PCMS Giving Garden

Garden party to give thanks

Gardeners throughout the region are working to put their gardens to bed for the winter, and those who assist with the Port Chester Middle School Giving Garden are doing the same thing, but not before an end-of-gardening season celebration.

There were still a few hardy tomatoes left, and some lingering eggplant and peppers too, as students and garden supporters gathered to recognize those who work so hard in the garden and help support its commitment to the community.

On Sept. 28, Family and Consumer Science teacher and garden coordinator Allison Silverman gathered with students and invited guests to enjoy some delicious treats and celebrate their hard work.

“The reason for this event is to have a celebration for the initiative we started last year with CELF” Ms. Silverman said, referring the Children’s Environment Literacy Foundation, which focusses on sustainability education.

Last year CELF received a grant from Sustainable Westchester, enabling them to develop a curriculum, “The Big Ideas of Sustainability,” for the teacher to use with her newly formed Garden Club. Ms. Silverman invited students to participate in a six-week, after-school program focusing on sustainable gardening.

In addition to planting and caring for the vegetables planted students covered a new topic each week the club met including Community & Systems, Diversity & Interdependence, Cycles & Changes over Time, Limits, Fairness & Equity, Place & Ability to Make a Difference and Long-Term Effects & Equilibrium, which were all part of the CELF curriculum.

The produce grown here assists the community. Ms. Silverman uses some with her students in their cooking classes and much of it is donated to a local food pantry. There is also a family membership program in which members volunteer time in maintaining the garden and are “paid” with produce.

“To get the kids involved in this type of work is so exciting,” Ms. Silverman told those gathered. “It’s about using the garden as a vehicle to do so many things.”

As guests perused the garden beds and took a look at the last of the harvest, garden club members were on hand passing out hors d’oeuvres consisting of Raspberry Pizetta with pineapple balsamic and caramelized onions, Watermelon and Cucumber with feta, Roasted tomato bruschetta and Garden vegetables and feta on a pita. The vegetables came from the garden and recipes were researched by the students who also had a hand in making them.

“It helps people and is calming out here,” eighth grader Kenny Cruz said of assisting with the garden.

Fellow eighth grader Scarlett Pimentel said she joined the Gardening Club because she enjoyed Ms. Silverman’s classes, loves to be outside and enjoys trying new things.“We planted seeds, picked weeds and set up sprinklers,” Scarlett said of the work she helped do. “I just loved seeing it grow and come alive. The things we give away, we can make people happy with it.”

“The garden program helped develop environmental literacy within the community and foster the next generation of sustainability-minded Westchester citizens,” said Vicky Garufi, director of education at CELF. “This partnership is grounded in Sustainable Westchester’s mission to build capacity, increase confidence, provide an opportunity for engagement, and deepen an appetite for action.”

“It’s really an extraordinary opportunity for us to work with students and Allison, who is tireless and committed. It’s amazing what you do here,” Maria Genovesi, director of marketing and communications and outreach at Sustainable Westchester said.

The garden has been a special project for Ms. Silverman and her students and has been growing in more ways than one since its inception more than 10 years ago. Through the years the needs in the community have also grown and shows no sign of slowing down.

“I’m so happy to have the kids back out here,” Ms. Silverman said, after having to delay their involvement while students were engaged in remote learning.