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Brodnik Outdoor Learning Environment

In November 2023, we opened our new playground, the Brodnik Outdoor Learning Environment (BOLE). 

Play is a vital and necessary component of our students’ school day.

Outdoor learning and unstructured play are integral components of how we support child development. Children are biologically designed to play, and in addition to making children happy, many academic studies show just how important play is to the maturation of cognition, self-esteem, and attention.

bole (bōl) n. the trunk of a tree

The spectacular new Brodnik Outdoor Learning Environment, built in harmony with our natural setting, offers opportunities for active and passive play for students of all ages.

The BOLE features: 

  • places to socialize and engage in imaginative play
  • belt and basket swings for one or several friends to share
  • "treehouse" dodecahedrons for climbing and playing in
  • rope tunnels
  • monkey bars
  • a gaga pit
  • net, rope, and ladder climbers
  • slides of different types and heights
  • a "buddy bench" to invite friends to play
  • green zones with sensory nooks, filled with boulders, log steppers, and plants for native pollinators

Kid Designers

When we designed the new the outdoor play area, we wanted to make sure it provided opportunities for kids to play in ways they wanted to.

When asked our students what they liked to experience when they were outside, their answers such as “I like to be up high,” or “I like to build forts,” or “I like to swing and spin,” informed the playground design.

It is a space for our kids, designed by our kids.

This remarkable playground is uniquely Benchmark. From the design and materials that work so harmoniously with our natural setting to the elements and spaces that allow for both active play and quiet reflection, our playground complements the entirety of the educational experience we strive to create.

Chris Hancock
Head of School

Watch the Playground Opening Day

a natural space

The new play space was carefully designed to complement our outdoorsy, tree-centric campus, using natural materials in both the construction of the play elements as well as the landscaping.

The Brodnik Outdoor Learning Environment also features 16 newly planted trees and nearly 2,000 native plants.

In addition to the play structures, some of which are nearly unique in the country, the boulders (many unearthed during construction) and log steppers across planted rain gardens allow for deeper engagement with nature and are in harmony with the feel of our campus. 


We are grateful to the Brodnik family who were instrumental in bringing this project to fruition. Matt and Maggie Brodnik are parents of TJ Brodnik ‘22. The Brodniks are a testament to just how transformational contributions can be for decades into the future. 

Photo credit: Sahar Coston-Hardy.