Buddy Benches a first for Niagara Catholic School

Branden Moio. left, and Jake Petrucci are among Notre Dame students who created two buddy benches for Welland's Holy Name School — the first such seating areas in Niagara's Catholic schools system. (Greg Furminger/Welland Tribune/Postmedia Network)

It’s a seat for a meet and greet — and it’s a concept that’s got legs.It’s called a buddy bench.

This week, Holy Name Catholic School in Welland will be getting two of them, courtesy of students at Notre Dame College School.The buddy bench is a simple concept that has been sweeping North American schoolyards in the past couple of years: the bench identifies to others that someone sitting on it is new to the school or lonely and needs a friend.
“The buddy bench removes any social anxieties about approaching others to play, and is an easy way for a child to ask for a friend,” says Carrie Lamothe, of Holy Name’s school council.
The buddy bench is an idea that is circulating online and one, Lamothe says, that just happened to be brought up at a school council meeting.Holy Name’s 430-student population is growing as are the neighbourhoods to the south of the school, and as its pilot French immersion program expands annually.

“There’s a lot of students new to the community and who perhaps their neighbours aren’t going to school with them,” Lamothe says.

The bench, she says, was simply thought of as a nice addition to the playground.“It’s not like kids are being picked on.”Students in Notre Dame’s construction and manufacturing classes fashioned the benches with steel supports and wood-composite seating material.“We’re pretty excited, because we’re the first school in this board to undertake this initiative,” Lamothe says, expecting it to be adopted at other Niagara Catholic District School Board facilities.Notre Dame teacher Mike Stevenson says his students worked three or four weeks on the benches, one shorter than the other for the youngest of students.Using a CNC plasma cutter, the double-sided benches were personalized with both schools’ logos, the words “buddy bench” and the slogan “Soaring to new heights together.”

“When you have that new technology, you can really make (projects) unique,” Stevenson says, from the wood and metal shop in the old Canadian Tire building on Niagara Street, used also by students from Lakeshore and sometimes Denis Morris.

The benches will be presented to Holy Name at a 1:30 p.m. assembly Thursday.


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