Thank you for your involvement with the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) and our Environmental Engagement Workshop Series. We are grateful that you are willing to share your expertise and experiences with incarcerated students. Below are a few guidelines for facilitating a successful workshop.

Presentation Content and Tone

Expect attendance of 30-80 incarcerated students.

Shape materials and activities for intelligent adult learners from extremely diverse backgrounds. Think about how to connect with a variety of learning styles; for example, using audio, visual and tactile learning techniques in addition to verbal. Move around the room as you talk, to distribute attention and connection. When using technical and scientific concepts, define your terms and use simple, accessible descriptions and illustrations.

The most influential SPP workshops engage students in three ways (and high engagement correlates with greater positive attitude shift):

  1. Topic and activities directly apply to student’s life—either by pointing to relevance, or through experiential learning (hands-on is great!)
  2. Focus on building community (existing and/ or future communities, inside and/or outside prison)
  3. Pro-social relevance: connections to larger society and ways that students can be helpful to others

Offer ideas for actions that are accessible to incarcerated people. Keep in mind:

  • People in prison cannot look something up on the internet, write an email, or easily call their senator.
  • Nearly all will reenter outside communities, but likely will not be able to vote and will want to avoid radical protest (or any activity that puts them at risk with the justice system).
  • They can be excellent students and disciplined agents of social change. For example, they can help create/improve programs, author articles, organize communities, influence friends and family, pursue higher education, and be impassioned speakers and advocates.

Developing a Successful Workshop Session

Plan to facilitate a 90-minute session. We recommend a combination of activities, at least three kinds of activities during the session. Examples of activities that have been successful include:

  • Lots of time for questions and answers included throughout your presentation. Repeat students’ questions for the whole group to hear before answering.
  • Ask your students questions that only have “right” answers, like What do you picture when I say “sustainable neighborhood”? When was the last time you threw food away? What kind of contact with nature is most important to you? What kinds of impacts might climate change have on you and your family? What are some ways that you use plants in your day to day life? How might [this topic] show up in your day to day life here, in prison?
  • Open-ended discussion questions for students to think about and discuss
  • Presentation with or without slides (if you will show lots of slides, introduce with  an overview slide that outlines your presentation)
  • Handouts: 1-2 pages showing outline of the workshop and/or overview of workshop topic; worksheets for students to fill out during or after the session; relevant photos, short articles, or information sheets that that students may take back to their cells
  • Demonstration, e.g. showing how to do something, or describing models/specimens you brought with you
  • Time for students to draw, design, or diagram alone or in small groups
  • Reflective writing to introduce or wrap up a topic, e.g. 5 minutes for students to write about ideas or answers to a question
  • Short videos (Please be aware that there is no internet access inside the facility. Either download and embed videos into your presentation, or provide the direct video files, or both, just in case).
  • Breakout group discussions; relying on the SPP staff coordinator as a second facilitator means you could at least split the group in half
  • Description of possible jobs available related to the information presented; also skills needed and training programs associated with this area of science