Construction on Kairos Cross Milkweed Garden Nearing Completion


Scott Hopke

Construction on the Kairos cross native milkweed garden nearly completion. (May 24, 2023)

Ted Truebner, Staff Reporter

Machines revving, hammers pounding, sparks flying. It’s hard to miss all the work going on in the outdoor classroom. A landscaping crew is closing in on finishing the creation of a Kairos cross. Inside of the smaller crosses that are part of the design, there will be a native milkweed garden.

The milkweed garden has been at Rockhurst for some years now, just in the shape of a horseshoe. Rockhurst administration says they planned on remodeling it. After the rest of the outdoor classroom was completed earlier this school year, that’s when the idea to revamp the garden into a Kairos cross came about.

“The goal was to preserve the butterfly station, create a fluid walking and sitting path within the space, and have it reflect this symbol of Christianity, which we commonly use on Kairos,” school president David Laughlin said.

One of the main purposes of the garden is to attract monarch butterflies during their migration to Mexico. Ever since the original milkweed garden was first constructed, the butterflies have visited every August, where they would lay their eggs. Those eggs would metamorphosize into butterflies here, and Environmental Science students would collect data on the population of monarchs, number of eggs, number of larvae and the number of chrysalises.

“We wanted to provide a natural habitat for the monarchs, so we selected native milkweed,” said science department chair and teacher Paul Winkeler. “It’s also what they are directly attracted to, so it helps bring them in.”

The Kairos cross is very important to Rockhurst. Kairos is a spiritual retreat that every junior at Rockhurst does. The retreat lasts three days and consists of a lot of prayer and self-reflection. However, many aspects of the retreat are secretive and only meant for people who have completed the retreat.

“Knowing how important Kairos is here at Rockhurst and how important Jesus is to our mission, it seemed to me a nice idea to combine the faith element of the design with the scientific endeavors that this space will offer,” Laughlin said.

The project is expected to be completed shortly after school dismisses. Then, the new native milkweed will be planted in time for the mass monarch migration in August.

The new garden will be the latest enhancement to the Jack Nestor ‘34 Outdoor Classroom. Earlier this school year, work wrapped up on the initial phase of renovation to change the previously empty space in between the main building and the maker space building, to a more vibrant area with a pond, a tortoise habitat, and an area with benches and chairs for learning. 

Speaking of the tortoise habitat, the new renovation of the milkweed garden removed the space required for Franklin, Rockhurst’s beloved African Tortoise. During the construction, he lived with the Warrensburg family. When he’s returned to Rockhurst, his habitat will be relocated to just outside of room 201 on the northwest side of the building.