Shown is an aerial view of the new Great Outdoor Learning Center that's being constructed on the campus of St. Benedict Parish and School, Holmdel. Courtesy photos
Shown is an aerial view of the new Great Outdoor Learning Center that's being constructed on the campus of St. Benedict Parish and School, Holmdel. Courtesy photos
" We feel the Great Outdoor Learning Center will be a game-changer for St. Benedict School. "

A new outdoor learning experience is being made available for the students of St. Benedict School.

Construction is currently underway for the Holmdel school’s new Great Outdoor Learning Center that is designed to strengthen the school’s curriculum in STEM-related subjects.

“St. Benedict School strives to be on the cutting edge of STEM education. Our campus currently has a lot of open space, and we wanted to take advantage of it,” said Kevin Donahue, principal.

Along with acknowledging kindergarten teacher Tara Guido for being instrumental in bringing the outdoor center to fruition, Donahue said the impetus for the project was in response to parents who had asked for a stronger STEM program.

“We want to make the most of our resources and give our families the highest quality Catholic education,” he said. “This project definitely addresses their request.”

Donahue said the outdoor center will be situated near the school’s state-of-the-art science lab, which was constructed three years ago, and will include an outdoor education learning lab along with comprehensive lessons designed to support not only STEM, but all disciplines addressed in the school’s pre-K to grade eight curriculum.

He noted that the STEM instructor, Alexander Isaacs, works with students on hands-on projects using Makespace, which is equipped with 3D printers, green screen technology, coding and robotics equipment.  All students, he added, will be encouraged to use the learning center and different grade levels will be responsible for maintaining certain areas of the space such as the pond, gardens, compost and playscape. The space will be equipped with seating.

To support the construction, Donahue said that the school received a grant from the OceanFirst Foundation and also hosted a walk-a-thon last spring on the track of nearby St. John Vianney High School during which more than $42,000 was raised.

“The St. Benedict community is extremely generous,” Donahue said. He acknowledged the parents who work in the construction, demolition and architecture businesses and their generosity with their time and resources.

“Countless hours of meetings and research are finally coming to fruition. St. Benedict has a great team whose commitment to this project has never wavered,” Donahue said, adding that measures that have been underway since a November groundbreaking ceremony are contractors clearing and grading the space and installing split-level fencing and the pond.

“We feel the Great Outdoor Learning Center will be a game-changer for St. Benedict School,” Donahue said.