Creating a place for children to read and study was the original plan for the Rolling Hills Elementary School PTA’s Literacy Garden. Although the school’s PTA had received funding several years earlier, planning and logisitics had prevented any work from being done.

However, during the summer of 2010, Fred Simons (aka Grampa Fred) took over as Chair of the Literacy Garden and started building. “It is a place for the students, teachers and staff to relax, and it is also a learning tool for the students. Also, the crops that were produced over the summer helped to feed families in the PQ area,” said Simons.

The garden is located on the school grounds and has a three-foot by twelve-foot raised bed for each grade plus four additional beds. In addition to Simons, Greg Grinaker, Aigular Agulara, Sunshine Assisted Living, Lowe’s Home Center, Armstrong Garden Center and Home Depot have all been involved in helping the garden to flourish.

The ESS students also contributed by weeding and harvesting the crops over the summer, and due to their hard work, were able to donate their harvest to the Backyard Produce Project and the Penasquitos Lutheran Church. Simons hopes that the classrooms will continue to do the same during the school year.

Simons, who has a grandchild at Rolling Hills, is an avid gardener with a special interest in vegetable gardens. He is also an active volunteer at many organizations including the Polinsky Center, Jewish Community Centers, Toys for Tots, Jewish Family Services, Rides and Smiles, and Jr. Achievement.

With his gardening background, Simons has high hopes for what the Literacy Garden will accomplish. “This is still a work in progress, but my hope is that the teachers will use the garden to teach science and healthy eating habits,” said Simons. He also hopes to set up the garden as an outdoor classroom, coordinate activities with the local community and business groups, and have it ultimately become a model for other schools to follow. “The kids learn work ethic, teamwork, responsibility, helping others, and working with seniors,” explained Simons. “Intergenerational benefits and opportunities are very meaningful.”