The recipient of the highest honor for civic development was announced by The Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland last month. The Governor’s Cup Award was presented to the Chestertown Garden Club for leadership in developing and maintaining the Garnet Good Seeds Garden. Ninety-nine Maryland garden clubs, including over 3500 members, may be eligible for this coveted annual award. This public recognition was the fourth award in predictably ongoing accolades for the inestimable value in a community garden on the Kent County elementary school grounds.
In late summer, 2018, a collaboration began with Chestertown Garden Club and a group of parent volunteers in the belief that placemaking through sustainable landscape practices could tell the true story of the neighborhood school. Named for the black orator and abolitionist, Henry Highland Garnet, the school occupies a full city block on Calvert Street between Kent Street and College Avenue.
Schools may provide physical and logistical centers for civic development. The important difference between a school garden and a school-based community garden is that community members are more than just school volunteers. They are actively engaged in the organization, planning, decision making, and day-to-day maintenance of the project.
Chestertown Garden Club members, among many other local volunteers, recognized the opportunity in the $100,000 project. The team in a broad network of contributors was essential for required funding and in-kind donations. Helping to lead the charge in fall, 2018, Miles Bernard of South Fork Landscape Architects donated the project design, an estimated $8,000 value. An army of community businesses, the Town and County governments, environmental advocates, foundations and other non-profit organizations, plus many individuals—all joined forces. This mammoth effort developed the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation required for planting the good seeds of positive civic engagement.
The sustainable ecosystem in the renovated landscape includes a mix of native plants providing bird habitat, pollinator habitat, and kid habitat. Native fruit-eating birds find serviceberry, persimmon, chokecherry, winterberry, and elderberry. Plantings host a multitude of insects supplying a vitally important protein source for species raising nestlings and those that require food and fruit to fuel their migration. Both playful and practical, the garden includes meandering pathways and “rooms” for outdoor instruction. Educators know the multisensory value in a garden classroom. Garnet teachers expand on each student’s previous knowledge reinforcing the goals and objectives in STEAM-based learning, enriching the science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics curriculum.
Science: Children of all ages discover the ecological web of plants and the living things that use them for food and shelter. Consideration for the helpful and harmful effects of weather including further steps in healthy garden maintenance becomes part of this outdoor classroom practice.
Technology: Beginning with the use of simple gardening tools, the discussion evolves to machines and technology used in producing and maintaining larger gardens and in farming.
Engineering: Garnet Elementary School students witness the evolving design of the landscape and are further involved in garden maintenance and added planting. The hands-on experience includes an ongoing discussion of the vital components of sunlight, soil, and water.
Art: Gardening provides a creative opportunity for children to express their interactive garden experience.
Mathematics: The counting or grouping of similar sizes, shapes, and proportions are a few examples of the enriching mathematical experience encouraged by the garden’s instructional setting.
In celebration of Earth Week 2021, the members of the Chestertown Garden Club (CGC) would like to express their appreciation for the outstanding civic engagement that has directly benefited the Garnet Good Seeds Garden where many hands continue to make maintenance easier.
Come One, Come All on Wednesday mornings at 9 am for about an hour, weather permitting.
Your tax deductible monetary contribution made payable to The Garnet Good Seeds Garden, will be gratefully received at 201 Radcliffe Drive, Chestertown, MD 21620.
Submitted by Barb Macbeth
CGC Past President and the current Awards Chair
For Carolyne Grotsky
CGC President and the Project Chair