Seasonal Workshops on the Farm


Keeping Your Classroom Fresh & Growing!


Day of Garden Skills Workshops & Demonstrations for the School Garden

Date: Saturday, October 25
Place: The Common School in Amherst in conjunction with Bramble Hill Farm
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Fee: Free and open to all educators with registration

Print Registration formor PrintSchedule for the Day

Send an e-mail to Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom with your name, school and contact information.

Printable Directions to the Common School in Amherst

This workshop is free and open to all educators with registration. Bring your own lunch. There is a $20 fee for those teachers who would like to receive Professional Development. Ten Professional Development Points are offered for each workshop with accompanying classroom project.


Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom is sponsoring an educational day of workshops and demonstrations on Saturday, October 25 from 9:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Common School in Amherst. . Learn a variety of new skills that will help you with your school gardening efforts.

Spend an educational and fun day brushing up on your gardening techniques and learning new activity ideas for the school garden on Saturday, October 25, from 9:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Common School in Amherst with twelve workshops and demonstrations to support successful efforts in the school garden will be held throughout the day, including soils, composting, constructing raised beds, gardening in containers, seeding and saving seeds, mulching, tree planting, pruning, herbs and more. Free an open to educators, school gardeners, garden volunteers and the public. Bring your own lunch. For those teachers who would like Professional Development certification there is a $20 fee. Ten Professional Development Points are provided to teachers with accompanying school gardening or classroom activity. Registration is required. This educational event is supported in part with funds from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and with assistance from Bramble Hill Farm in Amherst.


Workshops & Demonstration Schedule

9:00 a.m.

Fall Planted Garlic!

Alice Posner, experienced garden educator and small farmer will demonstrate techniques for “Fall Planted Garlic." She will offer the opportunity to learn about this special crop that you can plant in the fall and harvest in late spring. You will also learn about garlic culture and harvest. Alice serves as the school gardens mentor for Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom and also gardens and farms on her own.


Workshop Presenter: Alice Posner, MAC School Garden Coordinator and School Garden Educator

9:30 a.m.

The Science of Soils

An understanding of the importance and nature of soil is essential for growing healthy plants, agriculture, and for conservation and environmental education. Robert Rafka, PhD., scientist and educator, will offer an overview of soil properties such as type, texture, drainage, pH, color, and parent materials. You will learn how and why to test your soil, ways to improve your soil and will develop an understanding of the various aspects of soil science to assist with teaching about soils. Appropriate for middle and high school.


Workshop Presenter: Robert Rafka, retired scientist from Pfizer, master gardener and high school science teacher in Connecticut

10:30 a.m.

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.


Workshop Presenter: Erin DeCoste, The Bromfield School, Harvard

11:00 a.m.

Growing Fibers and Dye Plants in the School Garden

Adding flax and natural dye plants to your school garden can expand opportunities for connections to the classroom curriculum. Michelle Parrish, 1st and 2nd grade teacher at the Common School in Amherst, is also a weaver, dyer, and spinner. She cultivates a small dye and fiber garden adjacent to the school, where she has been growing dye plants and flax for several years. Learn how flax has been utilized as a fiber for over 30,000 years, as you learn how to grow and process the flax. It is a fascinating plant to study, whether your focus is economic botany, history, sustainable agriculture, or chemistry. Michelle will also discuss recommended dye plants to grow and how to set up the garden. This workshop will also cover harvesting, storing, and using plant-based dyes. Finally, Michelle will make connections to the Common Core Standards aligned to related activities.


Workshop Presenter: Michelle Parrish, Grade 1-2 teacher at the Common School, Dye and Fiber Gardener and Weaver

11:30 a.m.

Building A Raised Bed Garden with Season Extension Potential

Ideally suited for the school garden, raised beds are relatively simple to make, and offer opportunities to incorporate your students in the process, giving them students ownership over their garden. Hope Guardenier, Executive Director of School Sprouts Educational Gardens will work with participants to build a simple 4 foot by 8 foot raised bed. Then try out some modifications that will allow you to extend the season past frost, or start plants early in the spring.


Workshop Presenter: Hope Guardenier is Executive Director of School Sprouts Educational Gardens in Belchertown. School Sprouts designs and implements 14 teaching gardens throughout the Pioneer Valley. Hope has a M.S. in Environmental Science and more than a decade of teaching in the outdoors.

12:00 p.m.

Best Garden Ergonomics: Teaching Students to use their Bodies Healthily & Safely in the Garden


Workshop Presenter: Lydia Sivel-Irons, The Flexible Farmer” an educational and bodywork business, Holyoke.

12:30 p.m.

Planting a Garden for Pollinators

Pollinators are everywhere and they play and extremely important role in our lives and habitats, from pollinating the foods that we eat to initiating the development of the seeds that ensure survival of native plants. Warren Leach, landscape horticulturist, garden designer and owner of Tranquil Lake Nursery in Rehoboth, will address “Planting a Garden for Pollinators.” He will review pollinator needs and offer a selection of ornamental trees, shrubs, perennials and vines with flowering characteristics that will benefit pollinators and also complement the school calendar. These beauties will add ornamental beauty and interest to the schoolyard, while also offering opportunities for classroom study. He will also provide suggestions for care and culture.


Workshop Presenter: Warren Leach, Landscape horticulturist, garden design and owner of Tranquil Lake Nursery, Rehoboth

1:30 p.m.

Making a School Garden Planter from Pallets Using Technology and Math Standards

This demonstration will offer the opportunity to learn Making a School Garden Planter from Pallets Using Technology and Math Standards. At Tri-County Schools in Easthampton, students are working on pallet planting, potato barrels and other unconventional ways to grow flowers and vegetables. Students incorporate all gardening with math, English, history and science. They also are learning valuable social and emotional tools that they use everyday Edible Schoolyard, Fertile Ground and pictures from Pinterest are just some of the sources used. Students brainstorm their own ideas using references to companion planting and groups throughout the day. Danielle Crescione will take you through the process of building a garden planter from pallets. She will also tell you how she utilizes the Technology and Math Standards throughout the process.


Workshop Presenter: Danielle Crescione, Tri-County Schools, Easthampton

2:00 p.m.

Favorite Ornamental and Culinary Herbs for Children

Debi Hogan, horticulturist and avid herb garden has been growing herbs in the gardens, containers and window boxes for more than twenty-five years. She has also been gardening with children of all ages for nearly as long, and is currently Executive Director of Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom. Debi will share her love for herbs in her presentation “Favorite Ornamental and Edible Herbs for Gardening with Children”, offering tips on favorite cultivars, tips for growing, drying techniques, how to prepare for culinary use and overwintering.


Workshop Presenter: Debi Hogan, Horticulturist and Executive Director of Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom


2:30 p.m.

Pruning and Planting a Tree or Shrub in the Schoolyard

Have you ever wanted to plant a tree in the school yard but been unsure how to handle it and didn’t have a clue how to go about digging the planting hole, or have you wanted to prune existing trees and shrubs. Effective pruning techniques can reduce and control the size of shrubs and trees, promote flowering and fruiting of ornamentals, and remove dangerous or unwanted limbs. Seasoned horticulturist Warren Leach will show you how to prepare the tree, dig the hole, amend the soils and move the tree into its new location. Learn how and when to water and when you should prune.. He will also review basic pruning techniques and appropriate tools. He will demonstrate cutting back and regenerative pruning while answering your questions.


Workshop Presenter: Warren Leach, landscape horticulturist and co-owner, Tranquil Lake Nursery, Rehoboth


Plan to spend the day and learn skills that will help you get your school fall garden off to a great start. Learn new techniques that will help you hone your gardening skills and improve the look and ease of care of your garden.

We are grateful to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resourcesfor sponsoring this day of workshops and demonstrations. We also thank the Common School and Bramble Hill Farm in Amherst for providing the site for this day of garden skills workshops and demonstrations. Read more about the Common School.