There’s a new type of equipment popping up at school playgrounds all over Jacksonville, and after working to get one put in at my kids’ school, I’m going to say that EVERY school needs a Buddy Bench.
What exactly is a Buddy Bench?
A Buddy Bench isn’t your typical recess fixture. Many schools are installing Buddy Benches to help kids foster friendship and combat bullying. Quite simply put, they’re a designated bench where a child who is feeling lonely on the playground can sit, other students then know to come and ask if they want to play or talk. Sounds simple enough, and because it’s such a basic concept kids of all ages can take part.
Buddy Benches aren’t new; they gained popularity in the US in 2013 when a first grader saw a picture of a playground in Germany with a Buddy Bench and worked to have one installed at his school. All over the United States schools have followed in his footsteps, and Buddy Benches are becoming a new playground accessory.
Now that you know what a Buddy Bench is, how do you go about getting one at your school?
Get Permission – Set up a meeting with your principal or assistant principal. You’re going to need permission before you start installing benches at your school. Your school administrators also might have some suggestions or criteria they want you to include in the bench selection. When we proposed the idea to our principal she asked if we could build three benches for the school, because we have three playgrounds.
Iron Out The Details – Who is going to pay for your bench? Where are you going to put it? Will it be store bought or homemade?
There are many places you can purchase a Buddy Bench, ready to go. Since our school was working with a limited budget, we had a parent build benches and another parent painted them. In order to cover the cost of the materials, we sold the opportunity to put a handprint on the bench for $10. The money raised covered the cost of the materials to build the benches and any leftover funds were put towards other programs at the school.
Buddy Benches don’t necessarily have to be paid for by the school. Scout troops, business, PTAs and other community organizations are all great places to look for funding for your bench.
Spread the Word – Once your benches are ready it’s time to start talking them up. You’ll need to educate the kids and teachers on what they are and how they can be used. At our school, some of the kids paid to put their handprint on the benches, so there has already been a lot of talk about what they are. In order for the benches to be a success, teachers need to be onboard with the philosophy and encourage students to use them.