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Growing relationships

Stawamus pupils work with Hilltop House on gardening project
Rebecca Aldous/The Chief
(from left) Stawamus Elementary School students Jocelyn Harry, Gracie Zohner and Marjorie Joseph work on their flower box at Hilltop House on Thursday, May 8. The students are creating butterfly gardens and the kindergarten class is growing caterpillars to add to them.


Marjorie Joseph drives the shovel into the fresh dirt.

“We had the worse box,” Gracie Zohner says, as the 10-year-old pours garden soil out of a plastic bag. “In the middle of the thorns there was a red tulip.”

It looked like it was out of a movie, Jocelyn Harry chimes in. 

This is the Stawamus Elementary School students’ third time to Hilltop House, Jocelyn continues. The first time the Grade 5 students came to the seniors living centre, they checked out what they were dealing with. The second time, they carefully weeded their plot with the help of some of the centre’s residents. And today they were there to add new soil and flower seeds to the beds.

It’s all a part of a project on habitat, Gracie says. While the kindergarten students are raising caterpillars that will transform into Painted Lady butterflies, the Grade 5 pupils are researching what type of flowers the insects feed on. 

By the end of this month, both projects will come together in the care centre’s garden. The kindergarten class will bring the Painted Ladies and thanks to the older kids, the garden beds will be ready for them.

The initiative is pumping colour into a yard that needed some attention, Hilltop House’s activity coordinator Cindy den Dekker says. But beyond the flowers, the project is building bonds. Just as the students are assigned a box, so too are the residents. 

When the youth and seniors weeded the flower beds the centre also staged a barbecue and Squamish Nation musician Alice Guss entertained the busy workers with her music. 

“It was so fun,” den Dekker says.

Marjorie, Gracie and Jocelyn chat about vampires and grandparents as they spread out the dirt. Marjorie, the joker of the group, neatly draws a line in the earth with a garden trowel, as Jocelyn and Gracie place seeds along the marker. When asked what their garden will eventually look like, Gracie replies “awesome,” Jocelyn says “pretty” and Marjorie says “tasty.”

They erupt into giggles.