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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

Phone: 503-823-7529

1120 SW Fifth Avenue, Portland, OR 97204

More Contact Info

City Nature Explorers (Grade K-6)

Make a Portland Park your outdoor classroom!

Registration opens November 18th at 12:30pm!

Children (Kindergarten-6th grade) can join the Environmental Education team to learn local ecology through sensory activities, science investigations, games, and exploration. Our trained outdoor educators will immerse your child in experiential learning with lessons that line up with common science units and Next Generation Science Standards. Classes are active, social, engaging, and fun!

A perfect option for students who are homeschooled or on spring break! Classes are 100% outdoors at a local park or natural area and take place rain or shine! Join us for one class—or sign up for them all! 

Cost for each class is $21/participant (includes instructor time, materials, and supplies)

Pre-registration is required. Click the links below to register!

2020 Morning Classes (9:30am-Noon)  |   Grades K-4
Click on the topic to see the description and objectives of the class. 

Day Date Topic Location Activity Code
Monday January 27 Rocks and Volcanoes Mt Tabor Park (SE 60th and Salmon Street) 1118552
Monday February 24 Meet the Corvids! Whitaker Ponds (7040 NE 47th Ave) 1118554
Monday March 23  Decomposers (Fungi, Bacteria, Detritivores) Laurelhurst Park (SE Ankeny and Laurelhurst Place)  1118556 
Wednesday  March 25 Habitats Hoyt Arboretum (4000 SW Fairview Boulevard)  1118558 
Monday April 20  Frogs and Salamanders   Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge (SE Milwaukie Avenue and Marshall Street) 1118560
Monday May 18 Plants and Pollinators Powell Butte Nature Park 1118562

2020 Afternoon Classes (1:00-3:30pm)  |  Grades 3-6
Click on the topic to see the description and objectives of the class. 

Day Date Topic Location Activity Code
Monday January 27 Rocks and Volcanoes Mt Tabor Park (SE 60th and Salmon Street) 1118553
Monday February 24 Meet the Corvids! Whitaker Ponds (7040 NE 47th Ave) 1118555
Monday March 23  Decomposers (Fungi, Bacteria, Detritivores) Laurelhurst Park (SE Ankeny and Laurelhurst Place)  1118557 
Wednesday  March 25 Habitats Hoyt Arboretum (4000 SW Fairview Boulevard)  1118559 
Monday April 20  Frogs and Salamanders   Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge (SE Milwaukie Avenue and Marshall Street) 1118561
Monday May 18 Plants and Pollinators Powell Butte Nature Park 1118563

 Lesson Topics - Descriptions and Objectives

Rocks and Volcanoes Location: Mt Tabor Park
$21/participant January 27, 2020
Oregon has seen some of the largest lava flows to have ever occurred anywhere on Earth, making it a perfect landscape to talk about geology. Come act out the eruptions, flows, and floods that make up Portland's timeline all while standing atop an actual cinder cone volcano. This lesson is an adventure into the past while posing questions about the future! 
Learning Outcomes - After the field trip, students should know:
  • Oregon's topography was greatly impacted long ago by volcanoes, lava flows, sediment deposits, and huge floods.
  • Water erodes rock over time.
  • Three types of volcanoes in the Portland area are Cinder Cones, Shield Volcanoes, and Stratovolcanoes.
  • Portland Parks design park paths and public areas to slow/prevent wind, water, and humans from causing erosion.
  • Scientists use specific language to describe and identify rocks and minerals (luster, breakage, fracture, color, streak, hardness)
Meet the Corvids! Location: Whitaker Ponds Natural Area
$21/participant February 24, 2020
These bossy birds are around us most of the time, but we generally ignore them! Maybe we shouldn't, however, because they are actually in a constant state of observation and adaptation to a very complicated, built environment. Through observation, games, and activities, students will learn the characteristics and behaviors of this common bird family and test their "corvid" cognition as they become smart and sassy scavengers. 
Learning Outcomes - After the field trip, students should know:
  • Corvids need food, water, shelter and space to survive.                   
  • Corvids are a family of birds that include crows, ravens, and magpies.                          
  • Corvids are smart and have developed special strategies for living in urban areas, like imitation and observation.                                 
  • Corvids are problem-solvers and use experimentation to succeed at a challenging task.                                                                                        
Decomposers (Fungi, Bacteria, and Detritivores) Location: Laurelhurst Park
$21/participant March 23, 2020
Meet the forest's FBI - Fungus, Bacteria, and Invertebrates, that is! These often-times hidden organisms do all the dirty work of changing dead plants and animals back into nutritious soil that sets the stage for new growth. Through hiking, exploration, and up-close observation, students will find different types of decomposers and start to put together the story of the forest around them. Decomposers are mostly sheltered from our view, and yet they play one of the most important roles in the natural world. 
Learning Outcomes - After the field trip, students should know:
  • Decomposition is the process where dead plants and animals are broken down by organisms into nutrients and organic matter.  
  • The primary decomposers are bacteria and fungi, but insects, worms, and larger scavengers help decomposition happen. 
  • Forests of the Pacific Northwest are full of different species of fungi, molds, mildews, bacteria, and invertebrates that turn dead organic matter back into nutritious soil.
  • The organic material on the forest floor is directly related to the trees, shrubs, and plants above it. Different organic matter attracts different decomposers.

Habitats Location: Hoyt Arboretum
$21/participant March 25, 2020
Do you know what habitat you're a part of? For all critters, even us humans, where we choose to live says a lot about what we need to thrive. Students observe the creatures that have chosen to make the local park their habitat, and how they've adapted to live there. Come think like an animal and maybe you'll discover one hiding in plain sight! 
Learning Outcomes - After the field trip, students should know:
  • Habitats provide food, water, and shelter for animals.
  • Plants and animals adapt to their environment to become better suited to survive.
  • Portland Parks restores and protects habitats in three primary ways: species removal, native plantings, fencing of sensitive areas.
  • Frogs and Salamanders  Location: Oaks Bottom – North Parking Lot
    $21/participant April 20, 2020
    Once an active floodplain, Oaks Bottom was home to a myriad of bird and animal species. But a desire for growth and development filled in the wetland and forced many of the species to scuttle off and find new resources. But thanks to many years of active restoration and protection, the wildlife refuge is again home to a variety of interesting and rare species of reptiles and amphibians. Through careful observation and guided exploration, students will have a chance to meet these frogs, salamanders and snakes up close and discover what makes them so special.
    Learning Outcomes - After the field trip, students should know:
    • Most amphibians go through a complete metamorphosis, but some give birth to young that are small versions of the adult.
    • Most amphibians spend part of their life cycle in water, and part of their life cycle on land.                                                                     
    • Amphibians' skin is smooth and moist, while reptiles are dry and have scales for skin.
    • Amphibians can breathe through their skin, and are sensitive to toxins in the environment. They must be handled in a way that protects them from harm.
Plants and Pollinators Location: Powell Butte Nature Park
$21/participant May 18, 2020
Pollination is not just the work of busy bees, though they are the best dancers! Many species help pollinate and, whether they intended to do so or not, everyone benefits from their help. Why is pollination so important to the rest of us? With the help of a few games and activities, students will learn how pollination happens and why it must happen.  
Learning Outcomes - After the field trip, students should know:
  • Many plants depend on animals to help spread their pollen to reproduce and grow new plants.
  • Plants pollinate through wind dispersal, and through animals including bees, birds, bats, ants, beetles, butterflies and moths.
  • Plants attract pollinators through scent and color. Different scents and colors attract different kinds of pollinators.