Sowing Seeds for Transformative Education

By Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education and Outreach Manager, The Evergreen State College

In early January, we welcomed Master of Environmental Studies graduate student Carly Rose to the Sustainability in Prisons Project team at The Evergreen State College (SPP-Evergreen). Her position, and now her presence, fulfills a long-held dream: that someone on our team could be solely devoted to coordinating, creating, and improving educational materials.

Photo of Carly by Keegan Curry.

The position creates a new focus on organizing and cataloging SPP’s existing educational materials and capacity for developing new materials that are in high demand. Three funders have made this possible. Via our Evergreen colleague Scott Morgan, we are delighted to host our first Sustainability Fellow, providing for about five months of the one-year position. Sustainability Fellowship positions at Evergreen are funded by a generous, anonymous donor. Matching that, we have a recent, very helpful gift from the Herb Alpert Foundation. With these two donations, there was only a small funding gap remaining and we were able to use funds provided by another anonymous donor from the Seattle Foundation to support Carly’s time for a full year.

The ability to add the position could not have come at a better time. In SPP programs, the demand for more educational content is higher than ever. Also, we have new allies in curriculum development, both within Washington State Department of Corrections prisons and in outside organizations. All these factors provide a tremendous opportunity and we’re so pleased to be able to make the most of it.

Our good fortune continued with Carly Rose’s application. She brings an optimal mix of environmental and social interests and expertise. She has a B.A. in Sociology from Western Washington University and professional experience from a variety of social service settings, including supported employment, foster care, and transitional aged youth mental health. An ideal complement comes from her studies in Evergreen’s Master of Environmental Studies program and her self-led exploration of organic farming, native plant identification, and other elements of sustainable living – she can easily relate to the students’ desire to learn more about such topics!

Gardeners at Airway Heights Corrections Center tend the prison’s “big” garden. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

With SPP, Carly’s first priority is to coordinate efforts to create a peer-led gardening curriculum that is tailored to the particular interests and capacities of incarcerated gardeners. In her first four months, she has connected with the many partners and stakeholders in the effort, including two teams of incarcerated students, the Institute for Applied Ecology, University Beyond Bars, and Oregon Food Bank’s Seed to Supper program. Again, Carly appears to be made for this work; she shows a partnership mindset with every contributor, carefully considering their input, limitations, and needs. When the curriculum is completed, SPP plans to work with partners to make it broadly available—matching interest we’ve heard from allied organizations across the country.

As envisioned, Carly is also making strides to catalog SPP-Evergreen’s existing educational files. She is developing templates for learning guides in all of our ecological conservation programs. Our unwieldy collection of articles, presentations, and handouts is beginning to take the shape of an accessible and powerful library.

With both efforts, SPP’s ability to offer meaningful, empowering education to people in prisons expands. We can better support staff turnover on our team, giving each new program coordinator ready access to a wealth of educational materials. This fall, we can support students and staff inside prisons as they try out the new gardening curriculum, and then still have capacity for gathering their suggestions for improvement. Carly sums it up well:

“I am so excited to contribute to and grow with the SPP team; a multi-disciplinary team that includes Evergreen’s SPP staff, Washington State Department of Corrections’ SPP staff, community supporters and partners, and most importantly the incarcerated technicians and students who invest their time and hearts into these sustainability programs.”

We are so grateful to the three donors who have made this position possible. With their combined contributions, we were able to take on this important work. Education is the most effective way to reduce recidivism, breaking the cycle of incarceration. The investment in Carly’s work has significant positive impacts on SPP’s ability to deliver empowering education to benefit people, communities and ecosystems.

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