There is a colourful butterfly garden full of greens and flowers just outside of St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Elementary School in Elmira, and it is all thanks to Sarah Lucier.
When she was a Grade 8 student at the school, Lucier’s teacher assigned a project, challenging his students to make a difference. Planting a butterfly garden was her answer to the challenge.
“I had seen some articles in the newspaper and heard on the news about how there had been a decrease in the monarch butterfly population, but I just wanted to help out even if it was in a small way,” she said. “I decided to plant a garden with milkweed and other plants that monarch butterflies specifically like to land on and feed on. A lot of people see milkweed as a weed, it is getting killed everywhere and it is taking away the butterfly’s habitat.”
The 14-year-old is now a Grade 9 student at St. David Catholic Secondary School in Waterloo, but she is still coming once a week to weed and water her project.
“My grandma and my mom come as well,” Lucier said, adding that she did a bunch of research before choosing which plants to put in the ground. “I think it is really nice to have at the school. It is beautiful because there are lots of flowers. It will take a while before the monarch butterflies actually start coming to the garden, the caterpillars. I planted some parsley which the monarch butterfly caterpillars like to latch on to. I just want to continue it for the school to have something nice like that.”The garden is chock full of butterfly weed, or milkweed, a pink flower called cosmos, deep purple salvia, black-eyed susans and some plants that attract bees, as well as the parsley for the butterfly’s cocoons and more.
Other students in her class took the assignment in a different direction, choosing to fundraise or teach others.
“My one friend did a fundraiser for cancer by selling bracelets that my other friend made, so she did an arts and crafts project. Some people did YouTube video tutorials on how to do certain things. There was one teaching how to draw,” said Lucier, adding that young people don’t need an assignment to try and change the world. “I would definitely encourage them to do something like this. It is a great outcome and it feels really good to help out with something.”
The garden isn’t going anywhere soon, with the plants still growing and taking root, and Lucier says she wants it to serve as a positive reminder to students at St. Teresa.
“I want the garden to help the students remember the small, little things of the earth,” she said adding that she has already thought about the future of the garden. “My little brother still goes to St. Teresa, so hopefully he will be able to help too.”