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Nature University

Volunteer    Nature University

Learn how to help children and adults discover nature by enrolling in Metro's unique and intensive naturalist training program.

Applying to Nature University

The application process for the class of 2014 is now closed. To be added to the mailing list to receive next year’s Nature University brochure and application, contact Sandy Jamison at or 503-972-8543. Application materials will be available in July.

What is Nature University?

Nature University is a 12-session training course that starts people along the path of becoming naturalists and teachers. Nature University students are introduced to time-honored techniques of nature observation and principles of discovery learning. Students learn about common wildlife and plants, the ecology of wetlands and ancient forests, and effective teaching techniques. Student naturalists go into the field with experienced naturalists to learn how to recognize animal tracks and signs, bird sounds and much more. Learn the importance of careful observation and the use of field guides, skills that can be applied in a lifelong process of learning and sharing with others.

No special experience is required but a background in natural history and biology and working with groups is helpful. At Nature University, you receive the training needed to become a qualified and confident Metro volunteer naturalist.

Note: Because Metro receives more applications than there are spaces available in Nature University, not all applicants can be accepted.

Why have a Nature University?

Every year thousands of children and adults visit Metro’s parks and natural areas on school field trips and for summer programs. Volunteer naturalists make these wonderful experiences possible by helping Metro staff naturalists lead these activities and programs.

If you love nature, enjoy working with children and have access to personal transportation, consider becoming a volunteer naturalist by attending Nature University.

volunteer naturalist on field trip


Nature University classes meet from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, starting the last Tuesday in January and running through mid-April. Classes meet at different locations. There is some homework between class meetings.

Free training and resources

  • Nature University course and training notebook
  • First Aid/CPR training
  • Opportunities for continuing education and training on various natural history topics
  • Fees waived for Metro classes
  • Annual Metro park pass
  • On-going guidance and support from Metro staff naturalists.

Time commitment and requirements

  • A passion and curiosity about the outdoors and a desire to deepen children’s connection to nature
  • A commitment to provide a minimum of 40 hours of service after graduating
  • Ability to help with school field trips in the fall and spring, and some weekdays or weekends in the summer
  • Strong interpersonal skills and judgment
  • Reliable transportation.

Download the Nature University volunteer naturalist position description

Related documents

To view PDF files, download free Adobe Reader. To translate PDF files into text to assist visually-impaired users, visit

To view MOV files, download free QuickTime.

Need assistance?

Sandra Jamison
503-972-8543 | 503-220-5712 fax

Related Links

Getting to know the nature of the region – one spot at a time

Looking for a new way to experience nature in this neck of the woods? Consider a simple practice known as “The Secret Spot” taught to Metro's Nature University students each year.

The value of Nature U

Nature University/Metro has felt like such a more worthwhile volunteer experience to me than some of the other stuff that I do: It's clear that the actual teaching and relating to other people is just as important as the content.

What I learned at Nature U

I was totally amazed at how much I could hear, both near and far. I felt totally alive and awake and aware at that time.

Nature guide

On the floodplain of Metro's Oxbow Regional Park, one can find clear tracks of red fox, raccoon, river otter, mink, rabbit, squirrel, weasel, crow, Canada goose and many other birds on any given day. Occasionally the tracks of larger mammals such as elk, black bear and cougar are also found in this rich habitat...

Discover Nature

secret spot owl

Find your secret spot

Looking for a new way to experience nature in this neck of the woods? Consider a simple practice known as “The Secret Spot." Learn more

Why I volunteer

Earlier this spring, I had the pleasure of leading a dozen or so kindergarten children on the ancient forest hike at Oxbow Regional Park. This walk is my absolute favorite volunteer activity, and I especially like working with the kindergarten-age children because they are so innocent and so easily amazed at all the neat things we encounter on the walk.

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