A group of kids at McIntyre Elementary School, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have created a special bench to make sure their fellow classmates aren't left out on the playground. Called the "Buddy Bench," students can use the seat as a safe and supportive place to let others know they'd like to be included in playtime, but may be too shy to ask.
"The school community, students, parents, and faculty understand that the buddy bench is a tool for kids to use to advocate for themselves, to always include others and to promote a safe, respectful and responsible environment for all children," Regina Farrell, school counselor at McIntyre Elementary, told The Huffington Post.
The concept of the Buddy Bench is simple: Students who want to partake in playground games and activities, but may feel hesitant, can take a seat, which signifies to other children on the playground that they may need an extra boost to participate.
"The bench is a powerful anti-bullying tool," Farrell explained. "It builds kid’s self-esteem to ask others to play with them. Likewise, reaching out to a peer who is feeling left out is significant as well."
The idea for the bench came about last year, when Farrell was conducting a leadership group to help students overcome shyness and gain confidence. Four fourth-grade students came up with the idea for the Buddy Bench in this workshop, and worked with Farrell to draft a letter to present to the Parent Teacher Staff Organization to make the bench a reality. The PTSO approved the students' pitch, and designated funds to install a bright metal bench with a cheerful sign that reads "Buddy Bench" on the school's playground.
Since it was installed on Nov. 16, the bench has been effective. The simple concept has resonated with the students, and already has created a more inclusive environment within the school community.
"Each day, I go to recess and see the buddy bench working," Farrell said. "The lessons they are learning now will benefit them their entire lives. It is simply a beautiful example of kids wanting to be kind and continue to be kind every day."