© Colin MacLean/Journal Pioneer
A student at Queen Elizabeth Elementary in Kensington takes a break on the school’s new Buddy Bench. Sitting on the bench is a signal to other students that the child would like someone to play with.
A little boy sits on a bench in the middle of a playground.
He perches on the edge of the seat, his feet just barely reaching the ground.
Dozens of kids run, yell and play around him.
He seems to catch his breath for a moment, craning his head around and taking in the joyful chaos around him like only kids on a recess break can experience.
After afew deep breaths the youngster hopped up and ran off, disappearing into the crowd of his peers.
This particular visitor apparently needed no help in finding someone to play with, but if he’d stuck around on the bench a little longer chance are someone would have come over to invite him to play.
This was no ordinary seat – this is the Buddy Bench.
The Buddy Bench is an idea that’s quickly spread to schools across Canada thanks to social media. The idea is to have a designated bench on the playground where children feeling lonely can sit as a signal to others that they would like someone to play with.
The idea recently caught on at Queen Elizabeth Elementary in Kensington, but several other Island schools either already have a Buddy Bench or are planning to build one.
Queen Elizabeth built their bench after Tammy Costain, who has one child at the school and another who’s moved on, approached them with the idea. She’d seen it on her Facebook feed.
“I thought it would be a great idea for the school here,” said Costain.
“My son is in Grade 1 and I know he has his group of friends and if you’re not in the group, they don’t want to let new kids in. So I talked to him about it … I said ‘what about the ones who don’t have friends?’ He said sometimes they just play by themselves – but I thought everyone should have a friend, at recess.”
Costain phoned school principal Rodney MacArthur to discuss the idea and he quickly gave it a green light to proceed.
After the bench was built, MacArthur went around to all the classes to discuss it with the students. They were happy to hear about it, he said.
“If it’s something that sounds like a good idea, we run with it,” said MacArthur.
“To me, there’s no bad that can come from a buddy bench – though my hope is that the bench wouldn’t be used a whole lot,” he added.
But it’s there if a kid needs it, and that’s something Costain is happy to see.
“It’s good, it’ll teach them a little bit of kindness. Kids just need to be friends and not be at each other … especially at that age there shouldn’t be any reason someone doesn’t have a friend,” she said.
So what do the kids think of their new playground addition?
“It’s good, because it makes me feel like these were actually my friends from whenever I was in my old school,” said Dane Mantie
Steven Pluigers said he admired it for its esthetic.
“I like the colour blue,” he said.