A Culpeper School Joins the Buddy Bench Movement
February 22, 2023
February 22, 2023
By Simone Kiere and Colleen Brady
Buddy benches are said to have arrived in the U.S. in 2013, thanks to a ﬁrst-grader named Christian in York, Pennsylvania. When he learned that he would be moving to Germany—to a new school in a completely new country—he was worried about making friends. But then he learned that one of the schools he might attend had a special bench where students could sit to indicate that they wanted someone to play with. Christian was so excited about this idea that he immediately asked his principal to install one at his current school. The principal loved this idea as well, and so began the nationwide phenomenon of “buddy benches,” which are now a ﬁxture in thousands of schools across the U.S., as well as several other countries, effectively counteracting loneliness.
Buddy benches are used by young students every day to help reinforce communication, empathy and support for one another, which are all qualities we value and encourage at Pearl Sample Elementary School in Culpeper. So when we, the school counseling team, approached Pearl Sample’s principal, Dan Birch, with the concept and request for a buddy bench earlier this year, he thought it was a great idea. Through the generous support of our Parent-Teacher Organization, we were able to acquire the materials to build not one but three buddy benches—one for each of our grade level playgrounds.
The magic of buddy benches, and what distinguishes them from regular benches, is that students use them to reach out to classmates. So, to ensure the success of the new buddy benches at Pearl Sample, we have taken steps to make sure that our students know about and understand how to use them. First, we guided students to rehearse and perform a demonstration to model both how a student might use the bench and how to approach someone on the bench. Then, for the next several weeks, we had each class take turns serving as “Buddy Bench Ambassadors” for a week during recess, meaning that one or a few students from that class spent a few minutes at the beginning of each recess sitting on the bench to model appropriate use and encourage others who might be hesitant to use it.
The goal of buddy benches is for everyone to have someone to talk to or play with, and that we all, in the words of Judith Ashton, a psychotherapist and co-founder of Buddy Bench Ireland, “look up, look around and look out for each other.” The buddy benches are a reminder to be kind to each other and include everyone. True to the spirit of the buddy bench itself, this was a school-wide team effort. In the ﬁrst few weeks after the buddy benches were installed, the students have loved using them and have already begun sharing stories of how well they are working.
Simone Kiere, a Culpeper County Education Association member, and Colleen Brady are the school counselors at Pearl Sample Elementary School.
Source: The Bench Factory
Teacher shortages are a serious issue across the country. Here in Virginia, there are currently over 1,000 unfilled teaching positions.Take Action Now