Organize a day of outdoor learning for your classroom, community group, or club through Portland Park's City Nature program!
All field trips and customized group walks are currently canceled. For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, please see Portland Parks & Recreation's COVID-19 Updates page.
About the program
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 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)
Types of programs we offer
We offer programs for children and youth September-May each year.
- Field Trips
- Grades K-3 | Minimum group size = 12 | Maximum group size = 36
- Grades 4-8 | Minimum group size = 12 | Maximum group size = 45
- Read about our Field Trip Options (by grade level).
- Ladybug Nature Walks
- Ages 2-4 | Minimum group size = 12 | Maximum group size = 24
- Ages 3-6 | Minimum group size = 12 | Maximum group size = 30
- Read about our customized Group Ladybug Walks
- High school and adult programs
- Grades 9-12 (We will work with you to choose the topic and activities) | Minimum group size = 12 | Maximum group size = 45
- 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.
- Call 503-823-1149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cost for group programs
- Nature-based field trip | 2 hours | Location of your choice =$8.50/student (Title I status = $6.50/student)
- Customized Group Ladybug Walk |1.5 hours | Location of your choice = $7.00/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. Participant fees cover the full cost of running your program:
- Program coordination
- Lesson development
- Equipment and supplies
- Educator teaching time
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.
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.