Buddy Bench 101

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Playtime can be challenging for some children. Buddy Benches reside on the school playground and serve as a welcoming spot for anyone feeling left out at recess. Signs posted near the bench state the rules of the bench.

If a student feels lonely or needs a playmate, they can sit on the bench. Classmates then recognize their peer is in need of a friend and can ask them to play. It is an easy way for children to connect and make friends.

The bench helps ALL students learn to be more aware of the emotions of others, and it teaches those who are struggling that it’s okay to ask for help. The Buddy Bench builds more than friendship and kindness. It helps all students — not just those students who sit on the bench — build confidence, self-awareness, acceptance and compassion.

At Central Elementary School, Kevin’s Buddy Bench would build upon the “Caring” component in our IB programme and the “InFocus: Emotional Intelligence” curriculum taught in our classrooms.

The Buddy Bench aims to help all children feel more included at school. The Buddy Bench is anti-bullying and compassion tool that has been adopted by schools throughout the country, including several in our home district — Burlington Elementary, Longmont Estates Elementary, Flagstaff Academy and others.

Kevin’s Buddy Bench is a valuable day-to-day tool at recess, but in the bigger picture, it is a year-to-year symbol of Central’s commitment to kindness, inclusion and social emotional learning (SEL). It is a daily and year-to-year conversation starter.

The Buddy Bench is only effective if the message is built into the school culture through classroom programs and other school activities. To address this need, Central Elementary School is piloting a new “Firehawk Friends” program, where parents support teachers and staff in exploring and implementing Enhanced Education (EE) opportunities for social emotional learning, friendship and inclusion. For example, the group is working to build a new “Caring Collection” in the library, which will be used for a special student-parent reading program.

Buddy Benches require an introductory assembly at the beginning of each school year, where teachers and staff demonstrate how to use the bench and explain the rules of the bench. Additionally, teachers provide in-classroom reminders throughout the year. Opportunities for such reminders present themselves naturally in the context of Central’s IB units and InFocus lessons — or alternatively, by reading or discussing a book related to friendship and inclusion.

To support the Kevin Pitts Memorial Buddy Bench Fund, click here.

To learn more about Kevin’s Buddy Bench and programming, visit the links below: