Landfill Field Trips Expand to Crook County


At The Environmental Center, our mission is to embed sustainability into daily life in Central Oregon, which we define as Deschutes, Jefferson, and Crook Counties. In an effort to expand our Youth Education programs into more communities outside of the Bend-LaPine School District, our team has been working hard securing funding and building relationships in Jefferson and Crook Counties, as well as in Warm Springs. We know that these relationships take time, and that our programming must always be adapted and consider the distinct needs of the communities we serve. Place-based education programs especially aren’t effective using a one-size-fits-all approach, which is why we are excited to be broadening our reach and developing field trips like our recent visit to the Crook County Landfill with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders from Powell Butte Charter School.

This year was our first time culminating our EarthSmart program, which typically ends by taking Deschutes County students to the Knott Landfill for a tour, at the Crook County Landfill in Prineville. Partnering with their staff, they planned and led the field trip themselves, which was a huge benefit to educators and students. Our Youth Education team coordinated the dates with Powell Butte Charter School, which resulted in 3 classes being able to attend the trip.

Wesley Yoder, one of our Youth Educators who regularly visits students to deliver EarthSmart lessons, was pleased with how the trip went, and really appreciated the work the staff put in to make it a memorable experience. “We started with the recycling drop off right at the entrance, and kids walked around and got to see the different free recyclables. The Landfill staff purposely left some contaminants in the recycling bins to show kids what should and shouldn’t go into different bins, we then went and looked at (what I think of as) the “unusual recyclables”: stuff like cooking oil, motor oil, antifreeze, and paint. Next, they walked us over and showed the kids the machinery they use for landfill operation such as dump trucks, bulldozers, and backhoes. The kids were very excited about this part, and a few kids were able to identify most of the machines. After that we got on the bus, and drove to the new cell that they had dug so kids could see what it looked like without the trash.”

Later on, Wesley recalls, “kids saw some sort of canine tracks and were speculating that it was a coyote. Then we drove over to the active cell and watched them dump and crush trash. They also activated the bird cannon, which periodically explodes some propane, making a loud noise to scare birds. This, plus predatory bird calls and bird traps are all part of how the landfill makes sure birds aren’t interfering with their neighboring airport.”

Thank you to our funders and partners who make these field trips possible! We look forward to continuing EarthSmart and other Youth Education programs throughout Central Oregon, tailoring content to be regionally and culturally relevant to all students.