From SPP to Water for the World

By Joey Burgess, Prairie Conservation Nursery Coordinator, Stafford Creek Corrections Center

Drissia Ras served as Conservation Nursery Coordinator at Stafford Creek Corrections Center from 2012-14 while completing her Master of Environmental Studies degree at Evergreen—the same position I am in now. For Drissia, performing weekly educational workshops and lectures was the most important aspect of her work. She believed that education was crucial to the transformation of this vulnerable population into valuable members of society with a future. She also appreciated the hours spent getting her hands therapeutically dirty while cultivating prairie plants. It was a much-needed break from academic endeavors.

Staff photo from https://friendlywater.net/ABOUT.

During coursework for Drissia’s Master’s degree, she found herself in Yakima County working with farmers, county officials, and other stakeholders on preserving water quality in local watersheds. A representative from a non-profit organization, Friendly Water for the World, was also involved. They invited her to embark on a research project to evaluate the performance of a household water filter, BioSand, for removing arsenic, and this became the subject of her Master’s thesis. She found that the water filter was extremely effective at removing arsenic, a valuable finding for applications of the technology in developing communities. Following graduation, Drissia continued to work with Friendly Water for the World, and became their Administration & Operations Director.

Drissia says her experiences from SPP serve her well in her current work. She appreciated the openness and flexibility that her supervisors provided; it meant she could get the experience she needed. SPP’s management style was perfect for her. She was guided effectively, and empowered to develop project-management and personal skills. Working in a prison with Department of Corrections staff, she expanded her communication skills in ways that now help her establish and maintain relationships with global partners.

Bri Morningred, Jaal Mann, and Drissia Ras, all three prairie conservation nursery coordinators, smile during an SPP celebration in 2013. Photo by SPP staff.

For the future, Drissia plans to continue working with non-profit organizations. Although she recognizes that every organization is distinct and dynamic, she finds SPP especially unique because of the network of partnerships it has formed. She hopes to implement a similar networking strategy into her future work with marginalized populations.

Lecture Series Coordinators 1, 2, 3

By Paula Andrew, Roots of Success Liaison, Training Coordinator, and “Chicken Lady” at Washington Corrections Center for Women.

“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.” ~ Mandy Hale

When I first came to work at the Washington Corrections Center for Women nearly 5 years ago, I came from a background of work in men’s prisons, large and small. Looking back, nothing could have prepared me for the impact I would feel working with female offenders.

My heart went out to the women I encountered on a daily basis. The more I got out of my office and observed, the hungrier I became to try and bring some kind of normalcy to the women that were longing to make the best of their shattered world.

I was delighted when I found out I would be working with an organization called the Sustainability in Prisons Project – bonus for me! A group of caring Evergreen students and staff who want what I want for these women: a little dose of culture from the outside they can embrace and expand their world with…their little tiny corner of their now restricted world needs expanding.

Brittany Gallagher and guest lecturer Anna Thurston walk together to the prison classroom. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

Enter Brittany Gallagher, Lecture Coordinator for the Sustainability in Prisons Project. Her job was to plan, organize, and recruit speakers for our monthly Sustainability lecture series. My job was to work with her to put things together on the prison end to make it happen. What a treat it was to work with her! She immediately had the respect of the women in the audience for the lectures. You could tell the women were excited when she talked about things they could do in their own community upon release, and it gave them hope for a sustainable future. Brittany’s quiet smile spread warmth throughout the classroom that was contagious! When Brittany graduated from Evergreen College, like all good graduate students do, I felt like I had lost a good buddy. She was off to the world of exploring her universe, and I was sad to see her go, but excited for her at the same time.

Tiffany Webb talks with lecture series students following a presentation. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

.  .  .  And then along came Tiffany Webb, pretty much the exact opposite of Brittany, with her wide grin, her dancing eyes, and her thirst for sharing her passion for all things sustainable with the world. Tiffany was quick to share her enthusiasm with the students and show them glimpses of life beyond the metal bars. Her stories were laced with leadership, compassion, and strength. Tiffany had a way of involving the students to the point there were actual tears among the lecture-goers when she left. It was a sad day when we had to say goodbye to Tiffany, but waiting in the wings was  .  .  .

Liliana describes her definition of sustainability to lecture series students. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

.  .  .  Liliana Caughman! Dear Liliana quickly became a reliable source of information to the women, one with good listening skills and a patient manner. She continues the Brittany/Tiffany legacy with passion and conviction, all the while spreading the word that these gals can make a difference in the world.

Brittany, Tiffany, Liliana are definitely “someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others”!

Enthusiasm, grace, and patience

By Carl Elliott, Kelli Bush, and Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP-Evergreen Managers

Fawn brought Princess Remington, a turkey vulture, to the lecture series at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, and held the class’ full attention for a solid hour (more about her presentation here). Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Fawn Harris fills her days to overflowing, and navigates her many activities with grace and patience. She is a Master of Environmental Studies student, employee and volunteer with West Sound Wildlife, regularly active in her cultural community and environmental movement, and she coordinates SPP’s prairie conservation nursery program at Washington Corrections Center—a relatively new program with unusual and complex demands.

Fawn is the first member of her family to attend college. She is passionate about education, the environment, and building community. She successfully juggles the many elements of her life.

Fawn works on plant pressings with a student at Washington Corrections Center. Photo by Carl Elliott.

At Washington Corrections Center, she works and studies with men who are cognitively disabled, and finds ways to make science and environmental education accessible and relevant to them. Partnering with this population is a new challenge for SPP, and Fawn has been central to the program’s success thus far. She has shown patience and perseverance with everyone involved.

Above all, Fawn is a wonderful communicator. She knows how to captivate a large audience, describing the habits of birds-of-prey in a way that makes a lasting impression. She will take the time with a student to explain and discuss complex topics until the student feels satisfied. She also stands up for herself, and says what she needs, so that she is both safe and effective in her work. We are so impressed by Fawn and so happy to be working with her!

Fawn Harris and Sadie Gilliom collect violet seeds at Washington Corrections Center. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

 

 

Excellent Student and Teacher

By Susan Christopher, Butterfly Technician, Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women

On his last day in the program, Seth holds a thank you card from the butterfly technicians. Photo by Keegan Curry.

The butterfly technicians from Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to our departing program coordinator, Mr. Seth Dorman.

Mr. Dorman was with the program for about a year and a half. During that time his dedication and work ethic inspired us to be the best workers, students, and scientists we could be.

Seth and butterfly technicians carefully work through “spring wake-up,” the time when the caterpillars come out of winter dormancy. Photo by a technician.

He was both an excellent student and teacher. He learned very quickly about DOC policies and SPP’s butterfly program. He treated us with respect, encouraged us to think outside the box and to step outside our comfort zone and share those ideas. He displayed tremendous patience and a great sense of humor, even while trying to explain the concept of a “null hypothesis” to us.

Mr. Dorman’s coordination efforts produced, for the first time ever, the opportunity for two technicians to join a butterfly release. Also due to his efforts, all four technicians attended the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly working group meeting, where we had input on region-wide efforts to protect and recover the endangered species.

We consider ourselves fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Mr. Dorman: Thank you, Seth; we wish you the utmost success in all your future endeavors.

The Many Benefits of Working With Students

Photos clockwise from the top left: Sadie Gilliom (ball cap), Ricky Johnson, Daniel Cherniske, Conrad Ely, and Lindsey Hamilton working in prisons. Photo of Conrad by Ricky Osborne.

By Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education and Outreach Manager

Our winter newsletter is about the many, wonderful students who work for the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP). SPP could not be what it is without them.

SPP-Evergreen team, 2011. Unknown photographer.

SPP’s founding director at The Evergreen State College hired graduate students to support prison programs beginning in 2008; that was when SPP was gaining traction as a more formal effort, and was growing in scale and scope (more about history here). At first, the workload demanded just one or two students at a time, and those individuals worked broadly—for multiple programs—to build partnerships and disseminate results. Over time, the number and complexity of programs being coordinated by SPP-Evergreen increased resulting in the current model: a student coordinating each ecological conservation and environmental education program.

SPP-Evergreen graduation party, 2013. Photo by Tony Bush.

We rely on student-staff Program Coordinators in myriad ways. They are the ones most often going into the prisons. They serve as the face of a program, and the leads for communicating details—large and small—that are part of the program’s successes. They continually add to the educational breadth of each program in many forms: formal presentations, seminars on scientific papers, hosting a partner-scientist’s visit, recommending readings, and countless conversations about programs’ plans, impacts, and larger context. Students also study SPP programs; they help track and evaluate the quality of each program, and ten have conducted formal research on SPP topics (a few examples here). Each student brings a unique perspective to SPP, and our programs are enriched by their energies and cutting-edge ideas.

Graduation brings an end to student-staff employment. Each coordinator trains their successor, which is as much about introducing them to the culture and ways of thinking as it is about program policy and protocols. Each turnover is bittersweet. We have to say good-bye to someone we have relied on and invested in, and it is painful to see them go.! At the same time, we get to welcome someone new, and their fresh perspectives helps SPP to continually improve; we can’t get stale! Also, there is the satisfaction of seeing SPP alumni go on to new and valuable endeavors, and we take pride in supporting their ongoing careers and aspirations.

Choosing just a few students to highlight in this newsletter means not highlighting most, and that is hard to do. Thirty-eight Evergreen students have worked for SPP so far. All have brought something important and enduring to our programs. You may learn more about most of them on our staff page. We hope that the following articles will serve to illustrate the range and diversity of their character, expertise, and strengths. These are wonderful humans, and it is such a pleasure to celebrate them!

DOC staff, Evergreen staff, and student-staff pose following a successful frog release, October, 2015. Photo by Woodland Park Zoo staff.

Fracking Lecture at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

By Gretchen Graber of Institute for Applied Ecology.

Geologist Duane Horton talks about hydraulic fracking in a prison classroom at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center. Photo by Dorothy Trainer of Washington Corrections.

The Sustainability Lectures Series at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Washington State hosted the first speaker of the year on February 9th.  The subject of the lecture was an Introduction to Hydraulic Fracking, presented by geologist, Duane Horton. The subject of hydraulic fracking was requested by an inmate last year and we were happy to fill that request. The technology behind fracking was explained, as well as the geology behind what makes fracking possible. The advantages and disadvantages were very well described by Duane, showing why the process is controversial. As usual, many insightful comments were made by the audience members. The Sustainability lecture series is supported by the Sustainability in Prisons Project, relying on cooperative efforts of Washington State Department of Corrections, The Evergreen State College, and the Institute for Applied Ecology.

Summit for Beekeeping in Prisons

By Emily Passarelli, SPP Green Track Coordinator, and Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education and Outreach Manager

A WSP Beekeeper gets geared up and ready to check on the hives. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

You might think that beekeeping in prisons is a nice idea, but not a big idea: maybe it’s a small, fanciful project that would crop up here or there. Not the case!

In Washington State prisons alone, we already have seven beekeeping programs up and running, and at least three more are in the works. Beekeeping is also in the prison at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and many corrections facilities nationwide, including Georgia, Maryland, IllinoisOregon, Florida, Nebraska, and LA County. Beekeeping programs can also be found in foreign prisons like England, New Zealand, Italy, and France. We’ve  been contacted by prisons interested in beekeeping in Massachusetts, Albania, and Canada!

Three Maryland facilities host honeybee programs to provide training for inmates and boost the local population of pollinators. These hives are at Maryland Correctional Institution for Women. Photo by Anthony DePanise of Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Outside of prison, reentry programs, like Sweet Beginnings in Chicago, offer meaningful work experience. The founding executive  director of Sweet Beginnings, Brenda Palms Barber, found that “Fewer than 4% of Sweet Beginnings participants go back into the criminal justice system, compared with the national average of more than 65% and the Illinois average of 55%.” How amazing is that?

Adding to the honeybee focus are countless prison gardens that are accessible to many types of pollinators: beds of flowers and herbs, small-scale vegetable production, and full-scale farms. Corrections facilities typically don’t use any chemical pesticides, so don’t contain the systemic poisons that threaten foraging pollinators; prison plantings are helping to rebuild pollinator habitat by offering a safe food supply. Some prisons add habitat structures for native pollinators, such as mason bee boxes at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (see photo) and a literal-log delivered to the retention pond at Airway Heights Corrections Center.

A home for mason bees, a native pollinator, at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

These programs tap into the many therapeutic benefits of working with nature, which has been widely documented in scientific research. Working with honeybees is particularly soothing; it’s impossible to get good results with bees without calming down. Both inmates and staff sorely need relief from prison stresses, and nature programs can be a place of refuge and recharge.

Also these programs provide a way for inmates to “give back ” to communities and the environment.  In recent decades, pollinators have been dying at a frightening rate, putting our food sources in jeopardy: we depend on pollinators for more than 30% of human food and drink. Generally, nearly all plants with flowers need pollinators; 85% depend on insects for their reproduction! We need healthy hives to conserve and restore bee populations. In 2015, pollinator health was declared a national priority; as a hobby or career, beekeeping is has societal recognition and value. This is no fanciful endeavor—we need bees to thrive so that we can thrive.

A professional beekeeper devoted her summer vacation to teaching about bees in a prison; how cool is that. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

In Washington, we are ramping up to a full-day Summit for Beekeeping in Prisons, to be hosted by Washington Corrections Center for Woman on March 3rd. More than 100 people are registered, and they will come from all 12 Washington prisons, the Evergreen State College, various non-profits and community groups, and multiple beekeeping associations, including the statewide association that oversees beekeeping certification. A major bonus of holding the summit inside a prison is that incarcerated beekeepers will be able to participate. All partners will share best practices, future prison beekeeping plans, safety ideas, community outreach plans, and pollinator health knowledge. We can’t wait to hear what great ideas and thoughts come from our many, fantastic partners!

Each program depends on partnerships among incarcerated individuals, corrections staff, and expert beekeepers. They are united in learning about and tending to something beautiful, complex, and a little bit scary…until it becomes second nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prison Shares Earthworm Wealth with Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

Text and photos by Sadie Gilliom, current SPP Western Pond Turtle Program Coordinator and previous Northwest Trek employee

The worm bin built for Northwest Trek with the team who created it.

Inside the three rows of razor wire, Monroe Correctional Complex houses more than incarcerated people. A partnership between an incarcerated individual and a correctional staff member initiated a waste reduction program that now is home for millions of thriving earthworms. Under the supervision of an officer, and with support from SPP-Evergreen, Nick Hackney—now a world renowned worm expert—and his team grew 200 worms into more than 10 million that process up to 40,000 lbs of food waste per month! The worm farm’s success has inspired addition of other programs; all are housed within a larger Sustainable Practices Lab. All the lab’s program have the benefit of coordination and oversite provided by Officer Jeff Swan.

This program has been around for over 6 years now, and the worm technicians have been spreading their worm wealth.  Most recently, the crew came built a heated outdoor worm bin for Northwest Trek Wildlife Park (Trek).  Trek plans to use the worm bin as a public engagement tool and will feed the worms with the scraps from the staff lunchroom.

Mr. Hackney shows Rachael Mueller how to use Trek’s new worm bin.

I had the privilege of coordinating the delivery and escorting a member of Trek’s conservation team, Rachael Mueller, up to Monroe for a tour and pick up of the finished product. I was present as two unlikely sustainability partners came together. It was a beautiful moment!

Mr. Juan shows how they use Bokashi bran to ferment meat before feeding it to the worms.

A few of the vermiculture techs helped load the bin into the truck.

Vermiculture Tech’s, Sadie Gilliom and Rachael Mueller pose at the end of the worm program tour.

The worm team at Monroe gave Trek a well-designed worm bin, shared their knowledge on how to maintain it and gave them a sample of black soldier fly larvae from a pilot program to see if they would want to use them as animal feed. Northwest Trek will be sharing the knowledge and story of the worm team’s impact on sustainability practices with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. I would call that a great partnership!

Mr. Hackney and Rachael Mueller shake hands after the exchange

Thank you to Northwest Trek—especially the Conservation and Education Curator Jessica Moore—for being open to the idea. A big thank to the Monroe worm team and Officer Swan for donating their knowledge and a beautiful worm bin to Trek and their generations of visitors to come!

What do the students get from SPP lectures? Part One

Part One: Surveys Say…!

Text by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education and Outreach Manager
Figures by Liliana Caughman, SPP Science and Sustainability Lecture Series Coordinator

Brittany Gallagher receives a completed survey from a student at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

Every SPP Science and Sustainability Lecture since 2009 has included surveys about the program. Before and after each lecture, we ask students to fill out surveys and hand them back, and usually they do. Lucky for us, the current lecture series coordinator, Liliana Caughman, is also a whiz kid with data. Building on the work of Tiffany Webb and Brittany Gallagher, Liliana examined answers from 15,874 before and after surveys from SPP lectures (do you see how big that number is?? It blows me away!).

The data show patterns that are impressive and statistically defensible. Here is a summary:

  • Figure 1.

    The students are gaining environmental knowledge from the lectures; not a big surprise, and always nice to have confirmation!

 

  • As the years pass, students are learning more from our lectures (see Figure 1). We wonder, does this mean they are becoming better students, or that the lectures themselves have improved?

 

  • Figure 2.

    As Tiffany Webb found in 2014, students’ attitudes about the environment have been steadily increasing over time (see Figure 2). Many students do not become more positive about the environment as a result of a single lecture, but most started with such positive regard of environmental topics that no change is still a good thing! I see this as confirmation of what we’ve experienced: that there has been a positive culture shift within Washington State prisons.

 

  • Figure 3.

    Liliana devised 3 criteria to describe how engaging a lecture is. She assigned a score for how much a lecture 1. provided hands-on experiences 2. empowered students to be helpful to others who are important to them 3. built community and connections between people. She compared each lecture’s engagement score with how much environmental attitudes increased for the same lecture, and found a lovely correlation (Figure 3). These results suggest that Liliana’s engagement score is valuable measure of a lecture’s quality. More importantly, I think, is that the 3 criteria become guides for guest lecturers going forward: we will ask them to make presentations with hands-on activities, ideas on how to help others, and ways to connect students to people inside and outside the prison.

Last week, we took these survey results to the classroom at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. We asked the students for their input on how the program is offered, lecture topics, and the surveys themselves. They had so much valuable feedback that I will save it for Part Two of the story. Part Three will come when we take the same presentation and questions to Washington Corrections Center for Women in March!

To kick off discussion of the lecture series, Liliana Caughman described what the word sustainability means to her. Photo by Elijah Moloney.

 

Evergreen’s President for Climate Action

Letter from Higher Education Leaders on Climate Action

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education & Outreach Manager

Late last week, Evergreen’s President George Bridges joined hundreds of his colleagues nationwide in signing the Letter from Higher Education Leaders on Climate Action to president-elect Trump and members of Congress. In the letter, they urge the government to support:

1. Participation in the Paris Agreement, with the resulting national carbon reduction and clean energy targets, to protect the health of our current communities and our future generations.

2. Research in our academic institutions and in federal agencies to ensure that our national climate, energy, and security policies are based on leading scientific and technical knowledge.

3. Investments in the low carbon economy as part of a resilient infrastructure to ensure the country can adapt to changing climate hazards. These investments will also help grow American jobs and businesses. (Full text available here.)

In his associated statement to the Evergreen community, George said:

Our study and practice of environmental stewardship are deeply linked to our commitment to addressing global concerns about the health and welfare of all communities. Evergreen also assumes that understanding and solving environmental challenges such as climate change or food security requires firm grounding in research in the natural and life sciences. Equally important is understanding the role that social, political and economic forces play in causing these challenges and remedying them fully and effectively. Advancing knowledge about the challenges is critical. (Full text shown below.)

At SPP, we are tremendously grateful that the college’s president has taken a stand on what may be the most confounding, complex, and critical challenge yet faced by humankind. Thank you, George!

Here is George serving the campus community at the 2nd annual Clams with George free lunch; he loves to treat us! Photo from Evergreen archives.