Grow Teach Knox

This symposium is designed to support educators in growing a culture of stewardship for the mind, body, and ecosystem in our classrooms.

Grow Teach Knox

November 11, 2023 from 9:00am-2:30pm
Born out of a community desire to support our local educators, this symposium is designed specifically to show teachers, home school educators, and others different ways in which environmental education can support the needs of their students. Educators will leave empowered to grow a culture of stewardship for the mind, body, and ecosystem in their classrooms.

Grow, Teach, Knox has been approved by the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) for professional development clock hours. Educators who are required to report hours to TDHS will be eligible for 5 hours of credit for attending Grow, Teach, Knox. Certificates of attendance will be provided at the end of the event.

Help your students fall in love with nature through the classroom!

Who is it for?

Grow Teach Knox is for any East Tennessee educator! Classroom teachers, after-school educators, early childhood educators, principals, home school educators, and informal educators, too- all are welcome!

Adults outside are sitting and facing two adults who are presenting information.

Grow, Teach, Knox has been approved by the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) for professional development clock hours. Educators who are required to report hours to TDHS will be eligible for 5 hours of credit for attending Grow, Teach, Knox. Certificates of attendance will be provided at the end of the event.


Due to the generosity of Knox County Health Department, we are able to offer scholarships this year for a select number of attendees.

Applications must be made via the appropriate link to be considered. All scholarship applications must be submitted by October 27th.

ECE & After School Care Scholarships
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Click here to access the application for Early Care and Education & After School Care Grow Teach Knox attendee scholarships. Thank you, KCHD!


Grow Teach Knox will take place November 11, 2023 on the campus of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.

The event will include a welcome address, presentations, lunch, and workshops. Click on each drop down arrow below to find out more.

Check in will begin at 8:45am

The Welcome Address will begin at 9:30am and will be given by Mike Ross.

Attendees will select one presentation to attend. Presentations will last approximately 45 minutes. These presentations will be repeated in Block 2.

Presentations that will be offered include: Container Gardening 101, Growing Literacy in the Garden, Composting: The Basics, and Ecollage: Invasive Plant Species as Art-Making Material.

Attendees will select one presentation to attend. These presentations will be the same as what was offered during Block 1. Presentations will last approximately 45 minutes.

Presentations that will be offered include: Container Gardening 101, Growing Literacy in the Garden, Composting: The Basics, and Ecollage: Invasive Plant Species as Art-Making Material.

Lunch is included in your registration. It will be from 11:45-12:45 and will include brief remarks (virtually) from Seed Your Future Executive Director Jazmin Albarran.

Attendees will select one hands-on workshop to attend. Workshops will last approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes and will begin after lunch.

Attendees will be asked to complete a survey and will receive a certificate of participation. Closing Remarks will be at 2:10pm.

Session Descriptions

Attendees will be able to attend three session blocks. There will be three choices for each block. Before lunch, the presentations will be repeated twice. The final session block will be reserved for hands-on workshops.

Black and white photo of Mike Ross

Mike Ross is an assistant professor in the University of Tennessee Department of Plant Sciences’ Sustainable Landscape Design concentration and in the School of Landscape Architecture. Originally trained as an organismal biologist and evolutionary ecologist Mike translates ecological systems and relationships into design and management strategies, particularly in management applications of time and systems interaction as design. Prior to his studies in landscape architecture Mike served as an environmental systems teacher and school administrator for a largely underserved student population. This experience continues to shape his approach to design, equity, and inclusion. With over 15 years’ experience in design, restoration ecology, consultancy, and landscape management Mike’s research focuses on the intersection of ecology and urbanism with emphasis on ecological justice, ecosystem services, green infrastructure, and biodiversity in design at a variety of scales.

Presentations will be repeated in Blocks 1 and 2.

Photo of Sarah Heizenroth

Sarah Heizenroth

Sarah started with CAC Beardsley Community Farm in the summer of 2019. As the Education Coordinator, she develops and leads both on-site and off-site educational programming to the community. This includes field trips for grade school students, after-school programming, a high school apprenticeship program, and classes centered around gardening and food for all ages.

Container Gardening 101

No Garden? No problem! Even if you have limited space, poor soil, or are surrounded by cement you can still grow produce, flowers, and herbs. In this session, we will talk about choosing containers, selecting the right plants for containers, preparing containers for planting, and how container gardening can promote learning and accessibility for students.

Photo of Sarah DeWitt

Sarah DeWitt

Sarah DeWitt is the Education and Community Engagement Manager for the Knoxville Botanical Garden & Arboretum in East Knoxville. She is also a Knox County Master Gardener, proudly working to engage area residents in the benefits of ecological practices in the home landscape through the Tennessee Smart Yards program. Sarah has a background in local food systems, farmers markets and urban studies. Her favorite garden projects include perennial, native and pollinator-friendly plantings, and witnessing children, including her own, wonder at the gifts of the garden.

Growing Literacy in the Garden

Whether your garden is made up of abundant raised veggie beds, a quiet wooded path or small pots of flowers, there are countless opportunities to engage students in literacy learning in nature. Gardens and literacy each provide windows into science, math, engineering, language and fine arts. When used together, they offer educators an experiential learning environment that is truly multidimensional. Come see how you can use sit spots, onomatopoeia, poetry, books, seed packets, recipe writing, and other garden activities to grow your students language, writing and reading skills. 

Photo of Lauren Farkas

Lauren Farkas

Lauren Farkas’ making practice follows processes of witnessing, mapping, and identifying to relate to and understand the internal logic of botanical lives, spatial relationships, and the stories of often taken-for-granted materials. She loves living in Knoxville Tennessee, where she completed her BFA in Painting and Drawing and MA in Art Education at UTK, and where she is currently teaching art at L&N STEM Academy. 

Ecollage: Invasive Plant Species as Art-Making Material

This presentation will address topics of art, play, and ecology through the lens of eco art. I propose a way that educators of all kinds can encourage students to learn about their local environment through artful play in a sustainable and responsible way: collaging Kudzu. I will share examples of my work, discuss opportunities and limitations of this process, and have some hands-on materials for participants to explore during the session. 

Photo of Rylan Thompson

Rylan Thompson

Rylan Thompson is a Tennessee State University Extension agent, assigned to the UT-TSU Extension office in Knox County, TN. His responsibilities include residential and consumer horticulture, 4-H, and he is the coordinator for the Knox County Master Gardener program. Through his programming, he offers non-commercial horticulture education to Knox County communities.

Composting: The Basics

Whether you are in an urban, suburban, or rural area, you can reduce waste by composting! In this program, we will talk about the basics of composting. Topics will cover the materials you need, what you can and cannot compost, and creative approaches to marketing a composting system with your community partners.

Photo of Annie Roth

Annie Roth

Annie has been called to explore and connect with the land since she was young. Her curiosity led her to pursue a career in education and share in the wonders of the world around her with others. Upon graduating from Grand Valley State University with her BA in English, life brought her to Nashville where she taught and led within project-based learning schools across the city and earned her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Middle Tennessee State University. She is excited to now bridge her two loves – teaching and the outdoors – in working to connect people with nature alongside the Tremont team. 

Join the staff of Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont to get away from your seat and explore outside while encouraging observation, conversation, and reflection. Ending our time together, you’ll find yourself able to facilitate these experiences and connect with like-minded individuals along the way.

Photo of Madelyn Howe

Madelyn Howe

Madelyn Howe is a Community Health Nutritionist at the Knox County Health Department. In her role she focuses on community food and nutrition security, and nutrition and physical activity in the early care and education setting. Madelyn oversees the Healthy Habits program which provides nutrition and food literacy resources to childcare centers as well as staff trainings around health and wellbeing. She is passionate about increasing access to fresh fruits and veggies to students and their families and promoting life-long healthy habits. She is looking forward to presenting at Grow, Teach, Knox on incorporating food and nutrition in the classroom. 

Using Food and Nutrition as Teaching Tools

Want to introduce food into your classroom, but unsure how to do it and still meet curriculum requirements? Join Madelyn to explore fun ways to include food in your lessons on topics like science and math. You’ll learn how to use food to introduce concepts like counting money, fractions, measuring and more! 

Photo of Whitney Hale

Whitney Hale

Whitney Hale is the Education Coordinator at the University of Tennessee Gardens, Knoxville. She leads most of the adult and youth education initiatives at the Gardens. Being a National Geographic Certified Educator has given Whitney the opportunity to collaborate with educators around the world and with those a bit closer to home. She has a bachelor’s degree in Geology and Environmental Studies from the University of Tennessee, and she is a certified Knox County Master Gardener. Her writing and photos have been in the UT Gardens’ magazine Cultivate and have been shared in various publications; she has also appeared on various media outlets.

Gardening 102

Gardening 102 will go just a bit beyond gardening basics and will dive into how plants work, why soil matters, and how gardeners create growing environments for plants. This information will apply whether you decide to create an indoor jungle or a wild one outside. Be prepared to get a bit messy in this workshop. Whitney will model how she works with learners and will be happy to answer practical and logistical questions about gardening and doing so with young people.


Lunch will be catered for the event and will be served buffet style. During registration, note the following dietary preferences as they may apply: gluten free, vegan, or neither. Please note that other dietary restrictions or preferences may not be honored. Lunch is included in the price of registration.


Grow Teach Knox is a community-driven effort. Partners include: UT Gardens, Knoxville; Knox County Health Department; CAC Beardsley Community Farm; Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum; Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont.