A newly renovated greenhouse at the Montauk School was dedicated to Carol Morrison on May 21. A large group of teachers, members of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, and representatives of the Edible School Gardens group crammed into the well-lighted, aluminum-framed structure, which for the ceremony was filled with sprouting plants, vegetables, herbs, and goldfish for its pond.
A founding member of the Concerned Citizens and the one who lobbied for a donation from the environmental group to the school, Ms. Morrison died at 90 in October 2010. A well-known environmental watchdog and a constant and outspoken presence at East Hampton Town Board meetings, Ms. Morrison was lauded as one who helped preserve Hither Woods and Shadmoor State Park.
At the dedication, Ms. Morrison’s niece, Liddie (Morrison) Baker, who lives in Connecticut, said, “Carol would have been so thrilled at what you guys have done.”
John Tagliavia, a former teacher, initiated the idea for a school greenhouse in 1976. The structure that was finally built in 1979 was a wood-framed building on the south side of the school that, to the disappointment of many, did not supply enough light for growing.
Before she retired in 2010, Margaret Hayes managed the greenhouse and led the nature club. After that, Todd Brunn, who teaches grades one through six, took over its management, working every day with students growing plants and maintaining the fishpond.
Over the years, students held several fund-raisers, including a spaghetti dinner and a fashion show, in support of the building. They also planted an outdoor garden and installed an automatic watering system.
It wasn’t until Ms. Morrison’s successful lobbying efforts that the school received $10,000 from C.C.O.M. for the renovation of the building, with a wide span of windows that got things growing again. Joe Malave, a science teacher, then started his own garden club to teach students about gardening and the interconnectedness of nature, he said.
Susan Vitale of the Montauk Community Garden on the grounds of St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic Church visits weekly with kindergartners and first graders to teach them about nature and help them plant. Jessica James and Allison Harrington of C.C.O.M. voluntarily maintain the building’s interior by organizing tools, cleaning up, and even doing a bit of weeding when necessary.
Donna DiPaolo, who teaches special education, began the dedication ceremony and spoke a bit about the Edible School Gardens group, of which she has been a member for the last four years. The group meets monthly, she explained later in an email, at various schools that have gardens or greenhouses. Members also work with Slow Food East End, which is ready to distribute a cookbook with student recipes that was made possible with funding from Kickstarter, an online site that raises money for a variety of projects.
Additionally, students on the South Fork benefit from a yearly fund-raiser hosted by the Josh Levine Memorial Foundation, which sends master gardeners to schools to speak with students for a few hours each month.
The greenhouse is not open to the public unless requested, but with all those windows you can get a good peek inside and see what the students are up to.