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Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

Phone: 503-823-7529

1120 SW Fifth Avenue, Portland, OR 97204

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True Nature: Mentoring and Community Building (ages 4-12)

Register now or check out our 2018 class schedule!

Winter Classes begin Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

It is our True Nature to be at peace. It is our True Nature to express our gifts. It is our True Nature to be in harmony with the Earth.

Children inquire with a parent volunteer about a mushroom found nearby.

Guided by trained mentors, True Nature deliberately fosters children (ages 4-12) to make connection to the natural world and others. All classes are three hours and meet at Mt. Tabor Park, rain or shine, and utilize exploration, stories, songs, and curiosity to develop a strong sense of place. The learning is in the doing! We designed this program to be a multi-season experience. Families are encouraged to register for fall, winter, and spring sessions.

True Nature connects people in multiple ways. 
The goal of True Nature is to mentor children (ages 4-12) and their grown-ups through deep nature connection as a means of self-development for all; creating a healthy, resilient community. The Nature Mentors have the following specific objectives for each participant:

  • To have meaningful, positive experiences in nature, regardless of the weather,
  • To connect to nature,
  • To develop a sense of place,
  • To connect to others in their family and connect to other families,
  • To connect to themselves, gaining a deeper sense of who they are,
  • And to grow into helpful, responsible individuals who understand the gifts that they bring to the world.

Program Model
Teaching methods include stories, songs, activities, exploration, games, and reflection that feed the universal passions of children (and adults!) Mentoring techniques and concepts of nature connection will be drawn from resources like Jon Young's 8 Shield Institute, Coyote Mentoring, and Joanna Macy's "The Work that Reconnects".


Winter Session - Begins January 30, 2018
Activity Number Dates Number of Weeks Day of Week Time Resident Fee Cost per hour Celebration Potluck
Cancelled -------------------------------------- 8 Tuesday 10am - 1pm $160  $6.67  Sat, March 24
1080983 Jan 31, Feb 7, 14, 21, 28, Mar 7, 14, 21 8 Wednesday 1:30-4:30pm $160  $6.67  Sat, March 24
1080985 Feb 1, 8, 15, 22, Mar 1, 8, 15, 22 8 Thursday 10am - 1pm $160  $6.67  Sat, March 24
Winter classes must have at least eight participants by January 23, 2018, to avoid cancellation.
Spring Session - Begins April 3, 2018
Activity Number Dates Number of Weeks Day of Week Time Resident Fee Cost per hour Celebration Potluck*
Cancelled -------------------------------------- 8 Tuesday 10am - 1pm $160  $6.67  Sat, May 19*
1080984 April 4, 11, 18, 25, May 2, 9, 16, 23 8 Wednesday 1:30-4:30pm $160  $6.67  Sat, May 19*
1080986  April 5, 12, 19, 26, May 3, 10, 17, 24 8 Thursday 10am - 1pm $160  $6.67  Sat, May 19*
*Spring Celebration Potluck is the weekend before our last class to avoid the Memorial Day weekend holiday.
Spring classes must have at least eight participants by March 29, 2018 to avoid cancellation.

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Grown-up Roles in True Nature
Grown-ups are asked to help their child connect and grow during the eight week class! True Nature connects children at different stages of development to a very personal experience in nature. The program goal is to build a community of people and children who are connected deeply to nature, to each other, and to themselves. Everyone is encouraged to gather at the end of each session for a Celebration Potluck. (Celebration Potluck dates are listed below.) One adult in the child’s life (parent/relative/nanny/friend) is encouraged to ask questions and listen to their child’s stories. Each grown-up participant commits at the level that works for them.

We hope that all participating grown-ups can do two things;

  1. Listen - A grown-up close to the child (parent/relative/nanny/friend) is encouraged to ask questions about the child's experience and actively listen to the stories that are told. This is called "catching stories", and is modeled by the Nature Mentors during the program. It is one of many powerful techniques used in nature mentoring to extend and amplify a child's connection to the world around them.
  2. Share in celebration - We hope allfamilies can attend the end-of-the-session celebration potluck. This is our opportunity to connect  family members and friends to honor each child's shared stories, express gratitude, evaluate the program, do a stewardship project, and share a meal together. Potlucks are scheduled at the end of each eight-week session on a Saturday morning at Mt. Tabor Park, from 10:00am to 1:00pm.

Additional Grown-up Involvement
For grown-ups who have a flexible schedule and are eager to get more connected to the program, we offer these options:

  1. Participate in our opening circle. We open each class with song, gratitude, and check-in. This usually lasts about 10-15 minutes.  
  2. Be a volunteer for a day of class. Grown-ups are encouraged to be a “mentor-in-training” during one of the classes. This will give the adults a better understanding of what we do when we are out on the trails and allow their own inner child to connect to nature! (All adult volunteers will need to fill out the PP&R Background Check forms prior to participating in the class.)
  3. Participate in our closing circle. At the end of each day, about 15 minutes before pick-up, we close with a sharing circle. This is a time for everyone to share what we call “the story of the day”. The best thing we can do to foster connection is tell stories and listen to each other (aka “catching stories”). Joining the sharing circle is a great opportunity to practice catching stories. Mentors will work with the adults to model the technique of “pulling stories”.
  4. Read the weekly emails from the Nature Mentors to learn about ways to have your own, self-guided nature experience during the class.
  5. Offer us feedback. We want to hear about your connection to nature, to the child, and to the program! Receiving feedback throughout the program helps shape the class as the session unfolds, and helps us understand ways to reach new participant families.

Teen Roles in True Nature
Teens who are interested in participating and assisting the mentors can contact us for more information about this opportunity. Please call 503-341-9320 for information.

Scholarships are available for this course! Visit and fax your completed form to 503-865-3251 or mail to: Attn: Environmental Education, Portland Parks & Recreation, 2909 SW 2nd Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97201

All classes will be held at Mt. Tabor Park in SE Portland. Meeting location is the picnic shelter.

Class Size
Classes are limited to 12 children. Classes must have at least 8 participants one week before the first date to run.

Celebration Potlucks
Potlucks will be held at the conclusion of each session on a Saturday from 10am to 1pm. This is our opportunity to connect all the family members and friends at the same time to honor each child, share stories, express gratitude, evaluate the program, do a stewardship project, and share a meal together.

2017-2018 Season (Potlucks are at Mt. Tabor Park from 10am-1pm)

  • Fall 2017 - Saturday, November 18
  • Winter 2018 - Saturday, March 24
  • Spring 2018 - Saturday, May 19

Withdrawal Policy
To receive a full refund, a participant must be withdrawn at least 7 days before the class or camp begins. Withdraw or Transfer from activities using your online account. Go to "My Account", then the "My Account Details" page. Need help? Call our office at 503-823-3601.

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Register now or check out our 2018 class schedule!