Students at Spring Hill Elementary School in Anchorage are busy digging and planting as the school year winds down.

"These guys have worked hard and it shows that to have perseverance, not everyone's plant made it when we first planted it," fourth-grade teacher Elizabeth Freligh said.

For close to 10 years, Freligh had her classes tend to small garden boxes located on school grounds with flowers or potatoes. Last summer, South Anchorage Rotary President Amy Mackey-Hornak called the school with an idea and was quickly transferred to Freligh.

"The whole purpose of it was to teach the kids not only to garden but to give back to the community," Mackey-Hornak said.

Mackey-Hornak came up with the idea after having a conversation with her son, a board member for Bean's Cafe. Some garden boxes in the community currently grow potatoes and carrots and donate them to Bean's, and the food from the Spring Hill garden will be donated to the Bean's-affiliated Children's Lunchbox.

Mackey-Hornak wanted more community involvement and that's when she decided to reach out to the schools.

"You have this beautiful bed full of pine trees; what happens if we take those pine trees out and start a garden?" Freligh said.

The pine trees in what is now the garden boxes were removed by volunteers last August. In February, Freligh's class started planting seeds inside. Now they are outside almost daily planting.

"These guys all know they can come this summer and anytime they want something fresh they can come get it," Freligh said.

"That's a lifetime of teaching them health education, eating healthy and right," she added. "I'd like to pass that on to this future generation."

All of Spring Hill Elementary is involved with the garden boxes. Mackey-Hornak initially wanted to start with four or five schools, but it quickly grew to 10. Students and volunteers will tend to the gardens throughout the summer to help have them ready for harvest in the fall.

The South Anchorage Rotary is donating all the seeds this year and will do so again next year. If you'd like to help, you may contact the rotary, your school, or help Freligh's class through DonorsChoose.org.

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