Greenport breaks ground on school garden expansion

The Greenport School District hosted a groundbreaking ceremony Friday to celebrate its school garden expansion.

The project was made possible by a $10,000 grant the school received from the California-based organization Seeds of Change.

“I’m thrilled that we have this opportunity and I can’t wait to see this grow,” Greenport superintendent David Gamberg said.

The project is something Greenport teacher Jeannie Calderale has waited years to see come to fruition. Ms. Calderale helped bring the first garden to the school in 2011 and in recent years she, as well as others, have been pushing for a larger garden that can accommodate more activities for the students and the community.

“The garden we started with is a very small space and you can’t even get an entire classroom in there to learn,” she said. “We really wanted a space where we could bring kids and they could be working on different parts of the garden at the same time.”

Ms. Calderale said as soon as the school received the grant everything was set into motion and she is excited to get the kids out of the classroom and allow them to get their hands dirty.

“By moving and digging into the earth and learning by doing, they’re going to learn it more fully,” she said.

Each elementary class was assigned a garden bed station to sit at during the ceremony. The students took turns filling up plastic cups with dirt and then pouring it into the bed. The fifth graders also performed the song “Inch by Inch” along with pre-k teacher Heather Petretti.

“It’s a really beautiful day and a really special day that really speaks to the heart of why we are here in education, to promote the ideals of creativity, nutrition, and health and wellness,” Mr. Gamberg said.

The new garden space was packed with students, parents and teachers Friday. Village Mayor George Hubbard Jr. also came out to celebrate the new space.

“It’s really nice for the kids to see where their food comes from and to watch it be planted grow with them,” he said.

Seeds of Change was founded in 1989 by a group of gardeners looking to make organically grown seeds available to gardeners and farmers while preserving heirloom seed varieties that were in danger of being lost due to modern agricultural advances. The organization awards grants to groups that support sustainable, community-based gardening programs designed to teach people about the food they’re growing and eating.

Lucy Senesac of Sang Lee Farms in Peconic also had her hand in creating the garden.

“Their dream was to expand it and make it bigger and my role is to actually help make this happen,” she said. Ms. Senesac was instrumental in the design of the garden. She suggested the idea of having garden beds­, which were built by students in technology teacher Mike Davies’ class, so that the crops will be more easily maintained and it gives the space wheelchair accessibility.

Ms. Senesac said the look and placement are important for a successful garden and getting community members involved.

“That is my hope and wish that the whole community gets involved and makes [the garden] closer to where people can see it creates a space for interaction,” she said.

Ms. Senesac said the goal is for the garden expansion to be completed by May.

“I’m really excited to go forward with this project and that the village and the school came together to make it happen,” she said.

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