There are three benches on the St. Joseph playground, but the yellow one is special. If you need a friend, you take a seat.
St. Joseph Elementary Preschool and TK teacher Amiee Downey first saw a Buddy Bench during her family vacation in Holland. Children sat there if they needed a friend or stopped there to make a new friend.
It reminded Mrs. Downey of her older daughters, one of whom was more reserved and the other who was more outgoing.
“I thought, ‘Wow, that would be perfect for our girls’,” Mrs. Downey said. “Ellery could sit on it in hopes someone would come ask her to play and Leah could make some new friends and be the one asking everyone to play.”
It seemed natural to bring a Buddy Bench to St. Joe, especially for new students for whom recess can be stressful. Mrs. Downey pitched the idea to the staff and won swift approval.
Mrs. Downey and her husband chose the most centrally located playground bench and painted it bright yellow, lettering “Buddy Bench” in purple.
“We introduced it right at the start of the year to go along with all of our friendship units,” Mrs. Downey said. “The rules behind it are simple. If you want to play with someone and don’t know whom to ask, you sit on the bench. If someone comes and asks you to play, you graciously accept and give it a try.”
The response has been wonderful, especially from the younger grades.
“I have seen children sit on the bench and I’ve also seen people come up and ask them to play,” Mrs. Downey said. “One child said they like it because they know someone will ask them to play.”
Kindergartener Emma Lumbard told her grandmother, BCACS Enrollment Director, Cathy Erskine, “Yeah, it works. I sat on it and a friend asked me to play.”
And those invitations extend to teachers, too.
Enrichment teacher Caroline Greenman sat on the Buddy Bench during her class’ recess, only to have some of her students ask if she “needed a buddy”.
Following the Buddy Bench rules, Mrs. Greenman graciously accepted their offer and enjoyed sliding down the slide.
“Nobody ever sits on the Buddy Bench for very long,” Mrs. Downey said.