Including Everyone on the Playground
Even on the last day of school, the buddy bench at Rippleside Elementary School in Aitkin, MN, was working hard. “I sat on our buddy bench, and five kids came up to ask if I needed someone to play with,” said Jason Long, 6th grade teacher. “I didn’t mean to sit on the buddy bench, but it was 80 degrees out, and I needed a quick break!” Mr. Long said the buddy bench has been working since the first day it was installed in the fall of 2018. When students sit on the bench, it signals to others that they are looking for friends or someone to play with, or that they are feeling excluded. “Exclusion can be the biggest form of bullying. When someone sits on the buddy bench, before you know it, someone will gather them up to go play.” One reason the bench has worked so well is that the staff at the school spoke to the students about the purpose when it was first installed, which Mr. Long said is key. “Education has to take place about the buddy benches.” The fact that the bench has continued to work for so long after the initial introduction is because of the students. “It stuck, which is a testament to our kids.”
After a full year of wind, rain, and Minnesotan snow, Mr. Long said his school’s buddy bench looks just as good as new. ‘It’s still bright red. It looks the same as the day they installed it.” Just like all of Premier Polysteel’s products, the buddy benches are coated with weather-resistant plastisol. The entirety of the bench, including the legs and base, are coated to prevent rusting or fading. They’re built to withstand heavy usage and are guaranteed to not sag in the center. The perforated texture makes the benches more comfortable and helps keep bugs and insects away. Schools can select between twelve vibrant colors to show their school spirit.
Emily, who just finished fifth grade at Sonia Sotomayor Elementary School in Sioux Falls, SD, remembers a particular time that her school’s buddy bench helped a fellow student and gained her a new friend. “I remember when a 2nd grader was looking for a friend and sat on the Buddy Bench. My friends and I went over to talk to her and became friends with her. Without the Buddy Bench, we would not have known that she was looking for a friend and might not have talked to her otherwise.” Emily said her buddy bench is available for use before school and at recess for anyone feeling lonely or looking for a new friend. She thinks it makes a great addition to any school to help make sure no one is excluded. “I think a buddy bench is great for any school because it gives kids who are looking for a friend or someone to talk to a place to go, and makes sure everyone is included.”