The Buddy Bench and More
In March 1980 my father decided to uproot us from our hometown to a small town 100 miles away. I was a freshman in high school and to say it was traumatic is putting it mildly. I remember having one or two classmates who were nice to me but did not really invite me into their group of friends. I felt alone and isolated. We were required to go outside after lunch (recess) until it was time for our next class. So, I would eat lunch alone and then sneak up to the library to spend "recess". Maybe those memories are the reason why the stories of inclusion that I have been reading lately have brought a feeling of hope to me for all children who feel alone and isolated at school.
The Buddy Bench is a simple idea to help foster friendship and eliminate loneliness on the playground. The idea stemmed from a first grader named Christian after he saw a picture of a special bench on a playground in Germany when his family was contemplating moving there. He asked about it and liked the idea. He thought it would be a great thing to have on the playground at his current school, Roundtown Elementary in York PA. He knew that there were some kids who felt lonely at recess and he thought this would help. The rules are a little different at each school but basically go like this:
Buddy Bench Rules
If you’re sitting on the bench, play with the first classmate who invites you.
While you’re sitting on the bench, look around for a game you can join.
Two friends sitting on the bench can turn to each other and invite each other to play.
The bench isn’t for socializing. Only sit there if you can’t find anyone to play with.
When you see someone on the bench, ask that person to play with you.
Keep playing with your new friends.
In the fall of the next school year his principal helped him pick out a bench for their new Buddy Bench. He gave a presentation to his local school board and community. From there Huffington Post ran a story on the Buddy Bench and it was then that the story took off.
Personally, this story has given me a sense of hope. Hope for any children who feel like I felt back in 1980.