Nature Day Camp | Jr Naturalists (ages 13-17)

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COVID-19 update

All camps for Summer 2020 are canceled. For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, please see Portland Parks & Recreation's COVID-19 Updates page

Be a Jr Naturalist with the Nature Day Camp program!

Learn the skills of teaching, mentoring, and caring for children in nature. No experience required, but teens should enjoy nature and being with children.

As a Jr Naturalist, we hope you do the following:

  • Share your enthusiasm about nature with campers. 
  • Get experience leading games, crafts, and activities. 
  • Practice building friendships with campers and staff.
  • Learn about our parks and the natural world.

Applying is easy - simply fill out the application and get it back to us before June 1st. Teens can email, mail, or drop off their completed application. The earlier we receive an application, the better. We offer spots on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Teens should apply first, and when accepted to the program, we will call parents to get them registered.  

Teens accepted into the program must volunteer for two weeks of camp (A third week is possible if space allows. Teens interested in a third week should note that on their application.)


Cost is $30/week for Portland residents. The $30/week fee helps cover the cost of paying staff to run the training days. 
All are welcome! Teens will not be turned away if they are unable to pay. If the fee is a barrier, please let us know. It will be waived during the phone registration process, no questions asked. 

If you have questions, please email or by calling/texting 971-221-5971. 


  • Must be between 13 and 17 years old by June 1, 2021.
  • No experience required.
  • Must be able to attend one day of training.  (Available training dates for the upcoming summer will be announced in January.)

Teens who apply should be the following:

  • responsible
  • energetic
  • caring
  • patient
  • curious about nature
  • interested in teaching or view their science teachers as role models

Role of the Jr Naturalist

Teens who become Jr Naturalists will have numerous roles:

  • Play and explore in nature with the campers. 
  • Model how to make observations and ask questions about nature.  
  • Help staff organize campers and keep them as safe as possible.
  • Help campers do crafts and play games. 
  • Help lead and organize nature activities. 
  • Help campers transition from activity to activity. 
  • Join campers as they walk to new locations in the park. 
  • Sign in to camp on time each morning and sign out each afternoon.
  • Take care of themselves during the day and let staff know if they have needs. 
  • Listen to lead staff and coordinators. 
  • Practice kindness and be respectful to campers, parents, and staff. volunteers help with the day to day teaching

Hours of Commitment

Each week, campers are on site from 9am-3:30pm each day (Monday through Friday). 
Jr Naturalists arrive on Monday at 8am for a kick-off meeting, and Tuesday through Friday at 8:15am. The day ends at 3:30pm. Teens should get picked up or head home at that time.

Jr Naturalists spend most of each day with their assigned group. They help organize and occupy children as they arrive. The rest of the day is spent hiking and exploring as a group. Staff may stop at various spots in the park to do activities or play games. Everyone stops to eat lunch, and the group visits the bathroom as needed. 

A few times each week, the Coordinator will meet with teens to check in. This is a chance for teens to talk about anything that is challenging or going well for them. Staff will either intervene or guide campers and staff as needed. 

Required Training Days

Jr Naturalists must be able to attend one FULL day of training for both new and returning volunteers. Training takes place at Mt Tabor Park and Sellwood Park. (Dates for the upcoming summer will be published in January.)

Jr Naturalists are an important part of Nature Day Camp

The goal of camp is to nurture and guide children as they attempt to understand the world. Questions, observations, and sensory learning help this process take place.  Children arrive at camp with knowledge and feelings about nature. Throughout the week, they have a chance to meet new plants and animals. They also make friends and get to know nature educators. A child's experience in nature starts, grows, and matures in a unique way. We hope that Nature Day Camp is a springboard for growth, not just with campers, but with volunteers and staff as well. 
Time in nature that impacts each child differently. Staff act as guides to  help children construct information based on actual observations. We allow them to explore and discover new things and ideas. We hope that all of this helps them create new and more meaningful connections with nature. Jr Naturalists are role models to campers in a way similar to staff, but act as a bridge between children and adults that otherwise would not exist. 

Our teaching approach at Nature Day Camp

  • We give children the chance to spend time in nature with role models and friends. 
  • We offer activities that meet different types of needs. Games and hiking offer movement and team-building. Cheers and songs offer music and rhythm. Unstructured play allows for creativity and imagination. Crafts and art let children express themselves through shape and color. Structured activities allow us to learn about nature by doing. 
  • We try to give children choices and let them vocalize how the day should unfold. 
  • We are careful to pick up our trash, to protect sensitive spaces, and show gratitude toward nature. 
  • We build friendships with each other and with nature throughout the week. This helps us understand where each camper is coming from. 
  • 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 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 adulare different than adults. 

How to apply

Click below for either a fillable pdf or printable pdf:

2021 Printable Application will be here in January 2021
2021 Fillable Application will be here in January 2021 

(Save the document to your computer first, then fill it out and re-save!)