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Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

Phone: 503-823-PLAY (7529)

Fax: 503-823-6007

1120 SW Fifth Ave., Suite 1302, Portland, OR 97204

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School & Group Programs

Organize a field trip for your classroom through City Nature Environmental Education!

Supplement classroom learning with a hands-on experience in one of Portland's Parks or Natural Areas. 

Give your students an exciting learning experience in nature! Our naturalists are highly trained and experienced (many holding or pursuing advanced degrees in education and/or ecological topics). Lessons contain a combination of large group learning, small group exploration, and individual engagement. We believe in:

  • Helping children, youth, and teens find a personal connection to nature.
  • Modeling and teaching about a sense of stewardship toward our parks and natural areas.
  • Being outside in any kind of weather! 


What's included?

  • Hands-on lessons that meet Next Generation Science Standards
  • Equipment (for example, magnifying lenses)
  • Instruction to meet your students' age, needs, and interests
  • Low student to staff ratio (usually 12-14 students per naturalist)
  • Some field trips have accompanying handouts
  • Optional classroom program to prepare for the field trip

When are programs offered?
From Labor Day through Memorial Day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 9:30am and 1:30pm. Unfortunately, due to our summer camp schedule we are unable to offer field trips in the summer.

What does it cost?
We prefer to work with a maximum of 36 students at a time, and can certainly work with less. However, there is a 12 student minimum charge.
60 minutes = $5.00/student (great for Preschool and Kindergarten students. Another great option is a Ladybug Walk as a preschool field trip! Click HERE for more information!)
90 minutes = $6.50/student  (great for grades K-8)
120 minutes = $8.00/student (great for grades 6-12 or groups desiring more learning time on the trail)

Interested in service learning?
We offer stewardship projects for students in 4th grade and up. We can work with 1 class (up to 36 students) when a field trip is paired with a stewardship project. Students will spend one hour with one of our Stewardship Coordinators & an hour with our naturalists (total length of program is 2 hours). Lesson goals will vary depending on site, but will include importance of stewardship, habitat components, interconnectedness and human impacts. Students may remove invasive plants or plant natives. These programs cost $5/student.

Limited funds?
For schools receiving Title 1 funds discounts are available for our programs. Please ask. You may also look into grant opportunities like Public Lands Every Day.

Where are field trips located?
We will work with you to select a park or natural area that fits the needs of the program topic.

How do I schedule a field trip?
Arranging a field trip takes time. Please allow at least a month for coordination during the busy fall and spring seasons.

  1. Call and leave a message at any time for Elvira Stenson at 503-823-3601 or email her at elvira.stenson@portlandoregon.gov. She will return your message when she is in the office (Tuesdays and Fridays).
  2. Once we have your details and date preferences we will work to find naturalists. Once we have staff scheduled you will receive a contract.
  3. Sign and return the contract with partial (or full) payment to secure the date(s).

Topics **This section is CURRENTLY UNDER CONSTRUCTION as we move to align with standards and grade level unit lessons at Portland Public Schools. We have offered the following in the past:

Amphibians Find slippery salamanders under logs and frogs hopping through fields. Students will learn about amphibian anatomy, life cycles, habitat, behavior, and their importance in the environment. Best months: February & March

Birds Learn about bird biology, behavior, and identification. This lesson requires two class periods: an in-class lesson will introduce your students to some common Portland birds. Next, visit a local park where we will identify birds in the wild and hone observation skills. We can also do a second classroom program on bird migration to focus on why birds migrate and the hazards they face, and play a game to reinforce understanding. Best months: April & May

Botany Take a walk with a trained naturalist to learn about any of the following: tree and plant identification, photosynthesis, poisonous plants, edible and medicinal plants, invasive and native plants, seeds, seasons, and plant life cycles. We may also play a game or do an experiment to reinforce science topics.

FBI Fungus, Bacteria & Invertebrates, oh my! Turn over leaves and logs, and dig in the soil to discover decomposers in a park near you. Students will learn how to identify different species and find out why they are so incredibly important to the ecosystem. Best months: November through February

Geology Explore the rocks and soils of the Northwest! Touch and weigh rocks that are thousands to millions of years old and compare them to the eroded soils of today's landscape. Climb a volcano and discover how Oregon was shaped by volcanic activity.

Habitats & Ecology Students will learn the four things that creatures need to survive, and how all living things are connected. Take a nature walk and uncover teachable moments while playing Habitat Bingo to compare the characteristics of different habitats.

Invasive Plant Math Find out firsthand just why invasive plants are so successful in taking over natural areas! Use your math skills to count the number of potential plants from a blackberry or dandelion seed head.

Nature Awareness Find out which animals live in Portland's parks. Students will learn to walk through the forest using deer ears, owl eyes, and the fox walk in order to see more wildlife. We will analyze and identify animal signs along the way!

Navigation We will teach your students how to navigate using compasses (provided by PP&R) in your classroom. Next, students will embark on an exciting treasure hunt in a local park while practicing their skills. Requires two sessions.

Poetry Hike Make the poetry of Frost and Whitman come alive! Take a hike using your senses (smell, see, touch, hear). Develop descriptive language skills and then take some time to write your own nature poetry.

Water Quality Conduct chemical tests (oxygen, pH, temperature, turbidity) or look at the living creatures in the water to determine water quality. Look at macroinvertebrates (water bugs) from a local water body. Then play a game of Macroinvertebrate Mayhem! to see how pollution affects biodiversity.