It's recess! Kids are screaming and balls are flying. Then you take a closer look, and find that some kids aren't joining in on the fun.
The school playground can be a lonely place for a child if they haven't got anyone to play with. But a special type of bench is helping elementary students make friends and get people talking about bigger issues too.
Also known as friendship benches, these pieces of playground furniture have been around for a while, in various countries and caught the attention of staff at Columbia Elementary this past year.
The idea is simple - if a child feels lonely, they can go to the bench as a signal that they need someone to play with. Another child will see them, go and talk to them and include them in their games. The benches support the efforts at the school to support social-emotional learning and serve as a reminder for children of things like communication, mutual support and opening up about feelings.
With the financial support of Columbia’s PTO and the First United Methodist Church, who is also a PTO member, the school was able to purchase two 8’ benches. The seats were installed in April in the big and small playgrounds at the school.“We so appreciate the support and partnership of these two groups,” said Donna Young, Columbia’s Office Manager and buddy bench project lead. “We see kids who often feel, for whatever reason, they have no one to play with. We also have kids who are more than willing to be helpers and could seek those kids out. The Buddy Bench provides a safe spot where our kids would know who was feeling left out or in need a friend that recess.”
Liz Detamore Columbia’s counselor also helped with the project by creating awareness of the new benches at the school among the staff and students. The benches now fixtures on the Columbia’s playground, will continue to help students ‘buddy up’ for years to come.