Author Archives: Jennifer Bass

Welcoming Sarah Larson to the SPP Team

Meet Sarah Larson, the new SPP Education Development Manager!

Sarah grew up in the South Puget Sound and considers Tacoma her hometown. Growing up in Washington, she has always been interested in the natural world. A few years after moving to Olympia, she learned about the Master of Environmental Studies (MES) program at The Evergreen State College. The program was a perfect fit, eventually bringing her to SPP in 2020 as the Program Operations Coordinator.

Sarah Larson and Carl Elliott load plants for the Conservation Nursery program at Washington Corrections Center for Women. Photo by Savannah Richard.

As the Program Operation Coordinator, Sarah assisted the SPP team with administrative tasks, reports, planning, and educational development. While she primarily worked at The Evergreen State College, she frequently supported other coordinators, helping with the butterfly, conservation nursery, and turtle programs, especially when the pandemic limited incarcerated technicians’ access to program areas. She helped ensure that endangered species like the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly and Western Pond Turtle received vital care when technicians could not reach the program area. She really enjoyed working with other coordinators and supporting their programs, but it wasn’t until the incarcerated technicians were out of quarantine and able to work alongside her in the program areas that the full depth of the programs and what they mean became apparent.

Sarah Larson and Kelli Bush learn about the Sustainable Practices Lab composting program from Chris McGill at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. Photo by Carl Elliott.

During spring and summer of 2022, Sarah stepped in as the Sagebrush Program Coordinator. She worked with incarcerated technicians at Stafford Creek Corrections Center to grow native sagebrush for restoration projects in eastern Washington. She also delivered educational content, allowing technicians to earn academic credit from The Evergreen State College. She appreciated the opportunity to coordinate a program and work directly with incarcerated technicians.

Sagebrush growing in a hoop house at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Sarah Larson.

In MES, Sarah studied a wide variety of topics. She earned her undergraduate degree in geology at WWU and focused on a variety of topics during the MES program, including flood mitigation in the Chehalis River basin and red alder nitrogen inputs to Puget Sound. Sarah points to some of the amazing people with ecology and botany backgrounds she met in her cohort that inspired her to complete a thesis on plants. Her thesis focused on herb Robert, a common invasive plant in the region, and worked to identify what mechanisms it may use to outcompete native species and establish itself in relatively intact habitats.

Sarah is now taking on a new role at SPP as the Educational Development Manager! She is excited to help design fun and engaging educational materials for incarcerated students and unconventional settings. She recognizes that SPP does not exist in a vacuum and is grateful to continue collaborating with and learning from the many SPP partners and other education providers. Most of all, she looks forward to learning more about prison education and how best to serve the population.

In her free time, Sarah enjoys being outdoors and anything involving plants or rocks! She also teaches environmental science and geology classes for Centralia College at Green Hill School and Cedar Creek Corrections Center. She loves traveling, hiking, and camping with her two children (especially if there are opportunities to see new plants)

Tacoma Community College’s Horticulture Program is in Full Bloom!

Horticulture students and teaching assistants from Tacoma Community College (TCC) have been busy growing succulents, flowers, houseplants, produce, and more at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW).

Some of the many house plants and flowers grown in TCC’s horticulture program. Photo by Derek Thedell.

The program, a partnership between WCCW and TCC, provides students the opportunity to earn college credit while developing hands-on skills. Students spend time in the classroom learning about horticulture techniques and practices with TCC instructors and a volunteer Master Gardener.  Students then implement what they have learned about plant production and care in two facility greenhouses and gardens throughout the grounds. 

Some of the many succulents and plants available for WCCW to purchase. Photo by Derek Thedell.

Produce grown in the gardens often makes its way to the WCCW kitchen and is incorporated into menu items.

Some of the produce harvested by TCC horticulture students. Photo by Derek Thedell.

Other plants, like the ornamental kale, go to local businesses and organizations for landscaping.

Ornamental Kale at WCCW. Photo by Derek Thedell.

Some of the plants and flowers even go to the Governor’s mansion for special occasions throughout the year!  Overall, TCC’s horticulture program is the perfect example of the importance of partnerships in delivering high-quality programs in WA prisons.

SPP Bees Preparing for Winter

As the cold and rainy months appear, the SPP beekeepers are preparing to tuck the bees in for the winter.  

After a long season of sunshine and collecting pollen, the bees are starting to return to the hives for the colder months. While bees do not necessarily hibernate in the winter, they do retreat to their hives and stick closely together when the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit to stay warm. Winter can be a difficult time for bees and their beekeepers. An article written by NPR, stated that in 2019, about 40% of hives did not survive the winter. The SPP beekeepers at various facilities are hard at work to protect the bees from mites, harsh temperatures, and heavy rain.  

Stafford Creek Corrections Center

Beekeepers at Stafford Creek Corrections Center are testing an insulated hive this winter. The bee club introduced the hive in September, carefully transferring bees from a wooden hive frame to a plastic insulated hive.  

The new insulated hive at SCCC by the old wooden hive. Photo by Shohei Morita.

While transferring the hive, the bee club was surprised to find that one hive was missing a Queen! The bee club conducted a detailed search of every panel and used the situation to teach new beekeepers about the signs of a missing queen and overall bee health.   

SCCC Bee Club members comb through the wooden frames looking for a Queen. Photo by Shohei Morita.

After combining two hives in the insulated hive, SCCC bee club and bees are prepared for the winter! The bees adjusted well to the new hive and are beginning to return, store honey, and cluster together for the winter.  

Cedar Creek Corrections Center

The Cedar Creek beekeepers are also busy preparing the bees for winter. The bees at McNeil Island are still bringing some colorful pollen into the hive as well as propolis from tree resins to fill any cracks in the hive before winter. 

Bees at the small entrance that Cedar Creek beekeepers will modify before winter. The bees have propolized the edge of the wood to completely seal the hive.  Photo by Laurie Pyne at McNeil Island.  

The Cedar Creek beekeepers provided additional feed and are providing ample amounts of liquid syrup to help prepare for the cooler months. As the temperature begins to get colder, the beekeepers are prepared to add a sugar brick for emergencies and to apply quilt boxes with more shavings.  

Washington Corrections Center for Women

Beekeepers at Washington Corrections Center for Women are preparing for winter by building quilt boxes and making sugar cakes. The WCCW beekeepers have four healthy hives heading into the cooler months and are currently going through twenty cups of sugar a week! 

Beehive at WCCW. Photo by SPP Staff.

 The beekeepers use cedar ships to fill the quilt boxes and are actively monitoring to prevent hornet invasion. In the coming months, the beekeepers are excited to host educational group classes while the bees cluster for the winter.  

While the bees are heading in for the winter, SPP beekeepers are headed to the hives to prepare dry, warm, and cozy environments for the coming months.