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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

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Volunteer Jr Naturalists (ages 13-17)

May 20, 2020

Dear friends,

Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) closed our community and art centers, and pools, and canceled all outdoor programming in March to protect public health and to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 in our community. PP&R was also forced to lay off or not hire hundreds of valuable seasonal team members due to COVID-19.  

Those closures and cancelations made it impossible for PP&R to earn revenue through swim lessons, exercise classes, and permitted events. PP&R's funding structure relies on earned revenue to deliver services to the community. 

Unable to earn revenue and lacking a critical seasonal workforce, the bureau is now unable to open community centers or pools or offer traditional summer programming in 2020.  This includes all summer camps, which are canceled.

We were already in the planning mode for the 2020 summer of Nature Day Camp, and we are saddened by the announcement that there would not be camp this summer. Campers were already registered, volunteers were already in process, and numerous people had applied to be on staff. We thank you so much for your interest in Nature Day Camp – no matter what your role would have been during the camp season. We hope that you will still find a way to connect to Portland’s natural areas on your own time this summer.

Everyone who registered for camp will receive a full refund, including the non-refundable $50 deposit. These will be processed as quickly as possible and will go back to the credit card used to pay for the camp in the first place. If there are any issues with expired cards, or if you paid by cash or check, we will work with your family individually to ensure you receive a full refund. To ensure that you DO receive the non-refundable $50 deposit, please be patient and let us process the refunds on our end. (If you try to withdraw online, you will lose the $50.) For more information on refunds related to COVID-19, please see

The impact of COVID-19 on PP&R's operations has grown the resolve to fulfill the late Commissioner Nick Fish's vision of a Sustainable Future for PP&R to ensure that we can serve all Portlanders.

What Portland Parks & Recreation will do to serve the community in summer 2020:

  • We will focus on providing critical community needs. Parks are more needed now than they ever have been. We have amazing people who are keeping neighborhood parks, trails and natural area safe and clean.
  • Free Lunch + Play – this program has a history of more than 100 years. More than half of Portland schoolchildren qualify for free and reduced lunch during the school year. And with five school districts and many other partners and supporters, we help distribute the lunches during the summer gap, adding arts and crafts, sports, games, and fun at parks citywide. We are expanding and enhancing Lunch + Play this year to serve our city. We expect more details in the coming weeks.
  • Park Greeters – at some of the busiest sites citywide, helping Portlanders use their parks and trails safely
  • Stay and Play – we are now offering online recreation programs with the new Stay and Play video series! Portland kids, families, adults, and seniors can stay healthy, learn new things, play, and stay connected with their friends at PP&R while in-person programs are on hold. Offerings include arts and crafts, physical fitness, bathtub floating skills, and more. If you have a chance, please check it out via links on our website.

We will continue to provide updates around how COVID-19 is affecting PP&R on our web page:

Thank you and have an outdoorsy summer,



Volunteer as a Jr Naturalist with the Nature Day Camp program!

Whether or not you have experience working with kids or in nature, you can grow your skills while volunteering as a Jr Naturalist at Nature Day Camp. If you are a responsible, energetic, and patient teen with an interest in nature, education, and child development, you’re encouraged to apply!

As a Jr Naturalist, you will:

  • Share your curiosity and enthusiasm for learning with the campers.
  • Gain experience helping campers with nature-focused games, crafts, and activities.
  • Practice developing supportive relationships with campers and other staff members.
  • Learn about our parks and the natural world!

Applying is easy - simply fill out the application and get it back to us by May 31, 2020 - the earlier we receive it, the better! Registration begins on February 24, 2020 and we offer spots on a first-come, first-served basis(Information on how to get your application to us is ON the application!) 

If you have questions, please email or by calling/texting 971-221-5971. 

To apply to be a Jr Naturalist, click an option below:

2020 Jr Naturalist Application - PRINT AND FILL OUT

2020 Jr Naturalist Application - FILLABLE PDF 
(Save the document to your computer first, then fill it out and re-save!)

Teens accepted into the program must volunteer for two weeks of camp (A third week is possible if space allows. Teens interested in a third week should note that on their application.) Cost is $30/week for Portland residents.The $30/week fee helps cover the cost of the training days. TEENS WILL NOT BE TURNED AWAY BECAUSE OF INABILITY TO PAY. If the fee is a barrier, please let us know, and it will be waived. 

Jr Naturalist Weeks Available 
Dates Volunteering
Location Camp Nature Theme Ages Resident
 1119706 June 29-July 2 8:15am-3:30pm Sellwood Park/ Oaks
Bottom Wildlife Refuge
 Habitats Are Hip 13-17 yrs $30
 1119857 July 6-10 8:15am-3:30pm Hoyt Arboretum  Buzz and Flutter 13-17 yrs $30
 1119852 July 13-17 8:15am-3:30pm Mt Tabor Park  Enchanted by Plants 13-17 yrs $30
 1119726 July 20-24 8:15am-3:30pm Sellwood Park/ Oaks
Bottom Wildlife Refuge
 Wonders of Water 13-17 yrs $30
 1119853 July 27-31 8:15am-3:30pm Mt Tabor Park  Rock and Roll Lifestyle 13-17 yrs $30
 1119858 Aug 3-7 8:15am-3:30pm Hoyt Arboretum  Branching Out 13-17 yrs $30
 1119854 Aug 10-14 8:15am-3:30pm Mt Tabor Park  We Can Wing It 13-17 yrs $30
 1119856 Aug 17-21 8:15am-3:30pm Mt. Tabor Park  Marvelous Mammals 13-17 yrs $30
*Jr Naturalists should report to camp at 8:00am on Mondays for a short meeting with the Jr Naturalist Coordinator before connecting with their group for the week. 


  • Must be between 13 and 17 years old by June 1, 2020.
  • No experience required, however, Jr Naturalists are required to attend one day of training.  (Available training dates: June 23, June 24, June 25, July 15, or July 22)
  • All teens who apply should have an interest in and enthusiasm for nature, have patience with children, and be open to learning new skills.

Specific Roles and Responsibilities

  • Play, explore, and be curious about nature with campers!
  • Help naturalists organize campers and keep them as safe as possible.
  • Help campers as needed during games, crafts, and activities.
  • Help campers stay focused and transition from activity to activity, and location to location.
  • Sign-in to camp on time each morning and sign-out each afternoon.
  • Pay attention to your own needs throughout the day and communicate them clearly to others. 
  • Listen to naturalists and lead staff and communicate with them kindly and respectfully.

Hours of Commitment
Each week, Jr Naturalists must commit to being at Nature Day Camp Monday-Friday, 8:15am-3:30pm (8:00 on Mondays). Campers are on-site from 9:00am-3:30pm. Jr Naturalists help organize and occupy children during drop-off and pick up, and help lead games, crafts, songs, stories each morning and afternoon with their assigned group. In the middle of the day, Jr Naturalists travel with their small group as they hike, explore and play. Throughout the week, our paid Naturalists and Jr Naturalist Coordinator guide the teens as needed and check in each day to make sure the week is going smoothly. 

Required Training Days
Jr Naturalists must be able to attend one FULL day of training (yes, even if you've volunteered before!). Training takes place at Mt Tabor Park and Sellwood Park (see dates below).

Jr Naturalist Training Day Options (14 spots available each day)

  • June 23 (Tu), 9:30am - 3:30pm, Mt. Tabor Park
  • June 24 (W), 9:30am - 3:30pm, Mt. Tabor Park
  • June 25 (Th), 9:30am - 3:30pm, Mt. Tabor Park
  • July 15 (W), 9:30am-3:30pm, Mt. Tabor Park (If volunteering between July 20 - Aug 21)
  • July 22 (W), 9:30am-3:30pm, Sellwood Park/Oaks Bottom (If volunteering between July 27 - Aug 21)

volunteers help with the day to day teaching
Jr Naturalists help us achieve the mission of Nature Day Camp!

What is the goal of Nature Day Camp? Great question! The goal of camp is to provide opportunities for children ages 4-12 to follow their innate curiosity with a goal of learning, exploration and discovery; to connect with their natural surroundings through experience & exposure to flora & fauna; and to create positive relationships with meaningful, highly trained naturalists. Through their interactions with nature, an experienced educator and other children, campers may be inspired to share their discoveries and become future stewards of nature, in Portland and beyond.

Our approach with children at Nature Day Camp

  • We give children the opportunity to spend time in nature with highly trained teachers, teen-aged assistants, and peers. Children experience a unique balance of hands-on exploration, child-directed learning, unstructured play, and structured activities. 
  • We introduce Leave No Trace principles and strive to encourage an overall appreciation of the park grounds, natural spaces and materials. We know that the appreciation of nature comes through a personal connection to the plants, animals and ecological concepts discovered in each park.
  • We find ways to say "yes" and redirect attention while creating a safe environment to explore.
  • We allow space and time for children to think, process, and ask questions.
  • As environmental educators, we are inspired by our own natural curiosity and honest wonderment of nature. We share, learn, and believe children have a lot to teach us.