By Janee Law
Sitting in the main entrance of Cold Spring Harbor School District's West Side School is a colorful bench that was crafted as a means to remind students to show kindness and grit.
With phrases like “Stay true to yourself,” “Never give up,” “Productive Mind” and “Excel,” the bench was built to encourage students to show grit, and motivate others to make positive choices throughout the day.
Art Teacher Andria McLaughlin led the project, which was completed at the end of June. She worked with two sixth-grade classes, who have now moved onto seventh grade. Both classes consisted of nearly 25 students.
McLaughlin said the nearly $700 bench was funded by the Cultural Arts Committee and was crafted by woodworker Larry Nagler, adding that they wanted the bench to be functional and comfortable for students.
The colorful design of the bench was inspired by Brazilian artist, Romero Britto, a neo-pop artist known for combining elements of cubism, pop art and graffiti.
“It’s colorful, bright, and exciting imagery that has a graphic quality,” McLaughlin said. “I felt students would be most successful with the outcome.”
She added that “the idea was that we wanted to use motivational words and phrases within the bench to encourage students to show grit.”
West Side School Principal Kurt Simon said that students who show grit and kindness throughout the day receive recognition through grit tickets. Students write their names on a ticket and place it in a container. At the end of the week, the tickets are counted up and the winning class is announced.
The bench, located at the 1597 Laurel Hollow Road school in Syosset, also sends a message to parents as well, Simon said.
“Now when people come in, it’s a reminder to all of our parents that this is the work we’re doing with our kids,” Simon said. “It’s woven into the daily experiences that they have at West Side.”
While working on the bench, McLaughlin said the best part was watching it come to fruition.
“The production is always exciting but, in the end, putting each tile in place and seeing the entire bench come alive was probably the most exciting part,” she added. “It’s a creative, beautiful and functional display that keeps reminding students that they need to continuously show grit.”