Nature Day Camps create ways for children to connect to nature through outdoor play and exploration. Camps take place every June, July, and August in various locations around the city. Nature-based camps offer ways for children to nurture their relationship to nature, peers, and trusted adults.
Update! Registration for Summer 2021 will open on Tuesday, April 6 at 8am.
Click here to go directly to the summer 2021 schedule.
On the opening day of registration, we will be available from 8am-7pm at 503-823-3601. Starting April 7, our phones in the EE office will be staffed on Mondays from 12-7, Tuesdays from 12-7, Thursdays from 9-4 and Fridays from 9-4. People needing help can also call the Customer Service Center during regular business hours at 503-823-2525.
Nature Day Camp in summer 2021 will look different than other summers. We are following all the recommendations put out by the CDC, Multnomah County, and Oregon Early Learning Division's Emergency Childcare Guidelines.
Due to the requirement for stable groups and increased numbers of staff on site because of physical distancing, we will not be offering the following aspects of our summer program:
- Partial-day preschool camps
- Nature Skills camps
- Jr Educator (formerly Jr Naturalist) program
We hope to bring these parts of the program back in summer 2022.
PP&R Environmental Education is working to create more access to nature for all. Because of systemic and institutional racism, a dependence on revenue targets, and limited community engagement, there is a lack of diversity in the Nature Day Camp program. Lack of diversity in outdoor spaces is an issue nation-wide, and our summer camp program is not immune. We are serving some families from diverse and marginalized communities, but we acknowledge there is more work to do. If your child (or family) is part of the BIPOC community, is an immigrant or refugee, lives with a disability, or experiencing poverty, please contact our office. Office phone: 503-823-3601 or email email@example.com.
Nature Day Camp overview
Nature Day Camp is a place to learn about nature, explore, and make memories! We offer full-day camps for children ages 5-12. (Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will not be offering partial-day preschool camps, Nature Skills camps, or a Jr Naturalist program this summer).
Each camp day contains a mixture of activities:
- Small group opening and closing circles
- Songs, puppet shows, skits, and storytelling
- Hiking and exploration with a small group in a similar age range
- Snacks and lunch along the trail
- COVID-safe small group games
- Open-ended art and nature crafts.
- Time for community-building through silly games, team-building activities, and casual conversation
"Pay What You Can" pricing for camps
Nature Day Camp uses a "Pay What You Can" pricing. Camps are listed at the full cost for a week of camp but can be reduced as needed during the registration process.
"Pay What You Can" pricing is available when registering over the phone and online. Use the available $50 discounts during checkout to bring the weekly cost down to $225, $175, $125, $75, or $25 based on the needs of your family.
Five-day weeks | Cost is listed at $275 for Portland residents and $385 for non-residents.
- Use one $50 discount to bring the cost to $225.
- Use two $50 discounts to bring the cost to $175.
- Use three $50 discounts to bring the cost to $125.
- Use four $50 discounts to bring the cost to $75.
- Use five $50 discounts to bring the cost to $25.
Four-day weeks | Cost is listed at $225 for Portland residents and $315 for non-residents.
- Use one $50 discount to bring the cost to $175.
- Use two $50 discounts to bring the cost to $125.
- Use three $50 discounts to bring the cost to $75.
- Use four $50 discounts to bring the cost to $25.
Curious what your fee pays for? Learn more about how we calculate our fees.
COVID-19 requirements for campers and staff
All camp activities are informed by Oregon Early Learning's Emergency Child Care Guidelines and comply with all state, county, and city COVID-19 protocols.
If you are interested in participating, please read details carefully.
Spots for summer 2021 are limited due to the requirement of stable groups. If a camp activity is full, please join the waitlist. This is our only way to offer spots if COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and to fill spots because of withdrawals.
All campers (and adults will need to be able to follow these guidelines to participate in a walk:
- Camps in Summer 2021 will serve children ages 5-12. We will not be offering partial-day camps, Nature Skills camps, or our Jr. Educator (formerly Jr Naturalist) volunteer program.
- Group sizes are limited. Children will travel in stable groups of 8-10 campers with two staff.
- Physical distancing is required. Everyone must stay 6' feet apart from people not living in the same household.
- Face coverings are required for all participants (including adults dropping off and picking up children) Face coverings must cover the nose and mouth. If a camper or adult arrives without a face covering, a disposable mask will be provided.
- Liability waivers must be on file for each camper. The COVID-19 waiver is read and signed during the online registration process. Read the COVID waiver by clicking the link below.
- Campers will be screened for symptoms when they arrive. Our staff will be screening campers (and adults dropping them off) for COVID-like symptoms each day. We will be following the required exclusion policy in the Emergency Child Care Guidelines.
- Exposure to COVID-19: Ten day quarantine
Exposure to a person with a positive or presumptive case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days means campers must enter a 10-day quarantine. The 10-day quarantine can be shortened to 7 days if the camper tests negative for COVID-19 between days 5 and 7 of their quarantine period and is asymptomatic.
- COVID-like symptoms: Ten day exclusion
- loss of taste or smell
- unusual cough (“Unusual cough” means something not normal for this person like allergies or asthma)
- shortness of breath
- fever of 100.9 or higher
Campers can return to Nature Day Camp after ten days and have been symptom-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever reducer). If a camper receives a negative COVID-19 test that was taken before the ten days is up, they can return once they have been symptom-free for 24 hours.
General symptoms of illness: 24 hours (48 hours for vomiting and diarrhea)
- sore throat
- Exposure to COVID-19: Ten day quarantine
- Cleaning of supplies and equipment. Sharing supplies and equipment will be limited as much as possible. We have allocated extra money in the budget to use individualized supplies as much as possible. If sharing of equipment is required, it will be sanitized between uses. Camper groups may be asked to help wash their supplies with soap and water after use so they are ready for the next group.
- Sanitation and disinfection is a priority. Campers will be asked to wash or sanitize hands as they arrive and just before leaving camp. Bathrooms at parks are cleaned daily but are open to the general public. We will be adding additional portable bathroom units and adding a layer of protection for our campers by cleaning high touch surfaces (like door handles and table tops) before they are used by our group. Campers will be asked to wash hands or use hand sanitizer throughout the day as needed. Hand washing stations will be available for campers as they arrive.
"My daughter has been attending 1-2 weeks for the last three summers and she LOVES it! You all do a wonderful job!"
"Your child will be engaged, active, and happy all day!"
"The PP&R nature camps are, by far, my son's all-time favorite summer camps, both last year and this year. The counselors do an amazing job of engaging the kids and creating a fun, exciting experience. I can't quite express how much I appreciate the wonderful instruction and experience provided by your counselors. Thank you!"
Join our team! Volunteering (ages 13-17) and paid jobs (ages 16+)
Sorry - due to COVID-19, we will not have a Jr Educator program in summer 2021. We hope to bring this program back in summer 2022. If you are curious about the program, visit the website. Volunteering - Jr Educator program (ages 13-17)
We hire staff who love children, are curious about nature and want to gain skills as an educator.
- A genuine curiosity about nature
- Enjoy working with and teaching children
- Good communicators
- Positive role models
Doing your taxes and need our Tax ID for childcare deductions? Here it is for your reference: TAX ID 93-6002236
Our teaching approach at Nature Day Camp
- We give children the time and space needed to connect with nature in their own way.
- We offer activities that meet different types of needs.
- Games and hiking teach through movement and team-building.
- Songs and cheers teach through music and rhythm.
- Unstructured play teaches through creativity and imagination.
- Crafts and open-ended art teach through expression, shape, and color.
- Rotation groups and guided activities teach through observations and questions.
- We give children choices and let them vocalize how the day should unfold.
- We pick up our trash, protect our sensitive spaces, and show gratitude toward nature.
- We build friendships with each other and with nature throughout the week.
- We find creative ways to say "yes" to campers. This allows everyone to have a unique experience in nature and keeps everyone safe.
- We make space for pauses in the day. This allows for children to calm their bodies, think, and ask questions.
We believe that children teach us. They often notice more, ask better questions, and care about plants and animals in ways that are different than adults.
Summer staff spend almost fifty hours training in the following areas:
- Responding to emergencies using CPR and First Aid (lead staff also learn how to respond to Severe Allergic Reactions and give Medications at camp)
- Managing and reducing risks for campers and staff
- Learning child development between ages 4-13
- Building friendships with children in an equitable and culturally responsive way
- Responding to challenging behaviors
- Nurturing a connection to nature through observation and questions
- Leading games and activities
- Setting expectations and building rapport with children
- Leading a group outdoors
- Taking care of our parks and natural spaces
- Communicating with children, staff, and parents
- Guiding unstructured play in nature
- Interacting with general park users
Camp days and hours
All camps run Monday through Friday or Monday through Thursday, unless otherwise noted
Please allow an extra 10-15 minutes each Monday as we check campers in and assign them to their stable group.
8:15-9:00 | Hang out while campers arrive
9:00am | Camp activities begin
- Please be on time! We want your child to experience the full day of activities.
- Parents, guardians, or caretakers must walk with their child to and from the meeting spot each day.
- All campers must have completed health information on file by Monday at 9am to participate. (We use an online program called ePACT to store all important information for each camper.) Before camp begins, parents will get an email from ePACT to set up or update their child's account.
3:30pm | Camp activities end
3:30-4:15pm | Hang out while families pick up campers
Before-care and After-care for summer 2021 are limited due to COVID-19 precautions. We are offering extended drop-off and pick-up times to help families who need a longer day of camp. Find more information about before-care and after-care here.
Before-care and after-care information
There is no traditional before-care in summer 2021. Instead we are offering an extended drop-off window to help families who need a longer camp day. Drop campers off as early as 8:15am. (no registration needed)
There is no traditional after-care in summer 2021. Instead we are offering an extended pick-off window to help families who need a longer camp day. Pick campers up as late as 4:15pm. (no registration needed)
- Children will remain in their stable group with the same educators.
- Snacks served at 3:45pm for any children who have not been picked up. (Nut-free, Gluten-free, and Dairy-free options available)
- Children engage in low-key activities. (Books, table games, crafts, and playground play, when available)
- Offers a longer day option for families that complies with COVID-19 precautions.
Age group information
Camps aim to nurture each child's relationship to nature.
- Our youngest campers connect mainly through outdoor free play and nature exploration.
- Our campers in middle childhood play organized games, make projects, explore, and do hands-on nature activities.
- Our oldest campers spend more time building friendships with campers and staff (and still play games, hike, and explore).
Nature Day Camp: Full-day camps
Ages 5-8 | Hawks (Children in this age group will be divided by age into stable groups of 8-10 campers.)
Age 8-10 | Ospreys
Age 10-12 | Ravens
Campers in the Hawks group will be assigned to stable groups for the week. During the registration process, parents can list one (1) friend or sibling close in age (within two years) to be assigned to the same camp group.
Every week of camp is a balance of wonder, discovery, and silliness. Campers learn about noticing by looking closely, asking questions, and playing with nature's loose parts.
What to expect:
- Walking, hiking
- Running, climbing
- Using senses and asking questions
- Organized arts and crafts
- Rotation groups with guided activities
- Stories, cheers, and songs
- Skits and puppet shows
- Stealth and tracking games
- Down time, small group games
Weekly nature themes for Nature Day Camp
Backbone Not Required (Locations: Mt Tabor Park and Powell Butte)
What do insects, spiders, snails, and centipedes have in common? They’ve got no spine! To stay safe, some grow a shell, some hide, and some just run away as fast as they can.
Branching Out (Locations: Mt Tabor Park and Hoyt Arboretum)
Tall trees, short trees, and snags – each one plays an important part in the forest. Get to know the quiet giants of the forest through questioning, stealth games, and the five senses. Explore with us and have a "tree-mendous" week!
Buzz and Flutter (Locations: Mt Tabor Park and Hoyt Arboretum)
A caterpillar turns itself into liquid when becoming a butterfly. (What?) Come learn what other tricks pollinators use to survive. Spend the week observing bees, wasps, and butterflies using our supplies.
Enchanted by Plants (Locations: Mt Tabor Park and Sellwood Park/Oaks Bottom)
Turning sun into sugar is tricky business, but it is a full-time job for green plants. Search high and low for plants in the park. Find the ones that become sources of water, shelter, and medicine.
Habitats are Hip (Mt Tabor Park and Pier Park)
How would you become invisible in your own backyard? When you think like an animal you might discover critters hiding in plain sight! In their habitats, animals find clever ways to eat, drink, sleep, and escape.
Marvelous Mammals (Mt Tabor Park and Hoyt Arboretum)
Mammals are warm, fuzzy, and on the lookout for food. They have remarkable traits that help them adapt to the world around them. Stalk like a crafty coyote and scurry like a restless rodent. Will you will survive the food chain?
Rock and Roll Lifestyle (Mt Tabor Park and Powell Butte Nature Park)
The hot lava of the past spread across the valley and formed hills – including Mt Tabor! Do you know what happened next? Search for evidence that it all happened just like scientists say it did. (Pet rocks encouraged.)
We Can Wing It (Mt Tabor Park and Whitaker Ponds Natural Area)
Why doesn’t a woodpecker get a concussion? How can a falcon fly so fast? Could a hawk see an ant from the top of a 10-story building? Use your “owl eyes” to go on a birding adventure and find out for yourself.
Wonders of Water (Sellwood Park/Oaks Bottom and Whitaker Ponds Natural Area)
Water is the thread that connects us all! Learn about the river, the hilly forests, and the soggy wetlands. Sand and water invite us to create, and birds overhead invite us to follow. (Water exploration is optional and takes place in shallow water.)
Daily rhythm and weekly feel of camp
Nature Day Camp contains a combination of structured and open-ended activities.
- Structure at the beginning of the day and end of the day
- Designated time exploring as a group in the middle of the day
- Opening and closing circles help campers connect in the morning and reflect in the afternoon
- Organized games, crafts, and rotation groups that introduce the nature theme
- Open-ended exploration, hiking, and play in a small group
Campers will be assigned to stable groups for the week. During the registration process, parents can list one (1) friend or sibling close in age to be assigned to the same camp group.
Sample daily schedule - take note that the all-camp activities will change based on the weekly theme!
8:15-9:00 | Extended care (Drop off campers anytime during this window)
9:00 | Camp begins
9:15 | Opening circles in stable groups: songs, cheers, announcements
9:30 | Snack and bathroom break
9:45 | Head out as a stable group
next | Rotations, crafts, or games (depending on the day)
next | Explore, play, hike! (Bathroom breaks and snacks as needed)
Noon-ish | Lunch somewhere in the park
next | Explore, play, hike! (Bathroom breaks and snacks as needed)
3:15 | Closing circle: songs, games, reflection
3:30 | Camp ends
3:30-4:15 | Extended care (Pick up any time during this window)
We try to make camp fun for everyone by asking participants to follow four expectations:
- Be safe (in your words and actions)
- Be respectful (to yourself, to each other, to nature)
- Listen (to the leaders, to each other, to nature)
- Have fun!
Additionally, Portland Parks requires that all participants refrain from the following:
- All forms of harassment
- Defacing property (structures, land or equipment)
- Disruptive or disorderly behavior
- Improper use of restrooms
- Offensive physical contact
- Inflicting harm or hurting self or others
- Using or being under the influence of any intoxicating substance
- Using profanity, teasing or ridiculing others
- Violation of any federal, state or local statute or ordinance
Steps taken when campers start to display a pattern of negative behavior:
- Remind campers of the rules
- Redirect unsuitable behavior
- Switch campers out of groups that seem to feed negative behavior
- Discuss any underlying issues with campers
- Separate children for a time from the group
- Create a mutual behavior contract
- Reach out to parents or guardians for ideas and support
If above steps do not help, the camper will get two more chances to change their behavior:
- Verbal warning #1: Call made to coordinator to come and help. Camper is separated from the group. Next steps are explained to the camper.
- Verbal warning #2: Call made to parents to inform of the situation. The camper has one more chance. At this point parents should be ready to pick up their child early if needed.
- Done for the day: If negative behavior continues, calls made to parents to come and take their child home early. Camper is welcome to return the next day if they are able to change their behavior. Formal incident report is filled out and kept on file.
- Done for the week: If negative behaviors continue the next day, parents will be called to pick up the camper. The camper will not be returning to camp. Unused days of camp will not be refunded.
If a camper is sent home for the week due to negative or unsafe behavior, parents will be called to discuss refunding any additional registered weeks of camp.
What to bring to camp
Our program is active, our parks are hilly, and we are outside all day. To help your camper have a good day, get them packed up with what they need. If you think your camper might need a change of clothes, pack them in a large Ziploc bag.)
Children should come to each day of the program with the following:
- Mornings can be chilly, please bring a layer of clothing.
- Substantial lunch (Campers are active all day long)
- A morning and an afternoon snack (fruit, veggies, granola bar, cheese, etc)
- Water bottle (big enough to hold at least 16 oz of water)
- Comfortable backpack that’s a logical size for your camper. It will hold snacks, lunch, a water bottle and extra layers.
- Close-toed shoes (For your camper's safety, no flip-flops or open-toed sandals)
- Sunscreen (Please apply it each morning. Our staff will remind campers to reapply at lunch.)
- Medications (if needed) - Please fill out the medication forms before arriving at camp.
Required health information before camp begins
Portland Parks & Recreation uses ePACT to collect camper health and emergency information. All information is online. Before your first day of camp, you should receive the invitation by email. (If you have not seen the invite by Thursday before camp, check your spam or contact us.)
Follow the link to create an account. Fill out the health information completely for each camper. Please include information about allergies, authorized pick-ups, and emergency contacts. As a final step, click "submit" to share your camper's information with us.
To attend camp, campers must have completed health information.
Filling out the profile takes 15-25 minutes. For campers attending multiple weeks, please submit the information for each week. For siblings, ePACT is able to copy common information. Then make specific changes as needed. Compared to paper, ePACT is more up-to-date, more accessible while in the parks, and more secure. We rely on the ePACT system every day of camp.
Children who arrive without health information will need to create an account and complete information on site.
We must have health and emergency information for a child to attend camp.
Campers coming to camp with medication
This applies to both prescription medication and over-the-counter (OTC) medications.
- List all required medications in your health information on ePACT.
- Bring medications in their original packaging.
- Bring the required paperwork with you on the first day of camp.
- Fill out the Authorization for Medication Administration
- Fill out the Medication Administering Information
- Only staff are permitted to give medications to campers age 4-12
- Volunteers age 13-17 may take medications on their own. (In addition to the above forms, please fill out the Self Medication Agreement)
Inclusion services for campers
Children of all abilities and interests are welcome to participate in our programs. If your child requires special assistance to participate, please contact the Environmental Education Office at 503-823-3601, and we will help connect you to our Adaptive & Inclusive Recreation program.
What your camp fee supports
The numbers below are reflective of the 2021 cost. We offer "Pay What You Can" pricing for camps. Funding from the 2020 Parks Operating Levy helps fill the gaps between costs and revenue generated through fees.
We put every penny to use.
Here are the actual costs for running a week of camp:
- $190 - Cost of paying our staff and operating each week of camp
- Our staff work 40 hours a week. Every person is expected to plan, lead camp, and reflect on each day with their team.
- Staff attend a 15-minute meeting each morning and a 30-minute staff meeting each afternoon.
- Camper-to-staff ratios are 5:1 or better because we operate 100% outdoors.
- We pay all staff a living wage.
- $55 - Cost of training our entire staff for over 50 hours
- CPR and First Aid, responding to severe allergic reactions, giving medication
- Child development
- Guiding questions and observations with children
- Guiding unstructured play and leading activities
- Leading a group and dealing with challenging behaviors
- COVID-19 safety protocols and risk management
- $25 - Cost required for equitable marketing and hiring. We believe both camp and staff jobs should be accessible to all.
- $20 - Cost of materials and supplies for our summer activities
- Craft supplies
- Materials needed for activities
- Exploration gear like bug boxes and binoculars
- Cell phones and iPads needed to connect with parents and access health information
- $6 - Cost of PP&R t-shirts and manuals for our staff
- $5 - Cost of using ePACT as our camper health information system
- $4 - Cost of using ActiveNet as our registration system
Nature Day Camp Policies
To promote equitable access to our camps, $25 of the camp cost is non-refundable. To receive a partial refund (the full cost minus the $25 fee), withdrawals must be completed at least seven (7) days before the first day of camp.
In fairness to our staff, campers not picked up on time will be charged an additional fee of $10 for every 15 minutes campers remain on-site, payable in cash or check upon arrival.
Air Quality Policy
Due to the outdoor nature of this camp, we will make the best decisions for our campers and staff in the event of poor air quality. If the air quality index (AQI) for the camp location is forecasted to be listed as UNHEALTHY (AQI = 151 or higher) throughout the camp day according to purpleair.com and airnow.gov, the camp day will be canceled and families refunded the cost of the day. 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.
Thunder and lightening are rare during the summer months. In the event of a lightning storm, groups are asked to walk or run to a covered 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 covered structure for cover until the storm passes.