Why I Think ‘Buddy Benches’ Are A Brilliant Idea For Schools/Playgrounds
Friendship is undoubtedly one of the most valuable things a person can have.
But making friends can be tricky for some kids. Even more so nowadays, as pandemics and technology have interfered with our children's basic ability to be social. And for many younger kids, picking up on subtle signs or even putting into words a classmate's want to be included can be a challenge.
That's why I love the idea of a Buddy Bench.
A Buddy Bench, if you did not know, is a very simple concept: it's a place on a playground designated for kids who would like a buddy, or to be included. Students are told that that's a place to go if you're looking to make a friend. They're also encouraged to be a friend and include those who are sitting on the bench in playtime activities.
Buddy Benches help kids identify and express their feelings while also allowing other kids the opportunity to be thoughtful and inclusive socially: If you see someone on the bench; be a buddy to them.
The first time I ever came across a Buddy Bench was when I took my kids to visit my old stomping grounds at the Asa C. Adams School in Orono. We were playing on the playground when I noticed the specially designated bench, with a plaque on it.
The plaque on this Buddy Bench reads:
Having grown up in town, and personally knowing both Mrs. Warner and Mrs. Noyes, I couldn't imagine a better example of buddies. These two women were well known throughout Orono and were inseparable. You would see them out shopping together, at events together driving around town and laughing in the car, and eating out in restaurants. They were buddies in the truest sense of the word.
I told my kids about these two beautiful buddies when they asked about the bench. I explained that Mrs. Warner and Mrs. Noyes had become friends when they were very young women, and that bond lasted them their entire lives. I said that friendship is one of life's gifts and can have a lasting impact. The saying on the plaque "One friend can change your whole life" was very true. And I made sure to reinforce that should they ever see a child sitting on a buddy bench, they should take the opportunity to introduce themselves, as you never know where a friendship will take you.
A few years ago, during the pandemic, I was delighted to see that despite everything going on, the Bangor School System implemented a new Buddy Bench, thanks to an inspirational young lady.
According to a Bangor School Department Facebook Page that year, then fourth grader, Kallie McPheters, from the Mary Snow school, recognized a need at her own school and took action. She reached out to Miss Maine Dirigo, Skyla Libby, who works with an organization that supports anti-bullying campaigns across the state. McPheters asked Libby for help to get her school a Buddy Bench.
"I think that Mary Snow School should get the Buddy Bench because, at school, you learn and also make friends. Everybody should have friends but it can be hard to make friends which is why I think the Buddy Bench will help students who get excluded still make and have friends. The bench will not only help me but also all the kids that come to Mary Snow School after me and maybe even my little sister."
Kallie got her wish when Libby showed up with a brand new Buddy Bench for the Mary Snow School. And just like that, Bangor became a little friendlier.