Collecting Sagebrush Seeds

Article and photos by Gretchen Graber, Sagebrush Grower Contractor at the Institute for Applied Ecology

Seed collectors pose with their seed collection bags.

As part of the Great Basin Sagebrush partnership, we collected sagebrush seed twice this November. The Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) Coyote Ridge off-site inmate technician crew collected first at Swanson Lake Wildlife Refuge, and then in the Saddle Mountains on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property. Both properties are part of Washington State’s sagebrush steppe landscape.

Seed collectors take turns viewing sagebrush seeds through a scope.

For the Saddle Mountain collection, many local native plant society members volunteered, and we were joined by a Juvenile Justice Center work crew. For both collections we had great weather. We enjoyed being outside learning about partnership efforts to restore shrub-steppe habitat for the continued existence of the imperiled greater-sage grouse.

We gathered seed from a subspecies of big sagebrush, called Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata subsp. wyomingensis). The seeds will be shipped and cleaned at the Seeds of Success seed cleaning facility in Bend, Oregon. Then it will sent back to Washington State to be used to grow next year’s crop of 60,000 Wyoming big sagebrush plugs in Coyote Ridge’s Sagebrush Nursery. We collected enough seed to create a reserve supply for the program, and share with other programs for research and conservation purposes.

Seed collectors smile from the field, surrounded by mature sagebrush.

Seeds of Success intern Shawna Kelley supported both collections, along with BLM botanist Molly Boyter. Seeds of Success supports BLM’s Native Plant Materials Development Program whose mission is to increase the quality and quantity of native plant materials available for restoring resilient ecosystems. The Wyoming sagebrush plugs will be planted onto fire damaged lands occupied by the greater-sage grouse. The entire seed collection and sharing process ensures the availability of genetically-appropriate seed for the recovery of the greater-sage grouse in Washington State. Funding for the program is provided by BLM in Washington D.C., the Institute for Applied Ecology coordinates programs regionally, and Sustainability in Prisons Project runs the Washington State program.

During seed collection, they discovered a dead lizard atop a spiny hopsage plant; it was probably intended for later eating by a loggerhead shrike (the Cornell laboratory describes the species as “a songbird with a raptor’s habits”).

What is an Aquatic Emergent Pre-Vegetated Mat?

By Amanda Mintz, Emergent Vegetation Conservation Nursery Coordinator, and Master of Environmental Studies student

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Technician Kent Dillard inspects the plants for evidence of pests. Photo by Fawn Harris.

In SPP’s new Emergent Vegetation Conservation Nursery at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, we are growing native wetland plants in coconut fiber mats for wetland restoration projects. The program relies on a team effort from incarcerated technicians, prison maintenance staff, Evergreen’s program coordinators and managers, Joint Base Lewis McChord, the Center for Natural Lands Management, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the United States Fish and Wildlife. All have done an amazing job meeting the challenges of the innovative program’s technical demands.

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DOC’s Jim Snider, technician Brian Bedilion, aquaponics expert Daniel Cherniske and SPP Program Manager Kelli Bush tour the nursery. Photo by Fawn Harris.

Coconut fiber mats, or “coir” mats, are commonly used in restoration for erosion control and suppression of weeds such as reed canarygrass. We are pre-planting them with wetland sedges and rushes, giving those beneficial plants a head start under nursery conditions. These plant types are known as “emergent” for their ability to grow through—emerge from—the water’s surface. Our hope is that the plants will be able to out-compete weeds and provide superior habitat for wildlife, such as the endangered Oregon spotted frog.

To grow the plants, we are using an aquaponics system. Two large fish tanks contain more than 100 koi, which produce waste that the plants use as nutrients. The water from the fish tanks circulates through the plant beds and then back to the fish tanks to pick up additional nutrients. The plants grow directly into the coir mats and do not need soil. By using an aquaponics system, we save water and reduce the need to weed or fertilize the plants.

We installed the first mats at Joint Base Lewis McChord in early November, and plan to have new mats ready in just a couple of months.

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Conservation Nursery Manager Carl Elliott prepares to unroll a mat at JBLM. Photo by Amanda Mintz.

 

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The first mats have been installed! Photo by Amanda Mintz.

New Turtles Arrived!

Text and photos by Sadie Gilliom, SPP Western Pond Turtle Program Coordinator

After a few months of waiting, Cedar Creek and Larch Corrections Centers have each received a new batch of turtles for their Western Pond Turtle Rehabilitation Programs!

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One particularly adorable turtle who recently arrived at Cedar Creek.

During this waiting period, the turtles received acute care for shell disease, which included antibiotics, antifungal medication and shell surgery.  The turtles that have arrived have completed treatments and just need watchful eyes and extra time to heal and wait out the winter months. The technicians provide all of this and more. They were excited to have new turtles to care for and prep for their eventual release back into the wild!

Mr. Hill, a Turtle Technician at Larch, getting ready to put a new turtle in her tank.

Mr. Hill, a Turtle Technician at Larch, getting ready to put a new turtle in her tank.

Mr. Goff, a Turtle Technician at Larch, getting ready to put a new turtle in her tank.

Mr. Goff, a Turtle Technician at Larch, getting ready to put a new turtle in her tank.

I delivered the turtles with the help of WDFW biologist, Emily Butler, to Cedar Creek on Monday November 1st and just this Monday  Larch received their turtles. We were honored to have Dr. Matt Brooks, a nutritionist from the Oregon Zoo, to help us transport the turtles to Larch.  This was Dr. Brooks’ first visit to the turtle program.  He is helping us to improve turtle health by increasing the nutritional value of their diets. We are so thankful for his help, as we are always looking for ways to improve the quality of care provided to these endangered turtles.  Thank you Dr. Brooks!

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Dr. Brooks and the Turtle Technicians posing with a bin full of mealworms. Dr. Brooks took a sample of mealworms back with him to test their nutritional value.

A Master of Training

by Eugene Youngblood, Roots of Success Master Trainer at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center
& Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education & Outreach Manager
Photos provided by DOC staff

Timing + Action = Success

I once read:

The wrong action at the wrong time leads to disaster.

The right action at the wrong time brings resistance.

The wrong action at the right time is a mistake.

The right action at the right time results in success.

The Roots of Success program at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC) is more than just environmental literacy; more than facts, figures, data, and information. Roots of Success is the first definitive action step for those who are caring, thinking, men on the cusp of change. If indeed the right action at the right time results in success, the men here at CRCC who have taken the Roots of Success course have taken the first step in the direction of positive change.

We are in the midst of a revision (addition) to our Roots of Success program where we are going to provide students with “hands on training,” resume writing, cover letter production, and other essential requirements for green employment. And with the full support of the administration we are finally able to not only fulfill our commitment as instructors but provide essential tools needed for effective reentry. Hopefully, this will culminate in a “green” mock interview fair.

When all is said and done; we want to make sure that more is done than said… because we know actions speak louder than words.

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New Roots of Success instructors and staff sponsors at Airway Heights Corrections Center pose with Master Trainer Eugene Youngblood, far left.

Instructor Training at Airway Heights Corrections Center

Eugene Youngblood has taught the environmental literacy curriculum, Roots of Success, for more than two years now. Since September, 2014, he has led students through the 50 hour curriculum ten times, and also taught Correctional Industries’ condensed version of the course. His writing about the Roots of Success curriculum (above) shows his enthusiasm for the program and investment in its students.

Mr. Youngblood also is a Master Trainer for the curriculum. Last month, he left his “home” facility, Coyote Ridge, and visited Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC) to certify 18 new instructors for the facility. He spent two days with the class of instructor candidates, well-supported by Roots’ training script and multi-media presentations. Consultation with Dr. Pinderhughes, the curriculum’s creator, proceeded and followed the session.

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Future Roots of Success Instructors listen intently to a presentation during the 2-day training.

By all accounts, the instructor training was a success. From Dawnel Southwick, one of the program’s staff sponsors at AHCC, in a message to program partners:

Mr. Youngblood was consistently professional as the facilitator, and set a high standard for participants in the Roots Instructor class.
Each student participated and was given practical and effective feedback about their strengths and weaknesses in the process.  The feedback was applicable and easy to understand.  No one was left out or neglected. Each student was treated with the highest respect, and responded positively to the facilitator, curriculum and presentation. I noticed all the students were engaged, interested, and eager to hear and learn from Mr. Youngblood.

Thank you for allowing and making this amazing opportunity happen here at AHCC.

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An instructor candidate takes his turn practicing leading the class.

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Productive small-group work punctuates presentations during the instructor training.

Turtle 4176’s Release

Co-Authored by Western Pond Turtle Technicians Taylour Eldridge and William Anglemyer

On Monday October 3rd, turtle 4176 was released from the Turtle Rehabilitation program at Cedar Creek Corrections Center . She had been there for quite some time—about 4 months, with a month long intermission at PAWS wildlife rehabilitation center in Lynnwood, WA—then back for another 4 months.  She had suffered from seizure-like episodes and for awhile it looked like she wouldn’t be deemed releasable back into the wild.  We had been worried, as people who have spent time in solitary confinement ourselves, that months in captivity would have a detrimental effect on her.  So it was a great relief to finally load her into a container and board a van destined to deliver her to the Lakewood Western Pond Turtle Refuge.

Turtle Technicians, Mr. Anglemyer and Mr. Eldridge, getting ready to release turtle 4176. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

When we arrived, we were met by Washington State Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Emily Butler.  In addition to facilitating the turtle release, Ms. Butler showed us how the radio telemetry transmitters are attached to the turtles. We were then given a training on how to use the radio receivers and Ms. Butler took us to the area where the turtles lay their nests.  She had hidden two mock (plastic) turtles with transmitters attached to the shells.  We took turns using the radio receiver and the attached antenna to find the plastic turtles. We both found it quite difficult; it’s not even close to easy to use the radio telemetry equipment.  But we were eventually successful in locating them–truthfully, we received some visual hints. We have a new-found respect for anyone who has to attempt to find turtle nests in this manner.

Technician, Mr. Eldridge, learning to use the radio telemetry equipment. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

Apart from the experience making us much more aware of the very difficult work of finding nests, it was a great learning experience which gave us a new found appreciation for the hands-on work that goes on in the field—a part of the program we’d never been privy to before. We learned of the plethora of other activities that the biologists do every day to help with the recovery of this amazing species.

We both feel good about being part of the SPP Western Pond Turtle Rehabilitation Program and we cannot think of a more worthwhile job—especially as people in an incarceration setting. We’re looking forward to helping the next batch of turtles get through their healing process and seeing them released back into the wild.  We hope the day will come soon when there are no more turtles that need help healing.  Hopefully, the future will bring multitudes of healthy turtles living in their natural habitat.

Sustainable Practices Lab at Washington State Reformatory

By Officer Jeff Swan

Within the last year, Washington State Reformatory (WSRU) at Monroe Correctional Complex has consolidated its wood shop, bike shop, and Worm Farm, and added wheelchair and black soldier fly programs to create a thriving Sustainable Practices Lab.

Joni and Friends’ Wheels for the World: We work with this non-profit organization to restore wheelchairs and for individuals in need in 3rd and 4th world countries. WSRU started the program in May of this year, and now has more than 275 wheelchairs nearly ready for our first shipment container, set to sail to Nigeria at the beginning of November. Our goal is to restore more than 1,000 wheelchairs every year.

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Representatives from Wheels for the World pose with SPL program inmates and staff and two of their restored wheelchairs.

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A Wheels for the World representative discusses wheelchair restoration with the group.

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Worm Farm: Our Worm Farm is a full-scale waste management operation that uses vermicomposting to convert food waste into prized fertilizer. Technicians feed food waste to worms housed in “flow-through” bins, and collect the castings (worm manure) produced at the other end of the process. The Worm Farm houses 7 million worms in commercial-style bins, and has the capacity to handle more than 20,000 pounds of food waste per month. Food waste disposal from the WSRU has been cut by half so far, and we are on track to attain zero waste from the kitchen. (Editor’s note: The program now serves as an international model for worm composting.)

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Based on consultations with leading experts for vermiculture and vermicomposting, available materials, and trial and error, the team has built many kinds of worm bins, and continually makes improvements to the operation.

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The BSF program space is a relatively small enclosure within the much larger Worm Farm—the enclosed space is easy to heat (these insects need a warm environment), and keeps flies from flying away!

Black Soldier Flies: Animal-based fats and oils cannot be fed directly to the Worm Farm worms, and the team sought a solution for handling meat and dairy waste. In August of 2015, we received approval and funding from the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) to conduct a six month trial with Black Soldier Flies (BSF). The pilot showed that BSF processing is an efficient and highly productive method for converting meat and dairy waste into a beneficial product. At the conclusion of the six month trial, from more than 3 lbs/foot3/day of food waste, we had a sustained harvest of 80 ounces of larvae/day. We donate excess larvae to nearby zoos as high-quality animal feed. Building on this success, we are expanding the BSF operation.

The Bike Shop: This program provides a way for inmate to give back to their own communities by helping nearby kids and families in need. The local Sheriff’s Office and police donate unclaimed bikes to the program. Technicians assess each bike, and restore them to excellent working order. We deliver the refurbished bikes to the Snohomish Boys & Girls’ Club and local food banks for distribution to families who couldn’t otherwise afford a bike.

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The wood shop, bike shop, and Wheels for the World share space in the SPL, and the productivity in each program is clearly visible!

Wood Shop: In the SPL’s wood shop, you will find inmates making wooden toys, cars & trucks, jewelry boxes and games. We will deliver some of these items to local fire and police departments for distribution to community members. We will donate others to local food banks and the Children’s Hospital. We retain a small portion of the creations for fund-raising; we auction them and proceeds are put back into the program to keep it self-sustaining.

 

Adding Salt to Popcorn: Gaining a taste for sustainability

by Grady Mitchell, Roots of Success Instructor and Master Trainer, Stafford Creek Corrections Center.

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Grady Mitchell speaks to a graduating class. He has taught the Roots of Success curriculum twelve times, and was certified as a Master Instructor in 2015.

A few years ago, prior to Roots of Success (ROS) someone could have held a conversation on sustainability and I’m sure it would have been as interesting to me as popcorn without the salt. Today I am not only able to present the curriculum to students, but also have a variety of discussions with them on the subject. In a sense my own experience has given me even more material to share with students (myself and my colleagues like to refer to our classes as peer to peer education) because most of them had no idea the impact of their habits and choices have on the environment, any more than I.

Sustainability in simple terms means being able to meet our needs now without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. However, this term has been taken hostage so to speak because manufacturers use it for their own selfish gain. We as consumers have to take sustainability back and know that sustainability is survivability. By adding the word ‘Just’ before Sustainability, makes it fair and equal.

This is significant to me because in order for the future generations to be sustained, an interest on the matter needs to prevail now. Failure can’t be an option because to do so could literally mean the extinction of those we love dearly and plan on leaving our legacy to. Sustainability is a built in feature of all natural environmental systems provided that human interference is absent or minimized.

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Grady Mitchell sits with his fellow instructors a graduating class of Roots of Success. Photo by DOC staff.

To get to a more sustainable lifestyle is going to require, inevitably, some radical changes in attitudes, values and behavior. The answer to creating global values and actions is blurred for now. How we get to less pollutants and more sustainable reliances and reuse may depend on generations yet to come (if we make it that far), because as it stands, we haven’t been doing too good of a job. Changing our personal habits; reducing the carbon footprint; our practices being altered for the benefit of sustainability is ‘just.’ In the book “Last Child in the Woods,” a phrase was coined called Nature Deficit Disorder. All it takes to cure this disorder is to get outside and enjoy nature. With seven billion people in the world, imagine the impact from just being sustainable or creating nature. Imagine a society where our lives are as immersed in nature as they are technology.

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Turtle technicians x and x hold healthy western pond turtles prior to releasing them. The turtle program staff sponsor, Shaun Piliponis, stands with them. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

In order to make sustainability more inclusive takes education and a willingness to embrace lifestyle changes. The guerrilla gardener of South Central Los Angeles, Ron Finley stated, “If kids grow kale, kids eat kale.” If the inspiration was focused on making sustainability hip, cool, the thing to do, then we have a cure for Nature Deficit Disorder. Allowing our generation to see with their own eyes and then pass it on to the next is “just.” César Chavez stated:

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.”

One of the videos available to our students in our Roots of Success class tells us, in 1915 a Canadian commission on conservation made an interesting proclamation, they said “each generation is entitled to the Interest on the Natural Capital, but the Principal should be handed on unimpaired.” We enjoy the fruit (the interest) from the tree (the principal), but if we cut the trees down both the principal and the interest will be gone forever. So in the end, Just Sustainability could really mean we all take responsibility not only for ourselves, but for community, the planet and most important, the ones who come after us.

Climate Science at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

By Gretchen Graber, Institute for Applied Ecology Contractor

As part of the sustainability lecture series at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, climate scientist Steve Ghan spoke about the most effective techniques to decrease global carbon emissions. Mr. Ghan thanked us for the opportunity to present his research at Coyote Ridge and said, “I got the best questions I’ve ever been asked at a public presentation. All inmates were fully engaged. The staff are professional and enjoy their work. The facility is new and very impressive.”

The lecture series is funded by Bureau of Land Management, (BLM) in Washington D.C. Along with the BLM, the lectures series is a result of partnerships between Sustainability in Prison Project (Washington State Department of Corrections + The Evergreen State College) and Institute for Applied Ecology.

Thank you to Mr. Ghan and all the volunteer presenters for their time and sharing their scientific knowledge with us!

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Climate scientist Steve Ghan said of the students at the prison “I got the best questions I’ve ever been asked at a public presentation.” Photo by Gretchen Graber.

We will end the year with a presentation on the advantages and disadvantages of hydraulic fracking.

The Honey Bees are a Buzzin’ at Larch Corrections Center

Written by SPP Liaison and Classification Counselor Shawn Piliponis.

On September 8, 2016, Larch Corrections Center (LCC) reached another historical milestone as it kick-started a new apiary (beehive) program by hosting a class to educate participants about bees and beekeeping.

Larch Staff and students enjoying the Bee Thinking lecture. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

Larch Staff and students enjoying the Bee Thinking lecture. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

Inmates and staff who participated were genuinely interested in learning about bees and beekeeping, but were understandably concerned about the potential of being stung by bees. Rebekah Golden and Gabriel Quitslund from Bee Thinking in Portland, Oregon, taught how bee colonies work, which alleviated a lot of the initial fear, and those who participated walked away feeling more educated and comfortable about LCC’s new beekeeping program.

Bee Thinking's Rebekah Golden teaches a class of staff and incarcerated students about beekeeping. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

Bee Thinking’s Rebekah Golden teaches a class of staff and incarcerated students about beekeeping. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

“I want to help the offender population think outside the box by showing a variety of employment opportunities available to the offenders upon release,” said Classification Counselor Shawn Piliponis, LCC’s sustainability liaison. “My primary goal for this program is to coordinate with other organizations like SPP and Bee Thinking to provide official Beekeeper Apprentice and Master Beekeeper certifications to the offender population before they release.”

It was a voluntary class, and an instant hit among all who attended. A total of 11 inmates and 11 staff, volunteers, and contractors participated, and already there is demand for more classes from both staff and inmates.

Staff get a closer look at honey comb. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

Staff get a closer look at honey comb. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

Shawn Piliponis coordinated with the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP)-Evergreen staff Kelli Bush, Emily Passarelli, and Sadie Gilliom to arrange and sponsor the beekeeping class for LCC inmates and staff. The class was taught by Rebekah Golden and Gabriel Quitslund from Bee Thinking in Portland, Oregon. Rebekah has worked with bees for eight years in university research labs, her own apiary, Bee Thinking’s apiaries, and other community organizations. Gabriel is a sales manager for Bee Thinking who has a vast knowledge of bees and issues related to beehives such as disease, colony collapse, and pests.

Bee Thinking's Rebekah Golden and Gabe Quitslund help CC2 Shawn Piliponis set up Larch's new beehive. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

Bee Thinking’s Rebekah Golden and Gabe Quitslund help CC2 Shawn Piliponis set up Larch’s new beehive. Photo by Emily Passarelli.

The new beekeeping program at LCC will start with a beehive donated from the beekeeping program at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC).

 

Creative Illustrations for Monarch Butterfly Conservation

By Graduate Research Assistant, Jeanne Dodds

Photos by Ricky Osborne

Drawing and art making are powerful tools to increase the ability to focus, relax, and develop creative problem solving in areas far beyond visual art. As an artist, illustrator and teacher, my experience working with students has illuminated the understanding that drawing teaches people to see. When we look closely in the way that illustration demands, we observe and comprehend the subtle details that make our subject significant and unique.

Teaching the art of the butterfly

Teaching the art of the butterfly

We learn so much by looking closely, understanding, and representing. These were ideas I hoped to convey when planning a natural science illustration class as part of an internship with SPP for students at Airway Heights Correctional Center.

The illustration workshop was developed around the essential relationship between milkweed and Monarch butterflies and —most importantly—how creating artwork about this relationship can inspire understanding of core issues facing the imperiled Monarch butterfly and actions we can take to preserve and restore this species.

Studying the butterfly specimens

This internship project, pursued with support from SPP staff, the Endangered Species Coalition, Airway Heights, and other partners, centers on the proposal to develop a milkweed propagation site at the prison. The idea is to grow a species of milkweed, Asclepias speciosa, which is native to Washington State. Milkweed seed from plants grown in the prison would  be collected by technicians for habitat restoration at designated sites near Spokane. The project goal would be to increase habitat for the Western population of the Monarch butterfly. Milkweed is the obligate host plant for Monarchs; eggs are laid on the plant and emergent caterpillars consume the leaves of the plants, developing toxicity which makes them undesirable to predators such as birds. Habitat where milkweed has historically grown has been destroyed due to pesticide use, changes in land use patterns, and other factors. Without milkweed, the only host plant for key lifecycle stages, the survival of Monarch butterflies is imperiled.

Inspiring message from an incarcerated artist: lifecycle of the Monarch

Sharing knowledge about this symbiotic relationship between butterfly and plant by creating illustrations with students and corrections staff at Airway Heights was inspiring. The workshop participants asked insightful questions, expressing concerns about how the loss of important pollinators such as Monarchs will impact other species, including humans. They saw the intricate detail of Monarch wing scales and milkweed leaves in specimens borrowed from the University of Washington. These observations were captured in detailed, creative colored pencil and graphite illustrations.

We talked about how drawing is a practice that takes patience and that mistakes made provide opportunities to reinforce skills. At the end, we viewed all of the work in a classroom gallery walk and shared what we noticed; a key observation was how everyone approached the project in their own way, some realistically, others adding words, some representing their ideas about how to protect these species. One of the most profound observations was how drawing and educational workshops like this allow students to feel reconnected to the community and themselves. It’s my hope that this connection will extend outward toward the development of a milkweed planting project and restoration of habitat for Monarchs, a species that so eloquently represents cycles of growth, transformation, and renewal.

Jeanne Dodds is a Teaching Artist, illustrator, and photographer who explores themes of connection and discord in the relationship between humans and the natural world. She is an incoming student with the fall 2016 MES cohort, and interned with SPP to research milkweed and Monarchs during summer quarter.