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.




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.

*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.

Click here for html Directions or printable pdf of directions


A limited number of conference Scholarships are available to educators from Massachusetts and Connecticut. These Scholarships are open to teachers from urban areas, those who are new to teaching and farm-based educators. The scholarships have been provided thanks to a grant from Northeast Farm Credit AgEnhancement. Click here for Scholarship Application form.

Conference Sponsors:

We thank the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources for funding four workshops and the Massachusetts Dairy Promotion Board for funding one dairy workshops. We also thank the Pathfinder Regional Technical Vocational High School for making this conference possible!


Conference Schedule: Workshops & Demonstrations

CLICK TO VIEW PDF: Full conference brochure with workshops and registration form

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 seven 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 seven 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 7 workshops)

Workshop 1: Mapping the School Garden

This workshop will cover the basics of mapping the space and topography of a schoolyard as part of the process of designing a school garden. We will also cover some ways to integrate the design process and mapping into a class curriculum. The workshop will focus on the use of an A-frame level, a simple tool that students can construct and use to measure slope and contour. Mapping exercises can be tailored to students of many ages and for older students can open the door to more complex agricultural and soil science topics such as soil conservation and hydrology. This workshop will be led by Rachel Lindsay, who spent the last six years in Nicaragua working with small-scale farmers and elementary schools to promote sustainable farming methods and school gardens.

Workshop Presenters: Rachel Lindsay, candidate for a Masters of Science in Ecological Design at the Conway School.

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. Target range: all grades.

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

Workshop 3: Biomimicry

The Biomimicry institute calls for "global change makers." We can teach and train students to use solutions that mother nature has develop for over 4 billion years into solving today's problems. In this workshop we will take the time to introduce the concepts of biomimicry, see some examples, and review websites- Bring your computers or phones to join in the fun! Then you will have time to develop a mini lesson to take to your school next week!

Workshop Presenters: Maria Berrios, teacher at Auburn High School

Workshop 4: Worm Composting and the Curriculum

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. Target range: elementary and middle grades.

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

Workshop 5: Seed Starting

Learn what goes into seeds, whether in your classroom, in a greenhouse, or outdoors. In this workshop, MAC School Garden Coordinator Alice Posner will share a seed starting time­table for some favorite school garden crops, how to avoid common seed starting pit falls and seed starting related curriculum. She will also discuss choosing seed, planning for seed saving, and inexpensive ways to build grow lights and find other equipment. Target range: elementary grades.

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

Workshop 6: Goat Ice Cream and More!

Jennifer Poirier of The Shepherd’s Gate in Holland raises dairy goats and milks a large herd. She also makes a variety of products from their milk, including gelato, and has several sales outlets for these products. Jennifer will offer an overview of raising dairy goats for milk, and will also introduce many of the goat products that she makes. She will demonstrate making dairy goat milk gelato and also offer some tips for making it in the classroom. Information on the purchase of gelato making equipment will be provided. Target range: all grades.

Workshop Presenter: Jennifer Poirier of The Shepherd’s Gate in Holland

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

Workshop 1: 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 investigate and “play” with the collection, you’ll explore standards­based, cross­discipline lessons plans developed for this workshop. They will make a great addition to your “teacher toolbox.” Target range: 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 can also be sold 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. Target range: all grades.

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 mini­grant program and what we look for in a mini­grant application. Target range: all grades.

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

Workshop 4: The EcoMachine model: Plants filter Water

In this workshop teachers will learn about a classroom EcoMachine at Worcester Technical High School. It was modeled after the Eco­machine bio­remediation project developed 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). Participants 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. Target range: middle and high school.

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

Workshop 5: Chickens and Ducks in the Classroom

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to incubate and hatch chickens or ducks in your classroom? Plan on joining a team from Muddy Brook Elementary School to find out why embryology projects are vital to our students. This workshop will include when the best times to do these projects are, what equipment will be needed, where you can get the equipment and materials, how to set, incubate, and hatch the eggs as well as keep them in a brooder, and what to do with the chicks or ducks after they hatch and what educational benefits can be derived for the students. Susan and Jim Ebitz have initiated a service-learning experience called the YOLK Project in her fourth grade classroom for nine years. The YOLK Project has allowed students a “hands on” opportunity to raise thousands of dollars selling eggs to benefit hungry people, both locally and internationally,while simultaneously learning about agriculture in the classroom. Principal, Mary Berle has also had vast experience keeping the curriculum "real" by using chickens as a way for students to gather and analyze data. In her former educational life, vice principal Nan Thompson, has spent twenty-eight years hatching various breeds of either chicks or ducks in the classroom. This workshop will be very interactive and include lesson materials that can be used or adapted for your own classroom or project-based learning activity.

Workshop Presenter: Susan Ebitz teacher at Muddy Brook Elementary School, Barrington.

Workshop 6: Strategies to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in the School

Incorporating nutrition education and physical activity into the school environment are two of the most effective and FUN ways to combat the child obesity epidemic. Across the state, school professionals are working to encourage and engage youth to consume nutrient-rich foods (low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and achieve at least sixty minutes of physical activity every day. Nutrition Instructor Meg Whitbeck will present an overview of obesity and discuss how to promote healthy eating and physical activity through nutrition education and fun activities in schools, schoolyards and school gardens. Participants will leave the workshop with a list of tools and resources to support efforts to provide nutrition education and increase physical activity in schools. Target age: all grades.

Workshop Presenter: Meg Whitbeck from the John Stalker Institute at Framingham State College.

Workshop Session 3: 12:50 to 2:00 (Choose 1 of 7 Workshops)

Workshop 1: Strategies and Resources for Starting a School Garden

Are you interested in developing a gardening program for your school, but don’t know where to start? Then this is the workshop for you. Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom offers a number of useful resources for school gardening: from how­to­manuals to garden­based lessons, mentoring, mini­grants, workshops and a school gardening blog. MAC’s School Garden Coordinator Alice Posner and Executive Director Debi Hogan will offer tips for getting started, building a support team, planning a budget, siting the garden, building garden beds, planting, garden care, season extensions and locating funds and materials. Participants are encouraged to bring questions with them. Target range: all grades.

Workshop Presenters: Alice Posner, MAC School Garden Education Coordinator and Debi Hogan, Horticulturist and MAC Executive Director

Workshop 2: Indoor Worm Composting Bins

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. Target range: all grades.

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

Workshop 3: Connecting Agriculture to Schools

This workshop will tackle the concept of building relationships with school personnel. Holly Alperin and community partners will discuss strategies for farms and community partners to work with school staff in a way that is meaningful and helps the school to achieve their mission. Misconceptions about schools will be debunked and a discussion will be had about the priorities of different groups and constituencies in the education environment. Target range: all grades.

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

Workshop 4: Farming Techniques-An Overview

Learn about the wide range of farming techniques, organic, biodynamic, permaculture, IPM, industrial, etc. High School Science Teacher and hobby farmer Kira Jewett will lead the group in a series of hands on activities and labs that she be uses in her classroom to help students explore the diversity of agriculture in the state. Target range: middle and high school.

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. It 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. Shannon Carroll will lead participants through a hands on activity that will help illuminate the topic. Target range: middle and high school. Workshop Sponsored by the Massachusetts Dairy Promotion Board.

Workshop Presenters: Shannon Carroll, Facility Manager at Casella Organics

Workshop 6: Wool Science 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 Polytechnic Institute will provide background on the science of wool, explore and demonstrate the unique of wool, and include a hands­on felting activity. Bring a bar of soap! Target range: middle through high school.

Workshop Presenter: Ally Hunter, doctoral student at UMass Amherst studying science education.

Workshop 7: Making Plantable Paper

Join the Worcester County 4­H Student Ambassadors as they lead a hands on workshop on how to embed seeds into paper that can in turn be planted. This eco­friendly activity can be used in the classroom to help students learn about germination and sustainability. Kits will be available for workshop participants. Target range: elementary and middle school.

Workshop Presenters: Worcester County 4-H Ambassadors

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


Workshop 1: 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. Target range: all ages.

Workshop Presenters: Paul Terkelsen, educator


Workshop 2: Using the Massachusetts Agricultural Calendar in the Classroom

The Massachusetts Agricultural Calendar, produced by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources in collaboration with Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom, is a useful resourceful to employ in the classroom. MAC Technical Associate Christopher Szkutak will present educational activities using the facts and teaching ideas within the calendar and lead a discussion of other ways to use the calendar to get students excited about agriculture. Target range: elementary grades

Workshop Presenter: Christopher Szkutak, MAC Technical Associate and certified teacher

Workshop 3: Kale and the Periodic Table

The garden provides the opportunity for students of all abilities to succeed in toiling the soil, observing life cycles and taking plants from seed to harvest, while making curriculum connections. Erin DeCoste, utilizes the school garden at The Bromfield School in Harvard to provide gardening activities to meet academic goals for students with a variety of special needs. She will share one of her favorite activities using the kale grown in the garden to explore the periodic table and will then show you how to make a number of tasty kale snacks in a classroom setting. Target range: all grades.

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

Workshop 4: Agricultural Statistics

USDA Statistician Gary Keough will highlight the math and statistics lessons developed by the USDA’ National Ahricultural Statistics Program in conjunction with the National FFA Program. These lessons provide easy and intuitive ways to integrate agriculture into your math curriculum. Target range: middle and high school.

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

Workshop 5: Gardening Activities and Resources for All Ages

School gardens offer endless educational opportunities for teachers, of all grade levels, to engage their students both inside and outside the garden. This workshop will show how easy it is to incorporate the school garden into the classroom through curriculum and hands­on activities. Farm and School Garden Educators Katie Rozenas and Tori Buerschaper will demonstrate two hands­on activities that are connected to the garden to show how activities can be adapted for specific grades. They will also provide a sampling of resources available online and in books for curriculum, lesson plans, and garden activities. Target range: elementary and middle school.

Workshop Presenter:Katie Rozenas, School Garden Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA, Regional Environmental Council, Worcester and Vittoria Buerschaper, Nutrition Education Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA, Community Harvest Project, North Grafton