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Mount Kisco Elementary School Rededicates Its Garden

students work together to plant a tree

Mount Kisco Elementary School (MKES) recently hosted a beautiful outdoor garden rededication ceremony in celebration of its 10th anniversary. In attendance were MKES students, faculty and staff as well as special guests from district administration, the Board of Education, Mayor Gina D. Picinich and members of the Mary Lou Staropoli family. 

Thanks to generous donations in honor of Staropoli’s life and her dedication to MKES, the garden has a brand new sign and, in the spring, will get a layer of gravel to cover the cracked blacktop. These upgrades, in combination with the newly restored gardens beds thanks to parent volunteers, will help to usher in a new decade for the garden.

Started in 2010 and officially opened in 2011 under the leadership of Principal Sue Ostrofsky who worked to transform an overgrown, abandoned tennis court, the MKES garden has evolved into truly a special place.

“Our MKES students understand the natural growth of plants, from seeds to sprouts. They understand the impact that rain, drought and other forces of nature have on garden and plant life,” Principal Inas Morsi-Hogans told the crowd. “More importantly, students at MKES are building lifelong social skills, learning responsibility, sharing, working as teams, having ownership and pride of their school and becoming leaders.”

On a typical day, you might find students weeding the newly restored plant beds, tasting vegetables or laying on carpet mats in the sunshine, reading a book.

Fifth graders Vaughan Reilly, Emma Feldman, Allyson Arteaga Soto, and Evan Cattanach shared their writing reflections about the garden during the ceremony, remarking on the memories they have made there.

“It will be a really good memory when I grow old and I reminisce about my childhood,” said Vaughan. “I’ll remember the feeling of the shining sun and the smell of the deep earth and I’ll never forget accidentally eating the wrong part of a plant! Try not to do that.”

The ceremony also included student musical performances, a tree planting in honor of Staropoli and a student-led garden tour for the ceremony’s special guests. 

“Jalapeños are really hot, do you eat those?” Superintendent Dr. Joel Adelberg asked, after a student pointed them out to him.

“Yes!” answered the student, who made sure to point out less spicy options as they continued their tour. At the same time, Board of Education member Beth Staropoli bonded with a student over their shared love of eggplant.

“If you ask MKES students, they will tell you that the garden is one of their favorite places to be,” Garden Co-Chair Jennifer Wege (affectionately known as “Mrs. Garden Teacher” to students) told the crowd earlier. “That is why we continue to work tirelessly to ensure our garden continues to grow and remains at the heart of teaching and learning at MKES.”

Part of the school’s pride in the garden comes from the fact that it not only serves MKES, it serves the entire community. Since July, the garden has provided more than 400 pounds of food to families in the community. It is a truly special place.

“The garden means a lot to me,” fifth grader Emma Feldman told the crowd during the ceremony. “I’ve visited the garden since kindergarten and now I’m in fifth grade. I love to plant veggies and just read outside. I like to put seeds in the dirt and watch them grow. I’m super sad to leave this school and that it’s my last year visiting this garden.”

MKES celebrates garden rededication with music outsidea student reads her garden reflection to the crowd at MKESa student gives Dr. Adelberg a tour of the garden