For many elementary students, recess is one of their favorite parts of the day, because it’s time they can play with their friends. However, for some children, recess can be stressful, because they feel alone. They might want to get involved in a game or with a group, but they are shy or simply don’t know how to ask. For these children, Whitemarsh Elementary School (WES) has installed two “Buddy Benches.”
“We get to help people who don’t have a friend to play with,” said Anya Avery, a third grade students at WES. “I think it’s a really good idea.”
A Buddy Bench is a place where a child can sit that makes it clear to the other students that the child is looking for a friend. The students at WES were introduced to the new Buddy Benches and dismissed to recess. Within the first five minutes, both benches saw some use.
“People can make friends easier,” said third grader Lily Knaggs. “And if they’re really lonely then they can actually have some fun at recess.”
The idea for the Buddy Benches came from a WES parent whose daughter was having trouble connecting with friends on the playground. At the end of the last school year, the staff introduced the idea to the students, and the children made designs on pieces of paper that Gifted Teacher Stephanie Kundtz and Art Teacher Rochelle Rocchi incorporated into the final painted benches.
“I love that it gives students a safe place to sit and also know that if they do sit down that somebody is going to notice,” said Mrs. Kundtz. “Sometimes you want to feel noticed and have someone ask you to come play and join in the fun.”
Back in the classroom, the children talked about ways to get involved with their classmates at recess, what to do when they see someone sitting on the bench and the importance of continuing new friendships at lunch and on other days on the playground.
WES joins Plymouth Elementary School, who has been using a Buddy Bench for several years. Ridge Park Elementary School and Conshohocken Elementary School hope to install Buddy Benches by the end of this school year.