Registration information for Nature Day Camp 2024 is TBD! Check back to this page for the most up to date information
Visit the summer registration page for details.
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.
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
Camp Costs and Access Pass Information
Nature Day Camp will be using the Access Pass model in 2024. See the Access Pass webpage for more information.
Pricing for 2024 Nature Day Camp will be coming soon. Please check this webpage for the most up to date information.
All children will need to be able to follow these guidelines to participate in a program:
- Beginning Saturday, March 12, 2022, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) will no longer require staff and visitors to use face coverings in all PP&R buildings and facilities. Staff and visitors who still wish to wear face coverings may do so at their own choosing.
- Please only attend if everyone attending is healthy!
- If anyone has a positive or presumptive case of COVID-19 or is awaiting results to a COVID test, they should not attend.
- If anyone is sick with COVID-like symptoms, including new or worsening cough, fever, shortness of breath, or recent loss of taste or smell, they should not attend.
- Beginning March 12, 2022, quarantine due to exposure is no longer required. A five-day quarantine is still required for a person that has COVID-like symptoms (or tests positive). They may participate once symptoms are resolving and they have been fever-free for 24 hours.
- Follow general sanitation guidelines. All participants should wash or sanitize hands when they arrive, after using the bathroom, and after sneezing or coughing.
Unpaid Opportunities (ages 13-17) and Paid Positions (ages 16+)
Junior Educator Participant Positions
Teens ages 13 to 17 can apply to be Junior Educators. Click the link above to learn more.
We hire staff who love children, are curious about nature and want to gain skills as an educator. Click the link above to learn more.
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)
- Leading groups outdoors
- Learning child development between ages 4-13
- Building friendships with children in an equitable and culturally responsive way
- Responding to challenging behaviors, managing and reducing risks for campers and staff
- Nurturing a connection to nature through observation, question, and guiding unstructured play
- Leading games and activities
- Setting expectations and building rapport with children
- Taking care of our parks and natural spaces
- Communicating with children, staff, and parents
- Interacting with general park users
Nature Day Camp days and hours
All camps run Monday through Friday, unless otherwise noted. Please allow an extra 10-15 minutes each Monday as we check campers in, process health forms, and assign them to their groups.
8:30-9:00 am | Hang out while campers arrive
9:00 am | 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.
3:30 pm | Camp activities end
3:30-5:30 pm | After Care (optional, pre-registration required)
Extended Drop-off and After-care information
We offer an extended drop-off window in the mornings to help families who need a longer camp day. Drop campers off as early as 8:30 am (no registration needed). Please do not drop off sooner than 8:30 so that our staff have time to plan and prepare for the day.
Pre-registration is required. Campers who are not enrolled in After-care should be picked up no later than 3:30 pm.
- After-care goes from 3:30 - 5:30 pm. Campers enrolled in After-care can be picked up at any time in that two-hour window.
- Snacks are served around 3:40 pm once all other campers are picked up. (Nut-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free options are available.)
- Children engage in low-key activities. (Books, table games, crafts, and playground play, when available).
Age group information
Campers will be assigned to a traveling group for the week. Groups are similar in age. 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.
- 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).
Weekly Nature Themes
Backbone Not Required
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.
We Can Wing It
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.
Buzz and Flutter
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.
Rock and Roll Lifestyle
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.)
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!
Habitats are Hip
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.
Wonders of Water
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.)
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?
Enchanted by Plants
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.
Nature Day Camp daily rhythm and weekly feel
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!
8:30-9:00 | Extended Drop-off 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, all campers who are not registered for After Care need to be picked up by this time
3:30-5:30 | After Care (Pre-registration required. Pick up any time during this window)
Nature Day Camper expectations
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 and expectations
- 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 Nature Day 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 attending Nature Day Camp
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 Nature Day 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)
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.
Find out more information about our Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation program here.
Nature Day Camp Policies
To promote equitable access to our camps, 20% of the camp cost is non-refundable. To receive a partial refund (the full cost minus the 20% fee), withdrawals must be completed at least fourteen (14) 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 lightning 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.
Doing your taxes and need our Tax ID for childcare deductions? Here it is for your reference: TAX ID 93-6002236