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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

Camp Theme Details

What you should know about Nature Day Camp and the themes for each week...

Every week of camp contains traditional Nature Day Camp activities, regardless of the theme. Our traditions include many educational (yet really fun) nature games, stealthy sneaking & observing of other groups of campers, nature crafts, unstructured nature play, exploration and small group activities. In general, younger children spend more time in unstructured play, while older children spend more time in organized games & activities. The days are an intricate balance of planned activities & child-directed choices. For many campers, a typical day at camp contained numerous activities, conversation & hiking to a different spot. This makes articulating "what happened at camp" difficult on some days!


ROCKIN ROBINS (ages 3.5 - 5)

Nurture your child's sense of wonder and curiosity with activities that help them connect to nature! Sneak through the trees, explore for birds & animals, get creative in nature's kitchen. Give your 'super sleuth' a chance to uncover the wonders of the natural world through play, exploration, games & crafts! These camps are lead by staff with training and experience working with younger children.

Each week, your child can expect a smattering of walking, exploring, open-ended art, nature games, magical stories, and lots of unstructured nature play with the group! Each week is built around a nature theme (listed in the SCHEDULE).

YOUTH CAMPS (ages 5-10)

Every week of camp is a magical journey – a pairing of ecology and science with the awe and wonder of nature! Traditional activities such as our opening smudge ceremony bring us together to experience nature with new eyes while stealth games and camouflage teach us to walk quietly and slowly like animals. Myths & legends hone our listening skills and fairy houses spark our creativity and imagination. Unstructured time exploring the plants, animals and insects let us create our own meaningful experience. Projects that help the park in some way teach us to care about the future.

Each week, your child can expect a smattering of hiking, stewardship, open-ended art, games that teach, magical stories, unstructured exploration – as well as ecology activities from one of the following nature themes:

Birds of a Feather
Make a new friend! Discover winged creatures around every corner as you imitate bird calls and see who answers back. Pay attention - the birds have a lot to tell us about the forest! Come and learn their secrets...

Habitats are Hip!
Every living thing needs a place to call home – and nature is no different! Habitats are where we find our food, water, houses and families! Take this week to seek out different habitats and discover who’s hiding in our parks. Stealth mode and imagination recommended!    

Let’s Rock-N-Roll!
Did you know Mt Tabor is an extinct volcano? Spend this week of camp exploring the overlap of geology and physics through games & art and creative exploration! Hear stories of floods and explosions and hot lava, and then go and investigate for yourself!

Look Mom, no spine!
Snails and slugs, worms and spiders, centipedes and pill bugs – what do they all have in common? They have no backbone! Spend the week searching for and learning about these well-adapted, spineless creatures. Play games that teach the differences and make temporary habitats that match the ones you find!

Nature's Pantry
Nature is a busy and curious kitchen, full of everything from imaginary cooking to edible berries to medicinal uses for native plants. Run your own nature restaurant, concoct a healing salve, make tea, and more!

Stealth & Camouflage 
Learn how the animals stalk their prey, play games that encourage quiet invisibility, think like a bird of prey as you spend the week sneaking and trying to be unseen.

"We Speak for the Trees!"
What's it like to be a tree? Get to know the quiet giants of the forest through the science, the senses and ecological games. Learn how trees impact the animal world, and humans too! Come, explore and have a "tree-mendous" week!

Wet & Wild
Explore the science of rivers, creeks, ponds & wetlands through investigation and observation. Test the water quality, dip for macroinvertebrates, explore for predatory animals who depend on water as a food source. Discover how all creatures are connected through water – including you! (Water exploration is optional and takes place in shallow water.) 


DIY Nature (for youth ages 11-13)
Experience the outdoors firsthand through hiking, ecology, games and do-it-yourself primitive skills. Be active, have fun and learn about nature with a diverse staff! Older campers travel as a group and learn what it takes to both utilize and protect the land. Each camp week contains many of the same games and traditions as Nature Day Camp, but has an added do-it-yourself project that's fun for teens. **Please note!** A $10 fee will be added to the cost of camp to cover the DIY materials.

  • Hoyt Arboretum: Cordage & Medicinal Plants      June 20 - 24
  • Mt Tabor Park: Tools & Leather                           July 5 - 8 (no camp July 4)
  • Whitaker Ponds Nature Park: Dyes & Felting      July 11 - 15
  • Mt Tabor Park: Whittling Skills                             July 18 - 22
  • Columbia Children's Arboretum: Whittling Skills  August 1 - 5

Urban Nature Adventure (for youth ages 11-13)
Experience the outdoors firsthand through hiking, ecology, games, hands-on activities and creative exploration! Older campers get to explore the wonder of numerous natural areas using Tri-met. Camps meet at the same spot each day, but travel beyond the park to find the wonders nearby nature. Learn to navigate the city and help gain access to nature with help from our adventurous staff! **Please Note!** A $7.50 will be added to the cost of camp to cover the Tri-Met Pass for the week.

  • meeting @ Sellwood Park     June 27 - July 1
  • meeting @ Hoyt Arboretum   August 8 - 12
  • meeting @ Mt Tabor              August 15 - 19

Teen Ecology Workshop at Powell Butte Nature Park (for youth ages 11-14)
An in-depth look at the history of the Powell Butte watershed! Two small groups of teen campers embark on an ecological adventure, learning about the fields, forests, wetlands and waterways that make outer SE Portland a rich & diverse place for trees, plants, birds & wildlife. Be active, have fun and learn ecology with our experienced naturalists! Field trip excursions will take campers to surrounding parts of the Powell Butte watershed.

Teen Explorers - In partnership with A.I.R. (for those ages 13 - 21)
This exploratory day camp is designed for teens and young adults with special needs. Every day is a different outdoor adventure around the metropolitan area. Participants will explore nature along accessible trails in Portland's Parks & Natural Areas. Activities include games, crafts, and stewardship possibilities. Contact the Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation Office at 503-823-4333 for more information.