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Student Projects

Food for Thought

Author: Amanda Borow

Grade: 4th

Subjects: Language Arts, Science

Child holding tomatoes
Looking at food
Table of lettuce holding children
Girls holding a chicken

In the Food for Thought project students explored the complexity of our own food systems. During the first few weeks, students went on field trips, met with experts, watched videos and read articles to develop their fierce wonderings about food systems. These fierce wonderings became the research questions for the student’s magazine. Students explored non-fiction texts and learned how to research and write a magazine article. Throughout the rest of the trimester, students worked on their articles while we explored our essential questions as a class. We focused on how different food systems affect humans and the environment. Specifically we explored the farm worker’s rights movement historically and today as well as food waste and food access. The project culminated with a farmer’s market style exhibition where students presented their learning about a specific topic and we sold the classes’ Food for Thought magazine.

  • Otay Landfill: Students visited their local landfill to learn about where most food waste goes, about methane gas and about waste reduction programs.
  • Wild Willow Farm: Our class visited Wild Willow, a sustainable farm and education center in San Diego. Students were able to learn about and participate in sustainable farming practices – they completed a sustainable farming scavenger hunt, helped with farm chores, harvested and cooked a healthy meal with the farmers.
  • HTeCV Community Garden: Students worked with 7th grade buddies who were also doing a food focused project in our community garden and learned about planting, irrigation, weeding and compost.
  • Nutritionist: Students learned about basic nutrition as well as about how food miles can affect the nutritional value of fresh foods.
  • Feeding America Expert: Presentation from Feeding America San Diego representative about food waste and hunger in San Diego
  • Carlos and Linda LeGerrette, Directors of the Cesar Chavez Service Clubs: Carlos and Linda spoke with students about their experiences working with Cesar Chavez and well as about the youth programs that they support in various school communities.
  • Parents’ Healthy Snacks: Every Tuesday during the project parents brought in healthy snacks for the students to try. Students were excited to try new foods!


Read nonfiction texts

  • Read nonfiction texts at their level
  • Identify and use nonfiction text features (headings, subheadings, captions, vocabulary boxes, etc.) to navigate and read nonfiction texts

Conduct Research

  • Develop a research questions based on fierce wonderings
  • Identify keywords to use in search bars
  • Determine if a source is about their research question and at/near their reading level
  • Navigate a variety of research sources (nonfiction books/magazines, online publications, search engines)
  • Identify and record source information – author name, article name, website name, URL
  • Take notes from nonfiction texts to answer a research question
  • Organize research in a graphic organizer to prepare to write a paragraph

Write Detailed Paragraphs

    • Use a brainstorm sheet to prepare to write a paragraph
    • Write a “stoplight” paragraph with a topic sentence/main idea (green sentence), introduce a new reason (yellow sentence), explain the reason with details (2-4 read sentences), and a concluding sentence with the main idea (green sentence)
    • Use organized research notes to write a well structured, detailed paragraph
    • Create text features (headings, subheadings, vocabulary box and fast facts) to support well written paragraphs
    • Use the writing process and critique to improve article
    • Use the class developed rubric to guide revision of article

Project Information

Food systems: Diversity of food systems, how food grows, where waste goes

      • Understand the steps in food systems
      • There are different kinds of food systems
      • Pros and Cons of a sustainable food system
      • Pros and cons of an industrial food system
      • Parts of the plant and what plants need to grow
      • Photosynthesis


Human Impact of Food systems: Food justice, food access and farm workers’ right movement

      • Three parts of food justice: 1. Food is produced in sustainable food systems, 2. Everyone has access to affordable healthy food, 3. Farm workers are treated with respect and dignity
      • Farm workers’ right movement historically and today
        • What farm workers are fighting for: respect, fair pay, health care, fair living conditions
        • What strategies farm workers used to fight for justice
        • Why farm workers are still treated poorly
      • Who has access to food and who does not have access to food – Food deserts, poverty, food stamps


Environmental Impact of Food Systems: Food Miles, Climate Change, Food waste

      • The causes and effects of climate change
      • The connections between climate change and food systems
        • Using resources, burning fossil fuels, producing methane gas
      • Define food miles
        • Impact of food miles on the environment
        • Impact of food miles on nutritional value of food
      • Where most food waste goes and the connection between methane gas and food waste in landfills
      • Understand compost as an alternative – how to make compost and use compost
Weeks Project Work Magazine Process
1-3 Food systems overview

–       What is a food system?

–       Where are we in food systems?

–       Preview a variety of topics to develop fierce wonderings

Prepare to Research

Introduce/practice Nonfiction text features

–       Introduce/practice Stop light paragraphs

–       Develop fierce wonderings about food systems

4-6 Where does food come from?

–       Industrial vs. Sustainable food systems

–       How do food systems affect our environment?

–       What is food justice?

–       Farm worker’s rights movement


–       Introduce/practice finding, using, recording resources

–       Practice note taking

–       Choose research question

–       Research question

7-9 Where does food go?

–       Who has access to food?

–       How much food is wasted?

–       What are the effects of food waste?

–       What is “gleaning”?

Write Articles

–       Organize research

–       Type First Draft

–       Self Critique, Peer Critique, Teacher Check-in

10-11 Reflect & Prepare for Exhibition

–       Interview peers about learning experience

–       Prepare exhibition presentations in groups


–       Final edits on articles