MHTA Conference Breakout Sessions 2018

A.M. Breakout Sessions

Birds at Home and in the Garden       Sarah Sieradzki, OTR/L, HTR and Cindy Hasko

Birds add multi-sensory interest to the garden - color, movement, life, and song. Learn the best garden plants for food and nesting purposes, and other ways to make them feel at home while creating make-it take-it projects to attract and nurture birds in your garden. Learn several bird-related horticultural therapy activity ideas to use with your clients and ways to adapt the projects for various cognitive and physical abilities.


Sarah G. Sieradzki, OTR/L, HTR     

Sarah Sieradzki is a Clinical Specialist in mental health occupational therapy at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, working with adults of all ages. Sarah has been an occupational therapist for over 40 years, and has specialized in behavioral health for the past 28 years. She has extensive experience in mental health and in mentoring students as a clinical specialist. Sarah is a graduate of the Horticultural Therapy Institute, and is a registered horticultural therapist (HTR) and a certified dementia practitioner.

Cynthia Hasko, assisting Sarah G. Sieradzki, OTR/L, HTR

Cyndi Hasko has experience working with older adults in a variety of healthcare settings. She is an active gardener, artist, painter and mixed media artist. She has taught a variety of creative, artistic, and horticultural topics to community-based and educational groups and enjoys sharing the beauty of her work with others.

Horticultural Therapy for Young Children and Diverse Learners                 Kay Knight

There is immense crossover between the principles of nature-based education and horticultural therapy (HT). The goals of the HT client are often similar to the goals listed on child developmental checklists or individual educational plans of children with special needs. Research is increasingly citing nature and play-based learning as the most natural method of education for all children, including diverse learners. As classrooms become more inclusionary, HT and nature-based activities are a way to equalize learning, promote empathy and teamwork between students, and create successful and functional classrooms. This presentation will include an overview of an inclusionary nature-preschool pilot program, providing therapeutic horticulture to young students with disabilities, and discussion of the research that supports the changing educational climate.


Kay Knight is the off-site coordinator for the Horticultural Therapy department at the Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG), where her favorite sessions to lead are with Chicago Public Schools. She is also helping to develop an inclusionary pilot program with CBG’s nature preschool. Previously, Kay was teaching at Little Green Tree House (an eco-friendly child-care center in Chicago) where she wrote and taught environmental/nature-based curriculum for ages 6 weeks to 4 years and coordinated the rooftop garden and composting program. Kay has a certificate in horticultural therapy, bachelor’s degrees in psychology and political science, and is working towards her HTR.

“Outdoor” Option for Memory Care: An Innovative Model                   Darla Aldred PLA


Join this session to explore some design elements that maximize the therapeutic benefits of outdoor spaces for seniors and why they are so important.  Learn of an innovative “outdoor” design solution for a new memory care community at Hubbard Hill in Elkhart, Indiana.  The design began by putting aside the industry’s pre-conceived notions of memory care facilities and was guided by two core principles in the design process: biophilia and community. 

The neighborhood-based community at Hubbard Hill was created with four homes flanking a unique conservatory space that serves to provide an environment that keep residents engaged with the outdoors throughout the year.  It provides residents freedom to go “outside” as they would in their own backyard, and it provides space for unlimited activities, programs and enjoyment by residents, staff and visitors.  Construction of this project begins spring 2018.

This session will focus on key innovations, the design of the conservatory space, and the challenges of balancing human and plant life in this unique environment. A follow-up presentation in the future will explore the results of this model and what lessons were learned post-occupancy.


Darla Aldred is a partner at Arkos Design in Mishawaka, Indiana, and is a licensed landscape architect with over 25 years of experience in designing the outdoor environment.  She received her Certificate of Merit in Healthcare Garden Design through the Chicago Botanic Garden program in 2014.  Darla has led site design and planning for the aging for numerous communities throughout the Midwest, and has a specific interest in the influence of landscape and nature on people’s well-being.

P.M. Breakout Sessions

Getting to the Root of Horticultural Therapy                                         Cathy Flinton, HTR

Join this session for an introduction to the basics of horticultural therapy. Participants will learn the benefits of horticultural therapy, how it is applied with persons with many types of abilities/disabilities and common goals and objectives. Information will be shared on HT activities, books, plants and resources. Each participant will receive a plant to take back to their programs.


Cathy Flinton has been employed for 20 years with Hope Network Neuro Rehabilitation in East Lansing, working with patients with traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury in a greenhouse and outdoor garden setting. She has a Bachelor degree in Horticulture / horticultural therapy from Michigan State University and was granted Horticultural Therapist Registered (HTR) from the American Horticultural Therapy Association in 1996. Cathy is currently a board member and conference coordinator of the Michigan Horticultural Therapy Association.

Programing for Veterans: What Matters to Them?           Barb Kreski, HTR, M.H.S, OTR/L

Learn about the programming for veterans at the Chicago Botanic Garden which include: Stress reduction for people actively engaged in PTSD treatment, transitional job program for newly returned personnel, and creating opportunities for families to reunite through doing HT activities together. This session will include photos, videos and basic guidelines in working with veterans.

Barb Kreski. is the Director of the Horticultural Therapy Services at the Chicago Botanic Garden. She is a registered horticultural therapist, has a master’s degree in health sciences and a BA in occupational therapy. She has incorporated plant and nature based interventions in a wide range of clinical settings including pediatric rehabilitation, public schools, skilled nursing facilities, psychiatric hospitals and with veterans.

Top Plants for Horticultural Therapy Programming                           Mary Machon, BS

Trying to extend the season with plant material without a greenhouse can be a difficult task. Budget restrictions and lack of plant resources makes it difficult to create unique and effective horticultural therapy sessions throughout the year. As a greenhouse owner and horticultural therapist, find out what plants Mary uses throughout the year that will give you more than one season of horticultural therapy tasks. From vegetables to herbs to annuals to foliage plants in all different garden settings and containers, you will learn about unique plants that will provide you with numerous horticultural therapy ideas for your practice. Mary will discuss best growing conditions and growing settings for these plants. Whether it’s hydroponics, raised beds, recycled containers, indoor pots or even an old shoe, you will come away with some great ideas to start growing and creating for the coming year.


Mary Machon is the owner of Bensell greenhouse in Toledo, OH for 11 years. She has a Bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Wisconsin Lacrosse and received a master’s certificate in horticultural therapy from Kansas State University in 2013. Mary has worked with many local organizations including the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities, the Arc of Ohio (a state wide membership association made of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families, interested citizens, and professionals in the disabilities field), the Victory Center (for cancer patients and their families), and many private clients. She is currently working with The Arc of Ohio and Bittersweet Farms designing and installing a Sensory Walk for their clients to use throughout the year.

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