BENTON—A new bench could help curb bullying and loneliness on the playground at Benton Elementary School. The school received a grant from the Benton Community Fund to install the Buddy Bench.
It is no more than a bench in the playground, but students have been trained how to use it effectively to make new friends and help make everybody feel included.
“We want kids to feel like they all have a friend,” Dixie Paquette, fourth grade teacher at the school, said. “The bench has gotten some use already. The purpose is to not be on the bench. If someone is there, the other students are supposed to get them off the bench and make them feel like they belong.”
The idea for the bench came from a student at Roundtown Elementary in York, Penn., in 2013. The second grade student, Christian, was preparing to move to Germany with his family when he saw pictures of Buddy Benches in playgrounds at schools in Germany. He told his principal about it and the following fall, after not moving to Germany, Christian helped the school install its first buddy bench.
Paquette said kindergarten through sixth grade students had an assembly where the bench was explained. The playground supervisors all know the purpose of the bench and watch over it while children are on the playground.
According to buddybench.org, the bench should be used as a last resort for children. They were taught at the school assembly that they should use their words first to ask someone to play with them before sitting on the bench. Also, students should have an idea of what they want to play before they go outside.
For students who are on the bench, they are to rest and think about what it is they want to do at the playground. They should also look for opportunities to join in where others are playing. Students who sit on the bench are encouraged to accept any child’s request to play. If more than one child is sitting on the bench, they could ask one another to play.
Children at the playground who are not on the bench are asked to keep an eye on the bench to know if someone is looking for a friend to play with. If no one approaches the child on the bench, the playground monitor will help find a buddy to play with or create a plan for something to play.
Benton’s Buddy Bench was installed approximately two weeks ago. The Benton Community Fund provided a $660 grant to cover the purchase of the bench as well as the placement of the cement.
Paquette said the community is welcome to use the Buddy Bench as a bench when they use the playground with their families.