Waste Less, Nourish More. Creating a Caring Community of Informed Omnivores

A 6th grade semester-long learning expedition at Realms Middle School in Bend, Oregon.

Fieldwork <<Realms Garden>>

Where does our food come from?

Where does our food go?

  • Every Realms 6th grade student spent 9 hours in the garden, sowing seeds, building beds, and growing food.
  • Our 6th grade class spent a total of 936 hours in the Realms Garden this year.
I used to not think about where my food came from, it was food, and I would eat it. But now, I understand that the health of food, depends greatly on where it comes from. -Fiona
I will be more considerate about food waste and only take what I will eat. I will make sure I think about my ideas when it comes to homeless people. They are humans too. - Coral
I am going to think more about what I take and put on my plate, and if I think I am not going to eat it, I just don't take it. - Josh


6th graders at Realms Middle School in Bend, Oregon launch into a semester-long learning expedition about the engaging topic of food through the "Waste Less, Nourish More" learning expedition!

Students begin with an immersion experience and examination of food waste. Students use mathematical reasoning to calculate the waste stream from our school to our local landfill (Knott Landfill), while also looking at the larger contribution of waste from the Bend LaPine School District. After spending time examining waste, participating on fieldwork to the Knott Landfill, students begin to move away from the "Waste Less" part of the expedition and more towards the "Nourish More" by looking at the various ways that food gets to our plates. Students learn about local and industrial farms, nutrition, and the scientific processes of plants in a rich inter-disciplinary expedition, combining Humanities, Science, Math, Art and Technology classes.

Students watch documentaries, read both fiction and non-fiction food texts, and develop their understanding of where our food comes from. They gather data on food choices and reflect on their own journey as consumers. Students also participate in service-rich fieldwork, including a multi-day food based trip to Portland and several day trips in Central Oregon. We believe that the more knowledgeable we are in this process, the more control we have over the system that feeds us—and the more we can change that system for the better.

Realms Middle School is a magnet school in the Bend LaPine School District serving 152 sixth through eighth grade students who seek a school where academically rigorous curriculum meets active pedagogy. Our expanded definition of student achievement, drawn from our work with EL Education, goes far beyond the traditional mastery of knowledge and skills. At REALMS, students become young adults of character who possess the ability to produce high quality work through a curriculum that focuses on real-world, inter-disciplinary, and problem-based learning, frequent fieldwork, and authentic stewardship/service.

6th grade students spent 3 days in Portland, Oregon digging deeper into growing food and food systems through service-rich fieldwork at The Oregon Food Bank, Mud Bone Grown Farm, and Learning Garden Labs.


The foundation for "Waste Less, Nourish More" was set by the Realms 6th grade Humanities team after teaching a semester-long learning expedition called "Nourish" for the past five years. After being chosen as one of the 18 EL Better World Projects this year and securing additional grant funding, a larger staff team set out to expand the "Nourish" learning expedition into "Waste Less, Nourish More", strengthening the cohesion between classes and adding the additional case studies of waste and food insecurity. Being a part of EL's Better World Projects cohort coupled with grant funding allowed a team of educators to re-design and broaden the rich and powerful "Nourish" learning expedition into a rich interdisciplinary learning expedition including Math, Science, Art, and Technology classes, giving birth to "Waste Less, Nourish More."


~ Michael Pollen's "Omnivore's Dilemma" ~ The "Food Recovery Hierarchy ~ ~Expert Fieldwork Experiences ~

Our new and expanded team (and expedition) needed an anchor! As we embarked on an expedition re-design, growing and expanding the work of two teachers, to now include five, required a strong anchor to build cohesion for the students and team. Michael Pollen's "Omnivore's Dilemma" provided the obvious anchor text as it had been the cornerstone for the Humanities Expedition, "Nourish" for the past five years. In the re-design planning process, our team also latched on to the "Food Recovery Hierarchy" pyramid introduced thoughtfully in the documentary, "Wasted! The Story of Food Waste" (which inspired our team). The final anchor was strengthening existing community partnerships to go deeper in the ways that we can get food to our plates and increase food security for everyone.

Waste Less, Nourish More Planning Meeting

Through this expedition, we experienced many new twists and opportunities that we didn't predict. We created full circle experiences for our students, brought to life stories read in the pages of "Omnivore's Dilemma" and worked alongside many community partners who taught and inspired us!

INSPIRING STORIES from the expedition.

As students in Art Class created individual print designs to create our very own classroom "Food Recovery Hierarchy Pyramid", they renamed the pyramid.

INTRODUCING the ... "Food Waste Upcycling Upsidedown Pyramid", renamed by 6th grade students at Realms Middle School.

The "Food Waste Upcycling Upsidedown Pyramid"

The Whole Hog Fieldwork garnered press!

We were inspired by Anthony Bourdain's documentary, "Wasted" and shared the front page with him on Saturday, June 9th, 2018.

Realms fieldwork experiences at the Cascade Culinary Institute and Piggyback Ranch inspired responsible meat production and consumption through hands-on, transparent, experiential education. Through a butchering lesson at the Cascade Culinary Institute with Chef Thor Erickson, followed by a tour and service-learning experience at Piggyback Ranch, students saw the whole hog experience and witnessed a responsible and sustainable method to meat production and consumption in Bend, Oregon.


Why can’t I just throw it away? Where is “away”?

Why do I eat what I eat?

How can I help? How can we help?


Lunch Waste Audit

On March 8th, Realms 6th graders set out on an investigation to answer the following questions about food waste . . .

  • How much do WE waste in a day?
  • How much in one week?
  • How much in an entire school year?

As part of the "Waste Less" case study, students were thrust into an immersion experience that included a closer look at the school's food waste through a food waste audit, Bend LaPine school district's waste stream, and a whole lot of Math.


~ M A T H ~

  • Students used volume calculations to investigate the waste stream at Realms Middle School, the Bend LaPine School District, and the amount saved from the landfill due to the food compost system at Realms.
  • On the three day trip to Portland in April, students (in small groups of two-three) surveyed people on the city streets to gather data on people's food choices and consumer habits. This data was then analyzed and presented at the final "Reflections from the Field" culmination at the end of the 2nd Semester.
  • Students determined the various rates and proportion that a variety of seeds germinated while growing vegetables "starts" for both the "Parker's Plant Project" and to plant in the Realms Garden.
I used to think that food was just food, something on your plate that you eat. If you throw away food there’s no consequence it goes in a landfill that never ends. Now I know that food is fuel, food is something everybody needs. Also I know now not to waste my food, and that the landfill is not endless. - Coral

~ S C I E N C E ~


  • Students investigated the organization of matter and energy flow in organisms, built and monitored decomposition columns as an investigation into biotic and abiotic systems.
  • Studied the interdependent relationships in ecosystems, resource requirements and limiting factors.
  • Investigated the chemical processes of life; including photosynthesis vs. respiration as well as mass balance.

~ H U M A N I T I E S ~

Students watched documentaries, read both fiction and non-fiction food texts, and develop their understanding of where our food comes from. Students read Michael Pollen's "Omnivore's Dilemma", Paul Fleischman's "Seedfolks" and devoured other documentaries, such as : "Fed Up", a documentary that explores the impact of sugar on our society and"King Corn", a documentary about two friends that want to figure out the path of corn in America..


Service-Rich F I E L D W O R K

At Realms Middle School we use rich and purposeful fieldwork experiences to achieve many of our character goals. This learning expedition was full of service-rich fieldwork to help students build skills in growing food, as well as creating authentic reasons for students to grow the food in the school garden. Realms adopted "Habits of Work and Character" (HOCC's) are integral to the success and learning in this learning expedition! Students worked together in the classroom, in the community, and in the garden so this project could take root. Students learned that it takes patience, collaboration, attention to detail, and care for living things to manage a garden. In the end, growing food for a real audience cultivated concern for quality, curiosity, and confidence.

Students worked alongside experts in the food education field to learn the requisite skills to grow food. Students toured and participated in service projects on both animal and vegetable farms, served the food insecure, and learned how to humanely raise and butcher meat. Students traveled to Portland, Oregon for a three day trip to investigate how larger communities are creating farming systems and structures to support the food insecure.

Fieldwork << The Knott Landfill >>

Bend, Oregon

Knot Landfill

Students learn about the process of converting food waste to soil.

Cate grabs a handful of soil to feel the heat created through the process of composting.

Fieldwork << Mudbone Grown >>

Portland, Oregon

Mudbone Grown


6th grade students tour and participate in a service-learning project at Mudbone Grown in Portland, Oregon. Farm owners, Art and Shantae's mission is to increase access to good food especially for people who are food insecure and people of color.

31 out of 31,000 farmers in Oregon are people of color

During the summer months, Mudbone Grown offers a weekly box of vegetables for people who are food insecure for five dollars a week.

Students take notes, record data, and participate in "Solitude and Reflection" time on every fieldwork experience.

Fieldwork << Learning Garden Labs >>

Portland, Oregon

Learning Garden Labs


The Learning Gardens Laboratory (LGL) is a 12-acre educational garden facility managed in partnership by Oregon State University Extension Service Community and Urban Horticulture Program and Portland State University LECL Program in cooperation with Portland Public Schools and City of Portland Parks and Recreation.

The Learning Gardens Lab Serves as model of community-based education focused on a hands-on and practical learning tool: the garden.

Realms' students worked on the farm. They learned how to make hugel compost piles, prepare beds for planting, and harvested bamboo to use on the farm.

Fieldwork << Oregon Food Bank >>

Portland, Oregon

Oregon Food Bank


Realms students participated in a service project at The Oregon Food Bank in Portland, Oregon on April 4th.

Today, Oregon Food Bank (started in 1988) collects food from farmers, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, individuals and government sources. We distribute that food through a Statewide Network of 21 Regional Food Banks and approximately 1,200 food assistance sites serving all of Oregon and Clark County, Washington.

Students served for two hours, breaking down 50 pound bags of onions into "family-size" bags with approximately 7 onions each to be distributed throughout Oregon food banks and given to people in need.

Bagging onions
Reflecting in small groups after our service experience.

Fieldwork << Back Door Cafe >>

Bend, Oregon

Back Door Cafe


Realms students served at The Back Door Café on Wednesday, May 9th. Students helped serve a hot breakfast prepared in the kitchen, pass out mail, sort and organize clothing donations, pass out shower supplies, clear tables, and do dishes.

Stacey Witte, Director of Homeless Outreach, greets Realms 6th graders for the orientation fieldwork on May 8, 2018

The Back Door Cafe serves Breakfast to everyone who wants it, mostly homeless and marginally housed people from our community.

The Back Door Cafe gives out bus passes, helps people with prescriptions, meals and food, utilities, rental assistance, and, most importantly, provides an understanding ear that demonstrates that every human being is seen.

Realms 6th grade students made 150 sack lunches for the Back Door Cafe clients and handed them out on the day of service.

It affected me now that I met some of those people because it makes me want to help them by wasting less food. - CJ


Habits of Work and Character are integral to the success and learning in this learning expedition! We work together, responsibly nurturing seedlings, to take this project from concept to viable plants for customers. Students learn to harvest seeds and start plants to sell to customers for their own garden. Students learn to grow food!

This expedition weaves together science curricula on plant life cycle, role of water, soil and biodiversity; lessons to promote healthy eating and environmental health; work in the school garden and farm fieldwork. Growing food for a real audience cultivates a quality of care and sparks student's confidence.


On June 7th, 2018 Realms 6th grade students shared their expertise on various food topics with an audience of Realms' families, students, and community partners.

6th grade students became experts of various topics within "Waste Less. Nourish More" and shared with the Realms community and community partners at Reflections from the Field.

Additionally, students prepared and hosted appetizers that represented their case study into "global" and "local" food respectively and ran a plant sale with small starts grown in the Realms garden.

Realms students and families are given a passport with instructions to incentivize talking to our expert 6th grade students.

Reflections from the Field


Our community partners brought the pages of our books to life and allowed us to learn and grow. Thank You for sharing your farms, your talent, and your innovation with us! Your brought our learning to life!!!

Greg and Hilary Smith; Piggyback Ranch, Chef Thor Erickson; Cascade Culinary Institute, Stacey Witte; Homeless Outreach Director - Back Door Cafe, Art and Shantae; Mudbone Grown, Learning Garden Labs, Jackie Wilson; The Environmental Center, Denise Rowcroft; The Environmental Center, Knott Landfill, The Oregon Food Bank, Meiko Lunetta; High Desert Food and Farm Alliance.

And we could not do any of this without the generous funding from the following grantors: EL's Better World Project Grant, The Clabough Foundation, The Education Foundation, The Environmental Center, and Selco Spark.

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