PCMS Giving Garden 2019
In the garden
A garden for good keeps growing
School may be out for the summer but there is still work to be done and lessons to be learned in the Port Chester Middle School Giving Garden.
Now in its 13th year, the garden was created by a former teacher and is now overseen by Family and Consumer Science teacher Allison Silverman.
The garden, located on the PCMS campus, serves a dual purpose. Ms. Silverman uses it in her classroom when teaching students about nutrition. Students start seeds and later plant the seedlings in the garden beds. In the fall, the last of the produce is harvested, and students use some of it in their cooking lessons. In addition, the garden provides fresh food for those in need. Much of the produce is donated to local organizations that distribute the bounty throughout the community.
“I teach nutrition, community connections, sustainability and leadership,” Ms. Silverman said, adding the garden covers all of those concepts.
On a muggy summer morning, Ms. Silverman was busy at the garden, along with several volunteers who were helping weed the beds. The garden boasts an assortment of fruits and vegetables including tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, beans, zucchini, pumpkins, watermelon, cantaloupe, apples, pears and more.
This summer, the garden has a few additions in the form of flowering plants, thanks to PCMS incoming seventh-grader Lucia Giordano.
Lucia is working on earning her Girl Scout Silver Award. Her project includes planting a butterfly garden to attract monarch butterflies.
“I like coming to the garden so I can learn more about it,” Lucia said. The flowers she helped plant, including black eyed Susan’s, are known for attracting pollinators, such as butterflies. This summer she is growing monarchs from caterpillars, in hopes of helping the population.
“I just enjoy knowing I am doing something to help,” Lucia said.
She was joined in the garden this day by her brother, Santo Giordano, who will be in third grade at King Street Elementary School. He said he especially likes digging in the garden.
Ms. Sullivan’s children, Tony and Adi, were also helping.
Also new to the garden this year is a student intern. Joel Ramirez, who will be a senior at Port Chester High School, said he applied for the internship as he saw an opportunity to do some work outdoors. He helps weed and water the beds and harvest the produce.
Fellow PCHS student William Manos, who will be going into 10th grade, also volunteers in the garden.
“I think it’s a very good idea,” William said of the garden’s purpose.
The garden has also inspired students’ creativity.
This past school year, Ms. Sullivan partnered with the local Clay Art Center for a special garden-related project. It was the first collaboration with the center at the middle school.
Kelly O’Sullivan, community arts manager at the center, visited Ms. Sullivan’s classes and worked with students to create clay tiles that were later used to decorate a bench for the garden. The theme for the bench was “Save the Bees,” and the tiles reflect that theme with motifs of bees, honeycombs and flowers. It also has a list of plants that are important for pollinators, such as bees.
“Overall we have this really amazing collaboration. We have been following this community garden for years and we reached out to Allison and she was so enthusiastic,” Ms. O’Sullivan said. “The students were equally as eager.”
For PCHS alumna Zeltzyn Sanchez-Gomez, Class of 2016, visiting the garden was a special treat as she got to see her former teacher, Ms. Silverman. She presently works as the community arts liaison at the center, and would visit PCMS with Ms. O’Sullivan when students worked on their tiles. She was helpful in bridging the gap with the Spanish-speaking students.
“It was good to have a Spanish-speaking component for them,” she said. “It made it so all were welcome and included.”
On July 19, guests from the Clay Art Center, legislators from Westchester County and the state assembly, along with some of the student gardeners, gathered for the bench dedication.
“It was fun,” Alison Lopez, an incoming PCMS seventh-grader, said of the bench project.
She stopped by the garden on this day with her friend Kally Vizhco. Both had made tiles for the bench and wanted to see the bench now that it was completed.
“It looks really pretty,” Alison said.
“All the work done in here is done by local families and our kids,” Ms. Silverman told those who gathered.
“We are thrilled about this project and had an amazing experience,” added Ms. O’Sullivan. “We are looking forward to future collaborations.”