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Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

phone: 503-823-7529

1120 SW Fifth Avenue, Portland, OR 97204

True Nature: Nature Mentoring and Community Building

2017 - 2018 Class Schedule - Classes begin Tuesday, October 3!

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.

This fall, Portland Parks Environmental Education will be kicking off a new intergenerational class called True Nature. This class - with fall, winter and spring sessions - is for children ages 3-12 (and one adult in their life) and is guided by trained adult mentors, True Nature fosters connection to place, others and self. Classes 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!

This program deliberately connects children of various ages to a very personal experience in nature. One adult in the child’s life (parent/relative/nanny/friend) participates and is the at-home mentor. (Jump to details regarding commitment level - Grown-up Involvement.)

Grown-ups are asked to do the following for each 7-8 week session:

  • attend the first class along with the child,
  • volunteer at one class, arrive 15 minutes before pick up to listen to the day’s sharing circle,
  • and gather at the end of each session for a Celebration Potluck from 10am to 1pm. 

Celebration Dates

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

The Mission of True Nature is to mentor children (ages 3-12) and their grown-ups through deep nature connection. The overarching goal of the classes is to promote deep nature connection as a means of self-development for mentors and children while building healthy, resilient community connections for all. 

Specific objectives for each participant:

  • To have positive experiences in nature, regardless of the weather,
  • To connect to nature,
  • To connect to themselves, gaining a deeper sense of who they are,
  • To connect to others in their family and connect to other families,
  • To develop a sense of place,
  • And to have meaningful experiences in nature with mentors so they can grow into helpful, responsible individuals who have a personal connection to nature and Mt. Tabor Park.

True Nature Class Design: Children ages 3-12 commit to attending weekly classes for 7-8 weeks. This program is intergenerational, requiring an adult close to the child (parent/relative/nanny/friend) to be involved (see GROWN-UP INVOLVEMENT below). Mentoring and teaching methods include stories, songs, activities, exploration, games and reflection that feed the universal passions of children (and adults!) Goals are accomplished through various methods of inquiry and uses the techniques of Coyote Mentoring. Staff (and participants) may be asked to practice certain skills and improve their knowledge base of nature on their own time. At the end of each session, we will celebrate the completion of the class with a gathering of children, their grown-ups, and the nature mentors.

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Grown-up Involvement

Here’s what we are expecting from the participating grown-up in the child’s life (someone close to the child – a parent/relative/nanny/friend) during each 7-8 week session:

1) Attend the first class of a session.
We’ll be all together as a large group initially, then separate into two groups – a children’s group and an adult group. During this time the children will explore and start bonding with each other. Meanwhile, the adults will learn about nature mentoring works and the critical role they play in fostering connection outside of class. At the end, we will come back together and practice “catching stories” from the children.

2) Volunteer once.
The sessions are 7-8 weeks long. Grownups are encouraged to be a “mentor in training” during one of the classes (remembering we are all together the first week). 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!

3) Participate in the daily sharing circle 15 minutes before pick-up (optional – but a good option!)
At the end of each day, we will close with a sharing circle. This is a time for the kids (and the adults that were with them that day) 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) Communicate (check and read your email)
We want to hear about your experience! Your feedback throughout the program helps shape the class as the session unfolds. Nature Mentors will also send emails with follow-up ideas that you can use at home to enrich the experience.

5) Attend the end of session Celebration Potluck (with participating child/ren)
Potlucks will be held at the conclusion of each session on a Saturday from 10am to 1pm. We will share stories, sing songs, express gratitude, participate in a stewardship project, and share a meal together. Participants from all classes are invited, making this time an opportunity to connect with other families.

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