‘It feels like an accomplishment’

Open space becomes outdoor classroom at church

Special to The Sun: The outdoor classroom at Our Lady of Good Counsel School in Moorestown gives students a fresh change of scenery.

Life Scout and Moorestown High School senior Xavier Ladik gave back to his community by helping construct an outdoor classroom on the grounds of Our Lady of Good Counsel School.

“I’ve been a member of OLGC (Our Lady of Good Counsel Church) Parish for as long as we’ve been in town, so this project was really a way to fulfill my Boy Scout requirements, as well as to give back to my religious community there at OLGC,” Ladik said.

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Father Jim Grogan explained how the project started when a member of the church’s garden committee approached him about utilizing the open space behind the prayer garden.

“ … I had actually seen a program on outdoor classrooms in the Diocese of Trenton in March that was being done by another parish – Saint Benedict in Holmdel,’’ he recalled. “It was a great little video that the principal was showing what these kids were doing.”

“ … Following the garden committee pointing the space out, literally two days later, I had a meeting with Xavier Ladik looking to do an Eagle Scout project somewhere around our parish grounds,” Grogan added.

Many volunteers helped, including the church’ garden committee, the Knights of Columbus and fellow Boy Scouts. Paul’s Tree Service donated wood chips and tree stumps for seating.

“ … The whole parish community got together behind the idea that had started with Xavier’s offer to do an Eagle Scout project, and so we had so many people involved in wanting to help, wanting to pitch in,” Grogan noted. 

“ … The project itself, from thought process to completion, was about six weeks. It was incredibly fast, and (I) credit that to Xavier.”

Special to The Sun: “It feels like an accomplishment,” said Life Scout Xavier Ladik of turning an empty space into a classroom. “When it boils down to it, this is something that has been achieved, not for myself, but for others.”

Ladik designed and built the classroom’s entrance and completed additional yard work.

“ … The whole lot was completely disused and for a long time,” he said. “ … The first thing I did with my project was just a lot of yard work in trying to maintain this area and make it safe for children basically, because a lot of the natural hazards and obstacles were really disruptive to an environment that would be good for children to come in.”

“The second part was building the path …’’ Ladik added. “I built a wood chip path … about a 50-foot wood chip path with wooden edging along the side and a garden arch over the top to create an inviting and welcoming entryway.”  

Grogan shared plans for the outdoor classroom, which is continuous with the church’s parking lot.

“ … Longer term, our garden committee plans to put in a pollinator and butterfly garden in the center of the space, really recognizing the need,” he said.

Ladik enjoyed seeing something he envisioned come to fruition.

“ … Week by week, day by day, we would do work, create change, and then now looking back on it, I know what it looked like before,” he said, “I know what it looks like now, and it’s really exciting to see something that was just in Father Jim’s and my head now real for other people to see and hopefully appreciate and use.”

Both Grogan and Ladik reflected on bringing the outdoor space to the community.

“As people walk through the white lattice archway that Xavier had put in, and they get beyond a privacy fence that was at the end of our parking lot, and they turn that corner, nine out of 10 people – as they turn the corner – they say, ‘Wow,’ and that’s exactly the reaction that we hoped for,” Grogan said.

“It feels like an accomplishment,” Ladik said. “When it boils down to it, this is something that has been achieved, not for myself but for others. It’s an incredible feeling to sit back, to do something and realize that it’s going to be appreciated, that this was done for a good cause.”

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