Green Plate Special's New Kitchen Classroom Takes Shape

June 2014 News

Green Plate Special’s motto “Grow, Cook, Eat, Diggit?” accurately describes the gardening-based nonprofit’s goal of educating youth about good nutrition by bringing middle school students in contact with homegrown fruits and vegetables through curriculum-based hands-on planting and cooking activities designed to address childhood health, obesity and life skills. They believe that by empowering diverse, urban youth to interact with nature – and get their hands dirty in the preparation of food, their ability to become self-sufficient and healthy adults increases exponentially. Once they learn good nutrition, they can in turn teach their families and peers.

In order to bring their garden mission to life, Green Plate Special needed a flexible classroom space for prep work, teaching and gathering with one unique concern – the classroom had to be deconstructable so that it could be moved to another site in the future. A tight budget called for a creative design solution that maximizes the useful life and flexibility of the building, now under construction.

To address Green Plate Special’s program needs, Environmental Works designed a simple rectangular building using structural insulated panels (SIPs) for the walls, floor and roof, which are screwed together, facilitating deconstruction for relocation to a new site. SIPs also provide a well-insulated building envelope that will reduce Green Plate Special’s energy bills, and the panel faces are made from rapidly renewable resources.

For Executive Director Laura Dewell, having Environmental Works’ experience with nonprofits allowed her to focus on programs and fundraising – not learning complex permitting processes. To her, Environmental Works’ ability to create a functional design, with creative cost-effective solutions that save tight dollars means she has more time to spend working to create a wonderful atmosphere for both kids and plants to grow and thrive together. Only in its fourth year of operation, Green Plate Special is serving 200 students which she expects will double in the next several years.

Green Plate Special’s burgeoning gardens are at 2115 – 25th Ave South in Rainier Valley; you can also watch their progress and find out more about connecting kids to gardens via their website and blog at