Category Archives: Education

Sustainable Practices Lab at WA State Penitentiary – Part 2

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

This blog is the second photo gallery from my visit to the Sustainable Practices Lab (SPL) at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla (see part one here).

wood-shop

Roy Townsend runs the wood shop, and when he describes his work he lights up like he’s singing. The shop fixes desks, chairs, and guitars. With donated/reclaimed wood, they also build beautiful chess boards, train sets, and other specialty pieces that become valuable auction items for non-profit fundraising.

Roots-classroom

The Roots of Success classroom is housed within the lab and the program serves as a ten week job interview for the SPL. Four days a week for ten weeks, students spend the morning in the classroom and the afternoon in various sustainability positions. About 70% of the 127 graduates so far have been offered jobs, and no one can recall anyone turning down the opportunity. It’s a great model for turning theory into practice.

SPL-Clerk,-Parkins

Kieth Parkins is an exemplary spokesperson for the lab, and knows its programs inside-out. Robert Branscum, the corrections specialist who oversees the SPL, stayed with us throughout the tour, but Kieth served as the primary tour guide. Throughout the tour, I was struck by the inmate technicians’ investment in the programs, and their eloquence in presenting them.

sign-shop,-Williamson-2

We met Ray Williamson in the SPL’s sign shop, and he spoke passionately about his investment in peer-led programs. He said that when inmates run programs, they feel ownership, and that they listen to each other in a way they would never listen to staff. He expects to be in prison for life, and considers it his life work to help rehabilitate other inmates so that once they are released they never come back.

sewing-area-2

The sewing area is colorful and hopping with activity. They produce quilts, upholstery, and teddy bears for non-profit auctions. They see their teddy bears as their ambassadors.

teddy-bear-eyes

Nearly all the materials for the sewing area are donated–the only costs are the sewing needles and the teddy bear eyes, shown here.

sewing-area

Here is another view of the SPL sewing area. Some favorite pieces are displayed on the wall.

sewing

Gus started the teddy bear program. He said to me, “Never in my life—and I’m 60 years old—never in my life wanted to get up and go to work until I got this job.”

 

That seems to me the perfect last word on the Sustainable Practices Lab.

 

 

CRCC Roots Course Leads to Inmate Interest in Sustainability

by Christina Stalnaker, SPP Roots of Success Coordinator

Travis Turley, Roots graduate and graduation speaker, poses in front of CRCC's Roots of Success sign after graduation.  Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett

Travis Turley, Roots graduate and graduation speaker, poses in front of CRCC’s Roots of Success banner after graduation. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC) graduated 16 Roots of Success students November 25th, 2014.  Empowered by what they’ve learned in the course, these inmates were excited to share their experiences at graduation and are ready to become more involved in the sustainability of their facility.  Graduation speakers Travis Turley and Kuoy Chhong discussed how the class changed their views on environmental problems.  Chhong cited a teaching of the First Nations, “we are the protectors of the Earth.”  An avid snowboarder, Chhong wants to be more active in saving our winters to protect the snowpack.

CRCC's most recent Roots graduates: Kuoy Chhong, Christopher Edwards, Edwin Edwards, Seth Fulmer, Richard Johnson, James Lees, Neil Mitchell, Andrew Quinn, Jayson Smith, Travis Turley, Kimothy Wynn, and Jeffery Willis.  These inmates successfully completed the Roots of Success Environmental Literacy Curriculum where they learned about a variety of environmental issues and prepared for re-entry into the green economy.  Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett

CRCC’s most recent Roots graduates: Kuoy Chhong, Christopher Edwards, Edwin Edwards, Seth Fulmer, Richard Johnson, James Lees, Neil Mitchell, Andrew Quinn, Jayson Smith, Travis Turley, Kimothy Wynn, and Jeffery Willis. These inmates successfully completed the Roots of Success Environmental Literacy Curriculum where they learned about a variety of environmental issues and prepared for re-entry into the green economy. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Next, Turley spoke of a common goal for humanity: “a better life and sustainable future.”  He referred to environmental challenges and said that to him, “this knowledge meant nothing.  It’s not that I didn’t care, I just didn’t know enough.”  Armed with new insights gained through Roots, Turley says he now has, “a chance to hope and a chance to change people like ourselves.” After Chhong and Turley’s speeches Joslyn Trivett, SPP Network Manager, and Christina Stalnaker, SPP Roots of Success Coordinator, gave a virtual tour of SPP throughout Washington State.  Students were curious about existing sustainability projects at CRCC and had questions about what future programs for the institution might be.

Roots of Success Instructor Jason McDaniels welcomes graduates and guests to the ceremony.  Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett

Roots of Success Instructor Jason McDaniels welcomes graduates and guests to the ceremony. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

During SPP’s “peer to peer” planning event in June, education and culture change was one of the top three priorities voted for CRCC’s sustainable programming.  Educating inmates on environmental literacy through programs like Roots of Success is but one step towards that goal. CRCC is the nation’s first LEED Gold prison, and  since the structure itself is already so sustainable it presents a unique challenge to find ways to improve.

Thomas Brown, Derrick Martin-Armstead, Jason McDaniels, Jay Powell, and Eugene Youngblood, CRCC's Roots of Success Instructor staff, stand in front of their new SPP banner.  Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett

Thomas Brown, Derrick Martin-Armstead, Jason McDaniels, Jay Powell, and Eugene Youngblood, CRCC’s Roots of Success Instructor staff, stand in front of their new SPP banner. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Offenders are excited about sustainability and  have requested to be a part of CRCC’s Sustainability Committee.  This committee is charged with implementing sustainable initiatives throughout CRCC’s campus.  The first joint staff-inmate meeting will be in January 2015.  We are excited to hear what ideas arise and how recent Roots graduates will be putting their newly acquired knowledge into action!

Christina Stalnaker, SPP Roots of Success Coordinator, and Chuck Hudgins, Correctional Industries Food Group Statewide Sustainability Manager, talked about sustainability project plans and ideas after graduation.

Christina Stalnaker, SPP Roots of Success Coordinator, and Chuck Hudgins, Correctional Industries Food Group Statewide Sustainability Manager, talk about sustainability project plans and ideas after graduation. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Congratulations goes out to all staff and inmates involved in the success of this latest cohort!

First Beekeeping Certification in-prison for SPP-WA

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

Master Beekeeper Renzy Davenport of the Olympia Beekeepers Association and the Pierce County Beekeepers spent six Thursday evenings with a class of inmates and staff at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. At the seventh meeting, he certified all students as Apprentice Beekeepers. As far as we know, this is the first in-prison beekeeping certification program in Washington state, and we hope it will be the first of many.

A newly-certified beekeeper receives recognition from Renzy Davenport of the Olympia Beekeepers Association. Photo by Fiona Edwards.

A newly-certified beekeeper receives recognition from Renzy Davenport of the Olympia and Pierce County Beekeepers Associations. Photo by Fiona Edwards.

The classes conveyed all the fundamentals of beekeeping, including how to build up colonies without buying more bees. Renzy provided practical guidance on how to turn beekeeping into a business. At an earlier class, the students sampled several varieties of honey and learned how to create the more tasty varieties—no one was very interested in how to achieve a “buckwheat honey,” as they thought it smelled like wet dog, but the raspberry and wildflower varieties were popular!

For those at Cedar Creek in the spring, they will have the chance to work with the in-prison hives. During the winter months, the bees are quiet and cannot be disturbed, but starting in April there will be plenty to do to care for the bees and their hives.

The first class of certified beekeepers at Cedar Creek Corrections Center pose with their certificates. Photo by Fiona Edwards.

The first class of certified beekeepers at Cedar Creek Corrections Center pose with their certificates. Photo by Fiona Edwards.

Many thanks to Renzy for donating his time to teach the program, and to all the students and administrative support at the prison. Thanks to Fiona Edwards for attending the certification ceremony so we could help celebrate this first beekeeping class.

Inmates’ Zeal is the Key to Roots of Success in Ohio

by Christina Stalnaker, SPP Graduate Research Assistant

Women from the Ohio Reformatory for Women and Northeast Reintegration Center graduate from Roots of Success Facilitator Training.  This is the first time ODRC brought Roots to women's prisons.  Photo Credit: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Women from the Ohio Reformatory for Women and Northeast Reintegration Center graduate from Roots of Success Facilitator Training. This is the first time ODRC brought Roots to women’s prisons. Photo by Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

“Roots of Success was the core component that tied together our cultural change in environmental awareness. We had begun recycling and composting. We addressed energy and water conservation, but I knew we needed education to really reach the inmates. Roots of Success took our green initiatives to a new level; it led the change that allowed inmates to be part of the environmental awareness at SCC (Southeastern Correctional Complex). The passion I saw from the inmates was amazing.”

-Warden Sheri Duffey, the first Warden to bring Roots to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC)

In prison classrooms throughout Ohio, ODRC provides facilitator training for inmates to deliver Roots of Success, an environmental literacy curriculum. These facilitators will prepare fellow inmates for re-entry into the green economy. ODRC also leverages inmates’ new-found passion and environmental education to implement sustainability initiatives throughout their facilities. ODRC brought Roots of Success to its first institution in 2011. Leah Morgan, ODRC Energy Conservation & Sustainability Administrator, informs us that the program proved to be so successful that it is now implemented in 19 out of 26 institutions, with plans to expand into all facilities within the next year.

Lorain Correctional Institution recently hosted ODRC’s largest Roots of Success train-the-trainer course to date, including both men and women from their facilities. Photo by Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Morgan attributes the program’s success to their inmates, “Honestly, though, it wouldn’t have taken off the way it did without the passion of the inmates behind it. They LOVE this program.  We have long-term offenders trained and certified to facilitate the program, so a) it is not incredibly staff intensive, and b) it gives them meaningful work that they don’t normally have an opportunity to have.”

You can see video testimony from two of ODRC’s original trainers here:

Video by Roots of Success.

Video by Roots of Success.

Both Tony Simmons and Willie Lagway are Roots of Success Master Trainers at the Southeastern Correctional Complex in Lancaster.

Environmental Justice and Hope for the Commons

by Tiffany Webb, SPP Lecture Series Coordinator

Working with SPP as a graduate student has provided more opportunity and professional experience than I could have imagined when I started as the Lecture Series Coordinator. Since then, my interest in social and environmental justice has blossomed, spurred by regular interactions with incarcerated individuals and the excitement they display for environmental topics. Thus I found myself presenting at the Just Sustainability: Hope for the Commons conference hosted by the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability at Seattle University this past weekend.

Science and sustainability lecture at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Photo credit: Benj Drummond

Sustainability workshop at Washington Corrections Center for Women. Photo credit: Joslyn Rose Trivett

Lecture versus Workshop

I presented on behalf of Sarah Weber, a former SPP coordinator and MES graduate, whose thesis research focused on environmental education in prison. More specifically, her research compared teaching methods (lecture vs. workshop-style presentations) and their influence on inmate attitudes and knowledge of environmental topics. Interestingly, when reanalyzing Sarah’s research for publication, we found results that differed from the original analysis: female students benefited more from workshops and male students benefited more from lectures (see figure below). This finding is particularly helpful for ensuring that the environmental education opportunities we offer are tailored to the audience. As the Lecture Series Coordinator, I plan to use these findings to better promote environmental learning through offering more workshops for women and lectures for men.

Results from Weber research

Results from Weber’s research.

“You never know what you can’t do.”

Presenting at the conference was a great experience, but my most appreciated take-away came from the wonderful plenary speakers. We heard from Bill McKibben of 350.org, the most widespread political action organization in our history; Sarah Augustine, a sociologist at Heritage College and indigenous activist; and Denis Hayes who coordinated the very first Earth Day and has gone on to do so much more.

They spoke about the global extraction industry and its impact on the environment as well as the displacement and rights violations of indigenous communities. The ecological problems they outlined were sobering, but they all offered a similar call to action. They encouraged everyone to reach beyond what you think is possible, because, as Denis Hayes put it, “You never know what you can’t do.” And while exercising political will can sometimes be uncomfortable, it is always necessary in encouraging effective change. I learned so much from these amazing people and the lessons they shared from years of environmental activism. Hearing their stories sparked a fire in my consciousness, and I feel reenergized in the work I do with SPP, the research for my Master in Environmental Studies, and in my personal life.

If you’re interested in getting involved with environmental action in the PNW, check out:

350.org

Beyond Coal WA

Climate Solutions

The E3 Network

Sierra Club, WA State Chapter

The Butterflies Get Their Own Computer

By SPP Taylor’s checkerspot program coordinator Lindsey Hamilton

At Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) four inmate technicians raise Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies as a contribution to the recovery of this prairie species. Following the direction of the Oregon Zoo in Portland, Oregon, they have been successfully rearing and breeding these butterflies for three years. This butterfly was federally listed in October of 2013, which means that anyone working with this species is now held to high accountability and rigorous reporting. The technicians at MCCCW have always been successful at collecting detailed data on all phases of butterfly husbandry.

IMG_0693
The Oregon Zoo recently created an Access database that will store all rearing and breeding information for both facilities in one place. This database will increase the quality of all data collected and provide for efficient access for tracking trends and bi-annual reporting.

Butterfly Computer
This has created a new opportunity for the technicians at MCCCW to learn the skill of data entry and management using Access. A computer containing this database was set up in a common living area within the facility last fall, and as simple as this sounds, it represents a major accomplishment for a prison environment! The inmate technicians will now be able to directly enter their data from the program . The Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly program coordinator for SPP, Lindsey Hamilton, will then extract the data via USB and send it to the Oregon Zoo. Butterfly rearing is seasonal work, and the technicians usually have little to do in the off season. With the 2 years of back logged data that needs to be entered, the technicians will stay busy this winter when our caterpillars are sleeping.

SPP’s New Lecture Series Certification

by Tiffany Webb, SPP Lecture Series Coordinator
Students at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC) take in the lecture on Mt. Rainier.

Students at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC) take in the lecture on Mt. Rainier. Photo credit: John Dominoski

This past Thursday at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC), inmates were recognized for their science and sustainability education achievements! This is a new certification program through the SPP Science and Sustainability Lecture Series in which inmates are recognized for attending 5, 10, 20 or more lectures.

Tiffany Webb congratulates a lecture series certificate recipient.

Tiffany Webb congratulates a lecture series certificate recipient. Photo credit: John Dominoski

Following the award ceremony, Jeff Antonelis-Lapp, a faculty of The Evergreen State College, presented on the natural history of Mt. Rainier— a topic he is currently researching and writing a book about. The presentation included both the geological history and indigenous peoples’ interactions with the mountain hundreds of years ago. Mr. Antonelis-Lapp also spoke about future hazards associated with Mt. Rainier, particularly lahars (volcanic mudflows). He displayed breathtaking images of the mountain, surrounding areas, archeological sites, and animals that call the range home. Those in attendance received a fact sheet and image of Mt. Rainier to keep.

Tiffany Webb talks with an inmate during the lecture.

Tiffany Webb talks with an inmate before the lecture. Photo credit: John Dominoski

After the lecture, Jeff and I toured SCCC’s sustainability programs. This was my first time at Stafford Creek during this time of year, and I just have to say, their gardens are beautiful! The flowers are blooming in brilliant colors and you can tell the inmates involved are very proud of their work.
The "Lifer" garden at SCCC in full bloom.

The “Lifer” garden at SCCC in full bloom. Photo credit: Tiffany Webb

“Participating in the transformation of the world” : Roots of Success at Stafford Creek Corrections Center

Students meet in small groups to discuss the material

Roots of Success students meet in small groups to discuss the material.

By Amory Ballantine, SPP Roots of Success Coordinator
Photos by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”
― Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

On Wednesday, May 7, I had the privilege of sitting in on my first Roots of Success class and, later, attending the previous cohort’s graduation ceremony. The class I visited is held at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC) in Aberdeen and team-taught by inmate instructors. It was the second class in Roots of Success’s curriculum, titled “Fundamentals of Environmental Literacy.” I was moved and impressed by how the curriculum’s structure engages students in thinking critically about challenging technical concepts, and by the learning environment instructors and students have created.

Inmates in SCCC’s Roots program are clearly committed to environmental justice and to each other. Instructors and administrators encouraged students to generate ideas for institutional changes and to educate each other, drawing parallels between commitments to environmental sustainability and commitments to one another’s success.

We sat in the back of the classroom, behind twenty-seven students in khaki and beige. At the front of the room were flipcharts, a table, a podium, and three instructors: Grady Mitchell, Cyril Walrond, and David DuHaime. They took turns teaching for about an hour each, separating sections with short bathroom breaks. Now team-teaching Roots for the fourth time, the instructors are excellent at what they do. Their styles are unique, complementing each other well, and they worked together seamlessly. Mitchell’s presence is commanding and dynamic, DuHaime’s careful and personal, and Walrond’s heartfelt and encouraging. All of them joked with the room, putting us at ease, while gently challenging every student to contribute to discussion. Because they are inmates themselves, instructors use examples relevant to students, creating an environment which promotes collaboration and camaraderie. While teaching the concept of bioaccumulation, for example, Instructor Mitchell described the formaldehyde added to prison sheets to keep them from sticking together. “Shake an unwashed new sheet and you’ll see the powder that comes off! I sleep with a towel on top of the pillow now.”

Instructors DuHaime, Walrond, and Mitchell facilitate conversation about the waste cycle

Instructors DuHaime, Walrond, and Mitchell facilitate conversation about the waste cycle.

Instructor Walrond writes students’ answers during discussion of perceived obsolescence

Instructor Walrond writes students’ answers during discussion of perceived vs. planned obsolescence.

Instructors posed lots of questions to the class, who had good, interesting and insightful answers. They learned about waste and consumption cycles, how small amounts of toxins accumulate in our bodies over time (bioaccumulation), climate change, environmental justice, and more. Students’ diverse backgrounds and life experiences made for very interesting and enriching discussions.

They appeared wholly absorbed in a discussion of climate change, including concepts of “climate injustice” and environmental injustice. Instructors asked the class how global warming might impact health, and students came up with several examples of ways poor people might be affected: being unable to afford air conditioning in the summer or heat in the winter; keeping doors and windows shut in the summer because of safety concerns in high-crime areas; being unable to afford to go to the doctor when sick; being unable to afford insurance coverage for their homes in case of climate-related disasters. One student pointed out that you could say it was the other way around, and in fact social and economic injustice are exacerbated by climate change. In a discussion of planned vs. perceived obsolescence, someone shared the powerful insight that not only products, but people– including entire neighborhoods or communities–could be perceived obsolete.

A student asks if homes can be perceived obsolete, leading to discussion of perceived neighborhood obsolescence

A student asks if homes can be perceived obsolete, leading to discussion of perceived neighborhood obsolescence.

Prairie Appreciation Day 2014 – Photo Gallery

Photos by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager.

The object of our affections: south Puget Lowlands native prairie, one of the rarest landscapes in the nation, and a beautiful place to be in the springtime.

The object of our affections: Puget Lowlands native prairie, one of the rarest landscapes in the nation, and an especially beautiful place to be in the springtime.

Balsalmroot (Balsamorhiza sp.) broadcasting its beauty in the morning sun.

Balsalmroot (Balsamorhiza sp.) broadcasting its beauty in the morning sun.

SPP's offering for those who would like to be Taylor's checkerspot butterflies: native flowers atop juice boxes.

SPP’s offering for those who would like to emulate Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies: native flowers atop juice boxes.

A visitor enjoys her creation.

A visitor to SPP’s booth enjoys some nectar from her creation.

Federally-listed Endangered golden Indian paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta) growing on the prairie. Our Conservation Nursery Manager Carl Elliott participated in their planting many years ago!

Federally-listed Endangered golden Indian paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta) growing on the prairie. Our Conservation Nursery Manager Carl Elliott participated in their planting many years ago!

To find out more about Prairie Appreciation Day, see the article: Butterflies, flowers and prairies, oh my! by one of SPP’s conservation nursery coordinators, Bri Morningred.

Counting the Birds instead of counting the days until summer at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women

By Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly program coordinator and Graduate Research Assistant, Lindsey Hamilton

At Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) four inmate technicians rear Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies as a contribution to recovery efforts for this endangered species.  These  technicians are hired to work year-round even though the workload is not consistent throughout the year.  In late July the butterfly larvae enter into diapause, which means that they cuddle up with their brothers and sisters to sleep until late February.  During this life stage the technicians have minimal butterfly-related responsibilities.

For the first time this year the technicians are participating in a citizen science project organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology called Project FeederWatch.  Project FeederWatch surveys birds that visit feeders all across North America throughout the winter months.  Feeders that are surveyed can be located in backyards, community areas, nature centers, and even prisons!  The inmates at MCCCW watch three different bird feeders for a period of time on two consecutive days of every week, and record how many birds of each species that are attracted to the feeders.  This data is collected by an SPP Graduate Research Assistant and entered into the FeederWatch database online.  The information collected by this project helps scientists track movements of winter bird populations on a broad scale and is also used to monitor long term trends in bird distribution and abundance.