MERIDEN — Students at Benjamin Franklin School have a new space in which to meditate, run their hands through sand and find peace, thanks to a donation from a local business.
Bongiovanni Insurance and Financial and BSP donated $5,000 to create the Sage Room, a place to support social/emotional learning. School and Bongiovanni representatives attended a ribbon-cutting Friday.
“This encourages emotional regulation through the act of play,” Benjamin Franklin Principal Joanne Conte told the crowd. “It promotes calm and awareness for both body and mind, it strengthens focus and attention and keeps students learning and growing.”
This money was raised with the help of Choose Love, a program founded after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.
“This is our major fundraiser,” said Eileen Bongiovanni. “We wanted to make it local, so we started working with the Board of Education. We’re very passionate about Choose Love...”
A classroom off the media room that wasn’t being used was converted into the Sage Room, which stands for wisdom. The name was chosen because of the color and to remember a special student, Conte said.
The school’s art teacher Joshua Cohn worked with student members of the art team to create murals and details, such as clouds on the ceiling. The drop lighting is draped with color to soften it. There are aquariums, coloring books, and sensory tables for touching sand and other materials to encourage relaxation.
A print of a large sage bloom on the wall contains the thumbprint of every student and faculty member.
Students demonstrated yoga and meditation on floor pillows. Classroom teachers will schedule time for students to use the room, and staff has been trained in mindfulness activities. Counselors will also have access to the room for students having a difficult day.
Choose Love Founder Scarlett Lewis attended the ribbon-cutting. She lost her son Jesse Lewis on Dec. 14, 2012 when former Sandy Hook student Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 first-graders and six educators. Choose Love focuses on social emotional development, preventing bullying and isolation among children and teens.
“I am honored to be working with Bongiovanni,” Lewis said. “This is absolutely beautiful. This can help prevent the real suffering we see in schools, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, mental illness and loneliness. All these things can be reduced by addressing the whole child.”
The Bongiovanni famiy met Lewis when a friend of Ty Bongiovanni’s served on the Choose Love board of directors. Next year the Bongiovanni Foundation will donate funds for a different project at Meriden’s Casimir Pulaski Elementary School.
“On behalf of my family I want to thank you so much for the opportunity to give back,” said Ty Bongiovanni. “This community has done so much for our family we wanted to give back.”