Photos: Nature on display at Southold Elementary’s Earthfest Celebration

Debbie Slack, of Catapano Dairy Farm, introduces a 10 day old goat to Southold Elementary School students. (Carrie Miller photos)
Debbie Slack, of Catapano Dairy Farm, introduces a 10-day-old goat to Southold Elementary School students. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Lessons about goats, flounder, and edible plants were among the many facets of nature on display at the Southold Elementary School’s gymnasium Friday morning, where students gathered for an Earthfest Celebration organized by the school’s Shared Decision Making Team.

This celebration honored the school’s Community Garden and featured guest speakers from local farms and environmental advocacy groups.

The event, now in its third year, was kicked off by Southold Elementary School Principal Ellen O’Neill, who took time to introduce notable guests, including County Executive Steve Bellone, state Assemblyman Anthony Pulumbo, and county Legislator Al Krupski.

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Activities included making fish prints with Group for the East End, creating juices and learning yoga with The Giving Room, petting goats with Catapano Farms and Hallockville Farm Museum, making origami and participating in poetry reading.

Students visited about 18 stations learning about agriculture, animals, marine life, nutrition and more.

Other stations included: Sang Lee Organic Vegetable Farms, North Fork Table and Inn, Cornell Cooperative, Bee Keeper, Garden of Eve, The Farm owner KK Haspel, a Save the Monarch butterfly station, and a table for the farmers market which sells food grown in the school’s garden.

Debbie Slack of Catapano Farms was surprised to find students already had a bit of knowledge, some had visited the farm previously. They were able to solve math questions she asked, such as: how many gallons of milk are used daily if the farm has 451 goats and each goat drinks one gallon of milk?

Slack said her goal is to teach the students that goats are friendly creatures, not aggressive as they are often portrayed in cartoons.

Southold Superintendent David Gamberg, accompanied by second grade students from Russ Karsten’s science class, guided Mr. Krupski, Mr. Bellone and Mr. Palumbo through the garden, explaining how the lessons that take place there fit into the school’s curriculum.

The visiting legislators picked food from the plants and listened to farming stories told by Mr. Krupski.

“It’s a really impressive effort,” Mr. Krupski said. “The lessons you learn from growing things yourself will always stay with you.”

He also noted how the garden gives students an “appreciation of what it takes to grow something,” teaches them responsibility and shows the importance of working with Mother Nature.

Another notable attendee was Liana Werner-Gray, a former Miss Earth Australia and author of “The Earth Diet.” Following the Earthfest Celebration she spoke to students about nutrition and the importance of healthy living.

She told the students how she was addicted to junk food for five years, and stressed the importance of constantly maintaining good health. She even handed out “healthy junk food” such as organic chocolate and candy.

“[Earthfest] is important because it teaches kids how to get back to nature. It’s good to get the information at a young age so they can be healthy adults,” she said.

The kids appeared to enjoy the event and were fully engaged in learning and participating at each station. Fan favorites were petting the goats brought by Catapano’s Farms and making fish prints with Group for East End.

Third grader Gabby Bifulco, 8, enjoyed touching crabs at Group for East End’s stand. She also learned many facts about marine life, including that “a long time ago they didn’t have rulers so they used fish prints.”

Kindergartener Rana Miller, 5, enjoyed holding the baby goats and learned “that goats make soap.”

Mia Craus, 6, was fascinated knowing you can eat different types of flowers, something she learned from Sang Lee Organic Vegetable Farms.

Mr. Gamberg said the garden and the day’s events are “the kind of thing that makes what they’re learning [in the classroom] make sense.”

Check out more photos from Earthfest on the next page.