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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 that day" difficult on some days!

Here's a typical scenario we run into each summer of Nature Day Camp... A parent signs their 8-yr old child up for a week of camp that has a theme listed as "Birds of a Feather," but by Wednesday, the only thing that has been talked about at home by their 8-yr old are epic games of something called "tracker/seeker", something else called "Ninja" that their child keeps winning over and over, blackberry picking and the two hilarious staff that are with the group each day. The parent then stops the staff during drop-off on Thursday and says, "I thought this was a bird focused camp...? Are the kids doing anything with birds at all?"

It's a fair question - since the camp was advertised with a theme of birds. Generally our staff does work to add elements of the theme into each week of camp for the first couple days. However, we also advertise our camps as "child-directed", which we feel is really important for a summer camp program. If the staff members in the group introduce a few theme-related activities and the campers are much more interested in hunting for blackberries, playing games or doing crafts, they will switch gears so that Nature Day Camp remains fun, engaging & fresh for everyone.

Fear not - your child is learning, regardless of how much is actually articulated. Our staff is trained each summer to sneak the science & ecology into activities throughout the days of camp. We also value the mission of teaching Leave No Trace principles, fostering stewardship of Portland's Parks and creating connections between children, nature & significant adults. Our biggest goal for each camper each week is that they have fun and that they are safe!


Birds of a Feather at Hoyt Arboretum/Mt Tabor
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...

The Magic of Hoyt Arboretum/Mt Tabor
Journey through the forest as you embark on a quest for nature’s magic. Invent epic stories of wonder, create magical staffs & woodland villages and let the forest weave its spells of enchantment as you traverse the trails.

Nature's Pantry at Hoyt Arboretum/Mt Tabor
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!

Scouting Secrets at Hoyt Arboretum/Mt Tabor/Powell Butte Nature Park
Decipher secrets of the plant & animal kingdom and learn to imitate adaptations for survival. Embark on a journey of discovery, learn the art of storytelling and sharpen your observation skills. There is much to unearth...

Stealth & Survival at Hoyt Arboretum/Mt Tabor
Theme Info: Walk like a fox, hear like a deer, and put on your eagle eyes! Move invisibly through the forest and practice your stealth mode. It takes an inventive mind to survive! Understand how nature works through wayfinding skills, shelter building and edible plant identification.

Waking your Wild Side at Washington Park/Whitaker Ponds
Theme Info: Hone your awareness skills as you embark on an up-close-and-personal look at the natural world around you! Tune in - the animals have a lot to share! Translate the language of the birds! Experience the forest through a mixture of ecology, craft & stealthy observation.

"We Speak for the Trees!" at Columbia Children's Arboretum/Hoyt Arboretum
What's it like to be a tree? Get to know the quiet giants of the forest through investigation, the senses, art and games. Come, explore and have a "tree-mendous" week!

Wet & Wild at Sellwood Park/Marshall Park
Theme Info: Explore aquatic habitats by looking at the science of water quality through creek walks and pond dips. Discover the creatures that live in the waterways and the surrounding habitats.

11-13 yr olds
Close Encounters - Study the language of the birds - let them teach you about the plants, animals and predators of the Pacific NW forest. Gain an even deeper understanding of nature's resources. Perfect for older youth who are interested in a mixture of ecology, crafts, stealthy observation and the chance to build relationships.

DIY Nature - Curious how you might make a basket out of invasive English Ivy? Wondering how to whittle pretend-a-flutes? Interested in weaving grasses or carving out Elderberry beads? If you love to work with your hands and are interested in using nature as a resource for crafting, this week of camp is for YOU!

Raven Tribe - An extreme camp experience for Nature Day Campers looking for something new! (Previous summers of Nature Day Camp is preferred but not required.) Activities contain a balance of moderate hiking, navigation skills, games, crafts and group activities. Co-create this experience with fellow tribe members and learn leadership skills!