Families’ Guide to Oregon Activities at Home

Oregon-Centric Lesson Plans for Oregon Families During COVID-19
March 23, 2020 (Updated March 26, 2020)

“Yay!” That was the simple, emphatic response from our five-year old when we broke the news to our kids that all schools in Oregon were closed until April 28th in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Needless to say, that emotion was the last thing my wife and I felt as we looked at each other and forced a smile, pondering how to get through it.

Chances are, you felt the same.

For all my fellow Oregon parents practicing isolation with the kids during COVID-19 school closures: I see you. It’s not easy to keep the kids entertained, engaged and still learning while you juggle working from home while adjusting to the new norms of social distancing.

If you’ve made it past re-learning polynomial addition and subtraction or density experiments, we’ve got some Oregon-centric activities for you. Consider them unofficial lesson plans to help them stay educated and engaged while discovering something new about Oregon.


Oregon, Only Slightly Exaggerated

You might be familiar with Travel Oregon’s animated content that showcases the state’s awe-inspiring places, only slightly exaggerated. Now is the time to let the little ones in on the fun, too.

Writing Prompts

These snack-sized animated shorts run at just under 2 minutes each, but the beauty is in the details. Let your kids’ imaginations run wild with these easy writing prompts:

  • For the Oregon native: How many locations do you recognize and can name?
  • For the imaginative one: Pick your favorite scene and writing a short story about the characters.
  • For the realistic child: Count how many things cannot exist in the real world and explain.

Extra Credit

Once they’ve made their way through both videos, they’re now ready to follow the adventures of these two big-footed buds in “Yeti & Squatch in the Winter Wonderland of Oregon. Read the book and learn more about Oregon’s varied geography.

Coloring Book

The fantastical scenes of Only Slightly Exaggerated are available in line-drawing form, perfect for the artists in your life. All you need is a printer and coloring pencils. Download the coloring book now.


The Oregon Trail

More than 175 years ago, settlers began the journey on the famed Oregon Trail. The wagon route, spanning 2,170 miles (3,490 km), was the largest migration in American history.

Your child can learn about the westward trek with a special activity book by Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory. Inside they’ll match animals to their tracks, learn hand gestures used between pioneers and Native American tribes, connect the dots and more.

Ready to dive in? Download The Oregon Trail activity book.

Pair the book with “Travel Oregon: The Game.” This game pays tribute to the classic game you might remember from elementary school. Just as early American settlers traveled the historic Oregon Trail, you can travel through all seven regions of Oregon in our modern journey. You’ll ski, bike, take scenic routes and more. Discover the winter gems of Oregon — all from your desktop or mobile device.

For Older Kids

An honest telling of Oregon Trail story cannot skirt the facts: the arrival of the settlers into lands long stewarded by Native Americans wreaked a devastation that destroyed entire communities, subjugated native ways of life and ultimately changed the character of this place forever.

Explore the impact of westward expansion on Oregon’s tribes through Oregon Public Broadcasting’s “Broken Treaties” documentary series.


What’s Up With the Weather?

Oregonians know that our weather can be surprising and unpredictable. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t always rain here. In fact, some parts of Oregon hardly ever have cloud cover. So, what explains Oregon’s quirky weather? Why do we have seasons? And what explains all those shapes clouds make?

Portland’s KOIN6 News is offering Weather Kids, lesson plans in various functions of the water cycle and how it relates to the Pacific Northwest. With write-ups and videos from guest scientists along with detailed explanations of significant weather conditions, these plans will not only inspire the budding meteorologist in your family but will also stimulate scientific inquiry and comprehension.

KOIN6’s Chief Meteorologist, Natasha Stenbock says the plans were “born out of desperation” to keep her kids occupied during the school closures. “I knew I wasn’t the only parent scrambling to entertain/educate my kids. We are the bridge between science and communication. Just because we’re social distancing does not mean we have to stop learning or teaching.”

Extra Credit

Pair Weather Kids with these nifty experiments. For older kids, reinforce their enthusiasm by assigning them their very own, first-person weather forecast.


All About Whales

Amazed by the greatness of gray whales? You’re not alone. Countless people come to watch whales at the Oregon Coast every year. The best times to see the stunning sea creatures is during winter and spring, when the pods migrate in masses to the south and the north. Typically this is when trained volunteers from Oregon State Parks are on hand at 24 locations along the coast answer questions and help you find the best whale watching spots during the bi-annual Whale Watching Week.

This year, Oregon State Park is going virtual with a live stream featuring park rangers and whale experts available for questions via chat every day from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., during spring whale watch week, March 21-29. Watch the live stream from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., every day this week.

Extra Credit

Complement the live stream with this article or podcast from the Statesman Journal that examines what life is like beyond the surface for these gentle giants, why they migrate so far and how climate change impacts whale population and habitat.


Cheese: The Grate Adventure

Cheese is one of the ultimate comfort foods, and who can’t use a little comfort these days? Portland based start-up, Little Sous, is offering a complimentary download of Cheese: The Grate Adventure. This hands-on box gives you a step-by-step lesson on making your own ricotta, recipes including ricotta pancakes and sheet pan quesadillas along with activities that allow them to globe and learn how to say “cheese” in 16 different languages via an interactive coloring poster, puzzles and word games. The cheese kit is one of many different at-home kitchen boxes from Little Sous and now through April 30th, they’re offering Travel Oregon readers a 20% discount on subscription boxes (discount code OREGONCOOKS)

Extra Credit

Complement the kit with this article that explores Oregon’s award-winning cheese culture including inventive cheesemakers, cheeses to try and why Oregon’s climate is perfect for cheese making.


More ideas

  • Grab your popcorn and watch the online Filmed By Bike festival, a one-time event at 5 p.m. April 4 for the whole family (replacing Portland’s annual Filmed By Bike Festival, which had to cancel this year). Ticket entry is $12; the entire family can watch together for the one price. The short films from around the globe feature the joy of bicycle riding across cultures. Portland festival founder Ayleen Crotty has curated some new films and classics from 17 years of previous festivals.
  • Paint Oregon landmarks or animals on rocks
  • Follow Portland Children’s Museum on social media for at-home story time and live performances
  • Keep up with the shenanigans at the Oregon Coast Aquarium by following their shark, otter or sea bird cams
  • Call a grandparent and tell them where you want to visit in Oregon together
  • Put on a dance show to the Oregon state song (“Oregon, my Oregon”)
  • Plan an Oregon road trip and do the math of how many miles between destinations
  • Read some books about Oregon or by local authors (here are some ideas)

About The
Author

Mo Sherifdeen
Mo lives in SE Portland and loves to hike the forests and mountain trails of Oregon with his family. He once wrote a parenting column for PDX Parent and has also been known for getting lost inside Powell’s, seeking hoppy IPAs and the best fish 'n chips along the Oregon Coast. He spends his days promoting tourism in Oregon at Travel Oregon.