Eliachim Muteba would have loved planting vegetables in his school garden with his Year 3 classmates.
But as Illawarra Christian School students turned the first soil in their new vegie patch yesterday, they could only remember the smile of the cheerful eight-year-old.
Eliachim drowned in January when he was dragged out to sea off Towradgi Point, leaving his close-knit school community in shock.
Seven months later, the school's Cordeaux Heights campus decided to plant a memorial garden, which principal Simon Lainson said would help children remember their friend and provide a permanent link from the school to his family.
"Eliachim was a really hands-on learner and he loved being practical, so this would have been an opportunity he would have loved," Mr Lainson said.
"The garden is a way of being able to help students as they grieve and deal with the process of death and it's also a way of keeping in contact with his family and helping them process what they have been going through."
Mr Lainson said the school had stayed in close contact with Eliachim's mother, Therese Milolo, and was looking forward to welcoming his young twin brothers into prep school next year.
"Therese is very excited about what we're doing in the garden and has offered to bring in a couple of African-style herbs and vegetables to be included, so there's going to be a very strong link with her family."
Mr Lainson said the garden would allow students to talk about Eliachim's life in a positive way.
"Throughout the year, students have been talking about him and questions have come up, so this is about bringing about some closure and doing something tangible to remember him."