

There are hundreds of species of bees in Portland! We will closely observe bees and other pollinators doing their work and learn how important they are to ecosystems and human survival!

ParksGabriel Park Pollinator Garden (SW), Hoyt Arboretum (SW), Willamette Park (SW), Laurelhurst Park (SE), Powell Butte Nature Park (E), Foster Floodplain (SE), Baltimore Woods (N), Leach Botanical Garden (E) and any park with flowers (dandelions are fine!)

Season: May - September

Possible activities:

  • Play a game to learn about pollination.
  • Search for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.  Observe how their bodies are adapted to help pollinate plants.
  • Collect data about the pollinators we find.
  • Each student will take home a pocket ID guide to local bees. 


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, hawks, corvids, and more!Students will spend time listening for bird language, making observations, and reflecting on how birds adapt to their built environment.

ParkOaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge (SE), Powell Butte Nature Park (E), Kelley Point Park (N), Whitaker Ponds (NE), Errol Heights (SE), Westmoreland Park (SE), Hoyt Arboretum (SW), Leach Botanical Garden (E)

Season: Fall, Winter and Spring 

Possible activities:

  • Practice using binoculars and learn the basics of birdwatching.
  • Observe birds in the wild; practice noticing the characteristics of different species.
  • See and touch nests; match them to the bird species that created them.  Try to build a nest!
  • Create a sound map of bird sone, or try a "sit spot," to deepen awareness of birds.
  • Each student will take home a pocket guide to the most common Portland birds.

Exploring Emotions with Bugs

Bugs and other creepy crawlies inspire a wide range of feelings - fear, excitement, wonder, joy, and even anger!  Students will catch, observe, and study the various creatures in the park.  Nature educators will guide students to notice, name, and reflect on their emotions, while practicing empathy for all living things. This field trip complements "Social Emotional Learning" concepts taught in classrooms.

Park: Any natural area, neighborhood park, or nature patch. 

SeasonAny / year-round

Possible activities:

  • Tell stories about previous experiences with bugs. Play a game to predict how you will feel today.
  • Catch and observe the animals we find in the park. Learn the names of the animals.
  • Students will practice noticing and naming the emotions they feel. All feelings will be accepted and treated with respect. Students will be celebrated for trying new things, taking risks, sharing their feelings, and being empathetic.
  • Students will be encouraged to show empathy towards the animals and classmates. 

Habitats of Oaks Bottom

We share our city with many plants, animals, and other living things! Let’s go on a hike to see what lives in Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. We will visit a meadow, a forest, and a pond. We will look for invertebrates, birds, and amphibians.  We may also see signs of mammals such as beavers, deer, coyotes, and rabbits.  How are these creatures getting their needs met in the different habitats? What do these creatures need to survive and thrive?

Park: Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge

This field trip can also be adapted for Kelley Point Park (North Portland), Columbia Children’s Arboretum (NE Portland), and Wilkes Creek Headwaters (NE Portland), Woods Memorial (SW), Marshall Park (SW), Leach (East Portland).

SeasonAny / year-round

Possible activities:

  • Hike to three different habitats: meadow, pond, and forest. Compare and contrast the habitats and the animals we find in each.
  • Observe plants and animals.
  • Participate in a creative “Build a Habitat” activity to learn about the 4 components of a habitat: food, water, shelter, and space.

Ladybug Nature Walk (age 2-6 only)

Nature educators guide children in small groups to notice plants and animals. Groups move slowly through the park, stopping often. Walks are child-directed and open-ended. Children learn through observation, questions, and play. Each child gets to borrow a small "Ladybug Backpack" containing tools for exploring (magnifying glass, bug box, spoon for digging, cup for collecting, etc.). 

Park: any park

Season: any / year-round

Possible activities:

  • Catch and observe bugs, slugs, and other small creatures.
  • Investigate plants, fungi, tree bark, rocks, and other interesting things we find.
  • Participate in guided sensory activities.
  • Read a nature story.

Life in a Rotten Log

What happens when a tree falls in the forest? Students become detectives to find out what happens to a dead log.  We will turn over logs and look for the plants, animals, and fungi that do all the dirty work of changing dead plants and animals back into nutritious soil that sets the stage for new growth. Without these decomposers, our world would be piled high with dead things and poop!  During this field trip, students will examine all kinds of fungi, bugs, and other invertebrates.

Best Parks: Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge (SE), Columbia Children's Arboretum (NE), Whitaker Ponds (NE),  Gabriel Park (SW), Marshall Park (SW), Hoyt Arboretum (SW), Mt. Tabor Park (SE)

SeasonFall, winter, and spring

Possible Activities

  • Look under and around logs, make observations, and try to answer the question "what happens to a dead log?"
  • Catch and identify creatures including slugs, snails, millipedes, centipedes, spiders, and roly polys. We may see salamanders and other vertebrates.
  • Observe fungi, moss, lichen, and plants with magnifying glasses 
  • Categorize the living things we find based on the characteristics that we observe
  • Listen to a story
  • Play games!

Nature Hike

Come see the "best of" at some of our favorite parks.  We will take you to the most interesting parts of the park, and look for plants, animals, and geological features along the way. Each hike will be different depending on the season, location, and group's age.   

Best Parks: Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge (SE), Kelley Point Park (N), Columbia Children's Arboretum (NE), Whitaker Ponds (NE), Powell Butte Nature Park (E), Gabriel Park (SW), Marshall Park (SW), Hoyt Arboretum (SW), Mt. Tabor Park (SE), Leach Botanical Garden (E)

SeasonAny / year-round

Possible activities:

  • Hike to special spots of the park
  • Observe the plants, animals, and geology that make the park special
  • Learn about the history of the park
  • Play "nature awareness" games

Volcanoes in Your Backyard

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.

Park: Mt. Tabor Park, Powell Butte Nature Park

Season: any / year-round

Possible activities:

  • Climb to the top of a cinder cone volcano.
  • Visit the caldera and see a cross-section of lava rock (Mt. Tabor only)
  • Observe characteristics of different rocks: texture, color, streak, hardness, fracture, and luster.  Compare lava rocks with river rocks. Smash rocks with rock hammers and safety goggles (2nd grade and younger will see a demonstration). Make predictions.
  • Play games like “Escaping Magma” and “Volcano Simon Says”
  • Depending on the weather, we may be able to see Mt. Hood and other nearby volcanoes.
  • Observe and feel rocks students might know from Minecraft.