Playground ‘Buddy Bench’ Helps Students Befriend One Another


A sixth-grader at Grant Elementary School in Utah had a great idea to help kids who are feeling lonely or have no one to play with — the “buddy bench.” Jaxton Winrow wanted to create a club for kids who were lonely, but then he saw the “buddy bench” idea online, and since he was concerned about some of his classmates, he suggested this idea to his principal, writes Tori Jorgenson of Deseret News.

“I don’t want everyone to be alone,” he said, “because I don’t want them to feel bored and not do anything at recess all the time and have no friends. Now, if people get kicked out of a group or club, they can sit on the bench and the other people who get kicked out of a group can sit there, too, so they can become new friends.”

The school was given a bench at a discount by the local Lowe’s and school funds paid for the blue paint to decorate it. Last week, Jaxton and his committee invited students to sign posters and pledge they would be a friend to all who sat on the bench. Now, Sage Creek Elementary School in Springville, Utah is going to dedicate buddy benches as well.

And when 7-year-old Tanner Blades told his mom that he had no one to play with at school, his older sister Katie decided to do something to help him. She made a GoFundMe page to raise money for a buddy bench for her brother’s recess area. Tanner’s mother posted Katie’s plan on Facebook which resulted in a contact from an old high school friend. Mike Peterson offered time and materials.

Peterson owns the Lindon manufacturing company Critical Laser and started work on two benches to install at Tanner’s school. Katie’s initiative raised $1,480 which tripled her starting donation goal. She plans to put even more benches at more schools with the extra money.

Terrace Elementary School in Moses Lake, WA is also the proud recipient of a new buddy bench.  Last week, Home Depot donated a bench to the school’s playground. School counselor Rhonda Ebel began the effort and reached out to Home Depot, which delivered the bench in no time at all.

“(The idea) came about through a study that we were doing about kids who had gone through some trauma and the whole idea of just not feeling connected,” Ebel said.

Students cheered as the bench arrived, and Ebel and school principal Kristi Bateman gave a short demonstration of how the buddy bench works, reports Columbia Basin Herald’s Ryan Minnerly. The students were encouraged to approach fellow students who were on the bench to ask them to join in their recess activities.

In Wisconsin, Fond du Lac STEM Institute’s Macallan Miller began fundraising during the summer of 2015 for purchasing and installing a buddy bench at his school.

“I have made a lot of great friends at the STEM Academy and now the Institute. Now I want to give something back that will make it easy for other kids to meet new friends as well,” said Macallan.

The buddy bench idea was relayed by Christian, a first-grader who had been told there was a possibility his family would be moving to Germany. When the family was online looking up schools overseas, Christian saw a picture of a bench on one of the school’s website. He was told about the bench and liked what he was hearing.

He wanted to install a bench like this one at his school, so the principal said he would look into it over the summer and they would install the bench in the fall, according to the Buddy Bench website.

As it turned out, Christian did not move to Germany, so he saw his idea come to life and even made a video with his principal to explain what the bench was all about. When the story of Christian’s bench was published in newspapers, the response to the story was positive and many other students and schools nationwide have made the same thing happen on their playgrounds.

10 20, 2015
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