Photo by Lorna Cantale.
By Anya Bochman
While rising junior Matthew Cantale of West Morris Mendham High
School partakes in the typical pursuits of a student, this Boy Scout has recently distinguished himself with a community project.
A Troop 1 Life Scout with the Boy Scouts for the past six years, and
currently assistant senior patrol leader, Cantale designed an outdoor
learning center for the Mendham Co-Operative Nursery School for his BSA Eagle Scout project.
“I was walking around town one day [when I came across the nursery],” Cantale said of the origin of his endeavor. “I went there when I was younger, and wanted to give back.”
To that end, Cantale initially reached out to WMMHS administrators in September 2017. Following many meetings, research and a design over a span of nine months, the project was finally accepted as a welcome addition to the school’s curriculum.
Troop 1 Scouts and Assistant Scout Masters helped Cantale over a four- day period in order to complete construction on the learning center. The completed project features a “circle time” area made up of tree stump seating, a group reading area that consists of six benches, an art class area of six painting easels, a wet sand exploration table, a weight scale and a lunch area of two picnic tables. Though the Scouts had originally planned for an ant farm, they eventually opted for easels as the Nursery requested something more “hands-on” and easier to maintain.
Additionally, the Scouts planted a forsythia border and an entrance gate to enclose the learning center.
“We were hoping for an outdoor classroom, and as a result doubled their space,” said Cantale. “I am personally a hands-on learner who gets bored in the [traditional] classroom, so I wanted to help.”
To purchase the necessary building materials, Cantale set up a
GoFundMe page, with a final goal of $1,500. Although he fell slightly
short of his goal, with $1,465 collected, he insists that it was the “perfect amount of money,” which more than covered expenses. The unspecified remainder of the funds was donated to the nursery.
Aside from the assistance he received from his parents and troop,
Cantale was aided by a number of local businesses. These included
Wicker Basket, Kings, Robinson Drugs, Sorrento's Pizza and the
Mendham Garden Center – all of Mendham; Home Depot of Succasunna and East Hanover; Lowes, Walmart and Weis of Flanders; Shoprite and Dunkin Donuts of Chester; GM Fence of East Hanover and Shop Rite of Morris Plains.
On Monday, April 23, the learning center held its grand opening during
which the co-op students and staff could experience for the first time the outdoor classroom that Cantale and his fellow Scouts had created.
“I never realized the impact of this project, until I saw the excitement on the kids’ faces at the grand opening,” Cantale stated. “It made me feel good inside, realizing that I helped a lot of people.”
During the school year Cantale was on the fencing team, marching band, and was working toward his black belt in karate outside of school hours.
While being involved in school is important, Cantale suggests helping
out in the community especially to non-profits.
When it comes to extracurricular projects, Cantale said that he would
encourage others to aid non-profit pre-schools such as the nursery, as it would allow people to “enhance [the schools’] world more.”