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Koda Bench Cultivates Kindness at Birch Lane

Friendship was the focus at Birch Lane Elementary School on May 20 as the community came together to celebrate the dedication of a new koda bench.

 The project was a team effort as the bench was built and designed by students from Massapequa High School. Technology students under the direction of teacher James DeSantis constructed the eight-sided bench with encircles a tree. It was then painted by art students from Penny Schneider’s classes.

 Ms. Schneider explained that “koda” is the Native American word for “friend,” so it was an especially meaningful project in a community that uses the nickname, the Chiefs. Birch Lane is the fifth elementary school in the district to receive a koda bench, and the ongoing initiative even sparked the creation of an illustrated book by Massapequa High School art students, “On My Way to the Koda Bench.”

 Principal Stephen Aspetti said that “choosing kind” has been the theme at Birch Lane for the past few years, and the addition of the koda bench supports this mission. Located adjacent to the playground, a student can sit there when in need of a friend or a companion to play with. 

 “Sometimes, it isn’t easy to tell if someone needs a friend,” Mr. Aspetti said. “Our new koda bench is going to help us do just that.”

 The high school students, along with members of Birch Lane’s SADD and Kindness club, performed a skit to remind students what they should bring with them to the bench — compassion, kindness and a game, to name a few. High school musicians Molly Guarton and Mario Mannarino performed an original song about the koda bench. Fourth grader Riley Donohue, a member of the Kindness Club, then cut the ribbon.

 All students and staff attended the ceremony along with representatives from the PTA and district as well as Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino, who attended Birch Lane as a child.

 In her closing remarks, Assistant Principal Joyce Larkin told students that while it is important for them to recognized for their incredible acts of kindness, the most special acts of kindness occur when no one else is watching.

 “Our new koda bench is much more than a piece of furniture to us,” Ms. Larkin said. “It represents a culture of kindness which we all work so hard to foster each every day here at Birch Lane.