Sometimes all it takes to make a new friend is a smile, a wave or even sitting next to someone on a bench. Newly-installed “buddy benches” at Brown Elementary School aim to encourage interaction between students, helping those who may feel lonely foster new relationships with their classmates.
The school decided to purchase two buddy benches after a campus supervisor noticed children being left out on the playground. After reading in the news about a school that recently installed the benches, the supervisor suggested the idea as a unique and valuable way to spend PTA funds.
“Because she’s a campus supervisor, she knows the issues that happen on the playground,” said Principal Nicole Aviles. “She thought it would be great to have at the school.”
The concept of the buddy bench is simple – if a child is feeling nervous or lonely, they can sit on the bench and another student will come over to say hello and make them feel included. At Brown Elementary, the blue buddy benches are adorned with smiling faces, encouraging students to take a seat if they feel left out.
Aviles added that the buddy bench concept is one that is needed now more than ever. With students who are growing up during the age of social media and cyber bullying, Aviles said it’s not uncommon to see children coming to school already feeling lonely because of something they may have read online.
“We want to instill in the kids that we want to include everybody, and that we should be respectful and kind to each other,” said Aviles. “With this one bench we can address so many character traits – generosity, kindness, empathy.”
At a dedication ceremony held for the buddy benches Friday morning, Brown Elementary students shared poems, opinion pieces, narratives and works of art which represented what the buddy benches mean to them. Some students wrote about friendship while others drew pictures depicting new friends sitting on the bench, and one class created a poem together about the new benches.
“It’s really important to emphasize how doing a simple thing like this can change a student’s day, or even their whole year,” said Aviles. “The benches model the expectations we have for students, which is that we want to include everybody.”
Aviles hopes to see buddy benches installed at other schools throughout the Turlock Unified School District.
“It not only adds color around the campus, but it’s a simple thing that wasn’t too costly which can really serve as an example of good character to students.”