Environmental Education

Education is integral to SPP’s programs. SPP-Evergreen aims to make the most of both formal and informal education opportunities and to offer new knowledge and new practice to incarcerated students, staff, and partners. While our goal is to provide education in every program, education and training in conservation and environmental education programs (described here) are SPP-Evergreen’s central focus.

Starting in 2021, SPP began awarding college credit for some SPP programs to incarcerated students during incarceration. Using Evergreen’s Prior Learning from Experience model, SPP has awarded 580 college credits to 96 students since 2022. College credit is currently available for students for 6 SPP program. SPP covers the $350 per student fee associated with the credit and does not pass any fees on to the student.

The education offerings described below focus primarily on education. For classes focused on ecological conservation, please see here.

Gardening Course

Benjamin Asaeli is a student in the first class to pilot the Gardening Course, launched in August 2020. Photo by Marisa Pushee.

Foundations in Gardening is a 4-credit course that provides the academic fundamentals of small-scale food production, as well as the planning, critical thinking, and observation skills necessary to grow food and beneficial flowering plants. Topics include plant cultivation, healthy soils, garden placement, beneficial insects, and pest management. This gardening course for in-prison gardeners and learners in the summer of 2020. An extensive partnership contributed to program development and we are so grateful to all–inside and outside of prison–who made suggestions, wrote, and reviewed course materials.

The course is meant to complement existing education & gardening programs and meet more of the widespread demand for gardening education. The course is peer-led, and this should mean that many more interested gardeners will be able to study and receive credit for their new knowledge. The main program cost is the $350 college credit fee and printing the 500-page course books that provide every student with course orientation, an overview of gardening principles, and literature on several advanced topics, with discussion questions and exercises throughout.

Foundations in Composting 

Two people shovel compost into a wheelbarrow.

Gardeners at Cedar Creek Corrections Center load compost into a wheelbarrow. Photo by Erica Turnbull.

Foundations in Composting is a 2-credit course that builds on previous work in Washington State prisons and aims to provide foundational knowledge of composting science, techniques, and applications. The course provides education and training for small- to large-scale composting programs. The Foundations in Composting course is developed for the classroom or similar teaching and learning spaces with a culminating project and opportunities for hands-on learning. This course is flexible, designed for the corrections environment, and can be led by a peer facilitator, other instructor, or volunteer. Students who complete this class and all required components will receive transferrable college credit from The Evergreen State College. 

Environmental Workshop Series

Workshop series coordinator Erica Benoit leads a nature illustration workshop at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, SPP’s environmental workshop series was going strong at three prisons (Stafford Creek, Washington, and Mission Creek Corrections Centers) and frequently extended to other prisons. At each prison each month, an expert in natural science, sustainability, or the environment shared their expertise. Topics were wide-ranging and engaging: wildlife biology, hydrology, innovations in composting, energy and biofuels, environmental justice, and reconciling science and religion. More than 4,000 incarcerated students have been part of SPP’s workshop series since 2009, and most attended more than once.

Workshops were enthusiastically received and we heard many requests for more topics and more events. Once we are able to re-start the program, share your expertise in science or sustainability by contacting spp@evergreen.edu.

Roots of Success (2013-2023)

A class of Roots of Success graduates and their instructor pose during a graduation ceremony at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Roots of Success (“Roots”) is an environmental studies curriculum that covers vital environmental topics and challenges students to think critically and innovate community-based solutions. During its ten-year period as a staple of sustainability programming in Washington prisons, Roots students were equipped with job readiness and re-entry skills to prepare for work in the green economy. The 50-hour course was taught by incarcerated instructors who were certified to deliver the curriculum; Both instructors and students were dedicated to ensuring the success of peer-led classrooms. More than 1,600 incarcerated adults in Washington prisons graduated from the program during its 10 years as part of SPP.

Many Roots students and teachers shared insights gained in the program. A Roots graduate, Austin Mays, wrote about Roots’ effect on his in-prison work as a cook:

…living in a place where you have little outside interaction causes you to be left behind. We, in prison, fail to see the world consuming itself. I recently graduated from Roots of Success and during this course my eyes were opened. Prison is its own city. The overhead is huge, and any way we can work together to create the best living conditions—by using the natural resources around us—is the best way.