Annual Winter Conference

14th Annual Growing Minds Through Massachusetts Agriculture Conference for Educators


Saturday, March 7, 2015


Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School, Palmer, MA


9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.


$50 ($45 if registered by December 31,2014)


Two-Page Winter Conference Flyer - PDF Version


Print and Fill in & fax or mail a Conference Registration Form - PDF Version

On-Line Registration:

Online Registration Form

Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom is sponsoring our 14th Statewide Winter Conference for teachers at The Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School in Palmer, Massachusetts on Saturday, March 7, 2015 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Titled "Growing Minds Through Massachusetts Agriculture," the conference offers offers educational and networking resources, activity ideas and framework connections that can facilitate and enhance pre-K through 12th grade classroom teachers alike and help bring agriculture to the classroom.

This year's conference will feature a choice of four concurrent workshops during each session throughout the day. Each workshop will be taught by a school teacher, farm educator or a teacher working together with a farmer. Workshops will offer specific background and activities for either elementary, middle or high school level. Topics will include: composting, school gardening, soils, nutrition, animals, fibers, connecting the farm to school, specific lessons ideas and more. Don't miss this day of discussion, interaction and opportunities for exploring new ideas for your Massachusetts classroom. The $50 fee includes all workshops, lunch, materials and 10 pdp's with a related classroom activity.

*Advanced Registration fee: for the full day, including lunch, is $50. ($45 if registered by December 31, 2014)

*Registration on the day of the Conference: $55 (Subject to space availability.)

*Exhibitor fee: $50. (An 8 by 10 foot table will be supplied; exhibitors should be set up no later than 8:30 a.m.)

*Professional Development Points: 10 PDPs are available for Massachusetts teacher who attend the full day conference, carry out a related classroom activity, and send in a brief report of their experience. We can also provide a certificate of participation for pre-school educators and teachers from other states. For More Information: call Debi Hogan at 508-336-4426 with your questions.

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Conference Schedule: Workshops & Demonstrations

8:00 a.m.:

Registration, coffee, tea and breakfast snack and exhibits

8:30 - 9:00 a.m.:

Introductions & Welcome Presentation

9:00 - 10:10 a.m.:

Workshop Session 1 (Concurrent sessions, choose one of six workshops)

10:20 to 11:30 a.m.:

Workshop Session 2 (Concurrent sessions, choose one of six workshops)

11:30 a.m. to 12:50 p.m.:

Lunch, Awards and Speaker, followed by the opportunity to interact and visit exhibits.

Presentation of The 2015 AgriScience Excellence Award

12:50 to 2:00 p.m.:

Workshop Session Three (Concurrent sessions, choose one of six workshops)

2:10 to 3:20 p.m.:

Workshop Session Four (Concurrent sessions, choose one of six workshops)

3:20 p.m.:

Evaluation and Wrap Up and Distribution of MAC Educational Materials.

Schedule of Workshops

Workshop Session 1: 9:00 to 10:10: (Choose 1 of 6 workshops)

Workshop 1: Getting Started in the School Garden

Experienced school garden educators will discuss how they developed their school garden programs. Learn how they engaged teachers, parents, students and the greater community to achieve success. They’ll offer an overview of building the garden, and locating materials on a budget: such as supplies, soil amendments, seeds and plants. Additional topics will include curriculum connections; creating infrastructure and mechanisms for sustaining the garden. Participants are encouraged to bring questions with them. Target range: all grades.

Workshop 2: Greenhouse 101

The school greenhouse provides terrific educational opportunities and a chance to get a jump on the garden season, but it also brings unique challenges and problems. Jen Werner, horticultural instructor at Springfield Technical Community College will offer an overview of greenhouse management, providing insights and scientific background that will ensure success and satisfaction. She’ll review seasonal planning and provide project ideas. Take advantage of the questions and answer session to raise your specific concerns.

Workshop Presenters: Jennifer Werner, Professor at Springfield Technical Community College, Springfield, MA

Workshop 3: Biomimicry

Biomimicry is the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems. The most famous example of biomimicry was the invention of Velcro brand fasteners by Swiss engineer George de Mestral, who took the idea from the burrs that stuck to his dog's hair. Other examples include termite towers for passive cooling, whale power turbine blades, bird wing shaped airplane wings and shark skin swimsuits. Exploration of biomimicry can be used to inspire students to come up with solutions for common problems and meet STEM standards.

Workshop Presenters: Maria Berrios, teacher at Auburn High School

Workshop 4: How to set up and maintain an indoor worm compost bin

Take a step towards developing your own green classroom. Composting is nature’s way of recycling and worms are known as nature’s recyclers. Learn first hand, how we can recycle our garbage, reducing waste that would go into a landfill, and use the compost material for planting new plants. This workshop will show how to set up an inexpensive worm composting bin for your classroom. Instructions for harvesting your compost material and ways you can use it will also be covered. Amy Donovan will offer tips and activity ideas for building and managing the bins with your students.

Workshop Presenters: Amy Donovan, Program Director, Franklin County Solid Waste Management District

Workshop 5: Seed Starting

Learn about seed starting with MAC School Garden Mentor Alice Posner.

Workshop Presenter: Alice Posner, MAC Program Assistant and School Garden Educator

Workshop 6: TBD


Workshop Session 2: 10:20 to 11:30 (Choose 1 of 6 workshops)

Workshop 1: Back to Work Basics: Simple Machines on the Farm & in the Garden

Immerse yourself in children’s books that use agriculture and gardening as a theme as you learn how to use these books as a jumping off point to enhance your classroom curriculum. Early Childhood Curriculum Developer, Karen Daughtrey from Holyoke, will share some of her personal collection of 1,600 kids books. As you explore and “play” with the collection, you'll explore standards-based, cross-discipline  lessons plans developed for this workshop...and for you to add to your "teacher toolbox." Target Grades: Pre-K through Grade 2.

Workshop Presenter: Karen Daughtrey, Early Childhood Curriculum Developer, Holyoke

Workshop 2: Plant Propagation Workshop

There are numerous propagation techniques that you can use in the classroom, garden or small greenhouse that will increase the number of plants that are available for use with your students and to sell to support your classroom. Warren Leach, horticulturist and owner of Tranquil Lake Nursery in Rehoboth will show you how to plant seeds; make leaf, petiole and stem cuttings, how to divide and more. He will discuss planting medium for the classroom and will offer a variety of botany and horticultural activities to accompany your propagation lessons. Suitable for K-12.

Workshop Presenter: Warren Leach, horticulturist, Tranquil Lake Nursery, Rehoboth

Workshop 3: School Garden Workshop: Fundraising for Schoolyard Agriculture

This workshop will start with a primer on writing a successful grant proposal. We will discuss locating grant sources, tailoring grant application to donor's interests and steps for writing a successful proposal. We will also discuss strategies for finding the community of likely local supporters for your project and engaging the school administrations and parents. Then learn form other teachers who have been successful raising funds and developing community support for their school gardening programs. Finally, hear about MAC's mini-grant program and what we look for in a mini-grant application. Appropriate for all grades.

Workshop Presenter: Mary Greendale, writer and former grant writer for the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources

Workshop 4: Living Systems Bioremediation using the EcoMachine model: Plants filter Water

The Blackstone River is the primary watershed from Worcester to Providence. It was the power source for mills and provided access to the sea via the Blackstone Canal. Many of the mills along the river contributed to making the Blackstone one of the most polluted waterways in the country. Additionally, run-off containing fertilizers and pesticides from farm fields and animal enclosures combined with stormwater from urban areas including golf courses and manicured lawns is polluting this water way with nitrogen and phosphorus and clogging the lakes, rivers and streams with unwanted weeds which are choking the life from them. Bio-remediation is a method of using plants and other living things to filter out these nutrients; a natural method of cleaning our water. Agriculture is considered to be the largest user of freshwater. It is also the largest contributor to non-point source water pollution. In this workshop teachers will learn about a classroom EcoMachine at Worcester Technical High School. It was modeled after the Eco-machine bioremediation project developed by John Todd Ecological Design (Ocean Ark International, New Alchemy Institute) at Fisherville Mill in South Grafton which treats polluted water in the Blackstone Canal with a combination of aquatic cells and mushrooms to break down fuel oil (mycoremediation) Teachers will collaborate on some ideas on how this could be implemented and demonstrated in a classroom setting and make connections to the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for Science and Technology. (middle school & high school)

Workshop Presenter: Russ Anderson, Environmental Science & Technology teacher at Worcester Technical High School.

Workshop 5: Working with Chickens in the Classroom

Join Susan Ebitz as she discusses the innovative and educational ways she has used chickens in her classroom.

Workshop Presenter: Susan Ebitz teacher at Jackson Street School, Northampton.

Workshop 6: TBD

Workshop Session 3: 12:50 to 2:00 (Choose 1 of 6 Workshops)

Workshop 1: Connecting the School Garden to the Curriculum

Using early American History as the topic for integration, teachers will demonstrate how this year they designed their school garden around early American themes such as Wompanoag three sisters, Mt Vernon, Monticello, Medicinal, Colonial Kitchen, Cotton, and lastly an Emily Dickinson garden. In the fall they plan to use these gardens to teach historical lessons as well as botanical lessons. Learn how they designed the gardens and how they integrated garden planning into high level math and science lessons, as well as integrated Common Core into LA/Science garden lessons

Workshop 2: Worm Composting

Worm composting provides a terrific gardening opportunity for the late fall and winter months and is easy to do in the classroom. Joann Mossman has devised an effective plan for housing the worms in the classroom and in hobby home use. She will take participants through the steps of worm composting and also offer numerous educational materials ideal for use in elementary and middle school classes. Learn how to create a small worm bin for easy use in the classroom, effective ways of feeding the worms food waste from classroom snacks, ways to use compost in classroom science observations, how to handle the worms and compost separation.

Workshop Presenters: Joann Mossman, science teacher at Overlook Middle School in Ashburnham, MA

Workshop 3: Connecting Agriculture to Schools

This workshop will tackle the concept of connecting agriculture with schools. Holly Alperin and community partners will discuss how to approach organizations and farms and how farms can approach schools. Misconceptions about schools will be debunked and a discussion will be had about the priorities of different groups and constituencies in the education environment.

Workshop Presenter: Holly Alperin, Nutrition Education & Training Coordinator, Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education

Workshop 4: Differentiated Farming Techniques

Learn about the wide range of farming techniques, organic, biodynamic, permaculture, IPM, industrial, etc. Kira Jewett will lead the group in a series of hands on activities and labs that can be used in your classroom.

Workshop Presenter: Kira Jewett, a teacher at the Paulo Freire Social Justice School in Holyoke

Workshop 5: Anaerobic Digestion

An excellent opportunity to bring agriculture into your science classroom is to consider the topic of anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic digestion is the process by which biodegradable materials are broken down in the absence of the oxygen. The result of this reaction is a biogas that can be used to continue the digestion process or can be converted into fuel for electricity.

Workshop Presenters: Shannon Carroll, Facility Manager at Casella Organics

Workshop 6: Wool 101

Wool is an incredible, natural fiber! It has some very unique characteristics due to its protein structure and chemical properties. During this workshop, Ally Hunter, Instructor at Worcester Polytechnical Institute will provide background on the science of wool, explore and demonstrate the unique of wool, and include a hands-on felting activity. Target grades: middle through high school.

Workshop Presenter: Ally Hunter, Instructor at Worcester Polytechnical Institute

Workshop Session 4: 2:10 to 3:20 (Choose 1 of 6 Workshops)

Workshop 1: Young Farmers Present: “Facts and Stories Relating to Current Agriculture"

A panel of members of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers will offer a conversation relating to Current Agriculture in Massachusetts. They will offer an overview of local farm products and practices across the state and dispel some myths that are associated with growing food and raising animals. They will also consider the huge challenge of feeding everyone while protecting the environment.

Workshop Facilitator:

Workshop 2: Maple Sugaring in the Classroom

Late winter is the time to get outdoors, explore the local landscape and woodland, and find the perfect Sugar Maple tree to tap with your students. As you boil the sap into syrup, students can study the history of maple sugaring, draw and chart the boiling process, sing songs, write stories and generally immerse themselves in the maple season.

Workshop Presenters: Paul Terkelsen, educator

Workshop 3: School Garden Workshop


Workshop 4: Exploring Kale

Join teacher Erin DeCoste as she explores nutrient rich kale and the many ways it can be tied to the standards in the classroom.

Workshop Presenter: Erin DeCoste, teacher at the Bromfield School, Harvard

Workshop 5: Agricultural Statistics

USDA Statistician Gary Keough will lead educators through an indepth look at the data that he uses to analyze agiculture in the Northeast region.

Workshop Presenter:Gary Keough, State Statistician, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service New England Field Office

Workshop 6: TBD