Navigating the school playground as a young child can be an intimidating journey. For some children, making new friends at recess can feel overwhelming and excluding.
With a grant from the Ripon Education Foundation, the Barlow Park and Journey Charter K-2 schools within the Ripon Area School District have installed a “Buddy Bench” to teach the values of inclusion, independence in problem-solving, compassion and social responsibility.
The park-style bench was placed on the border of the schools to facilitate young children’s ability to independently connect with their peers during recess. Students who are unable to find a playmate, whose usual playmates aren’t at school, or are new to the school can sit on the bench and wait for someone to invite them to play. Students sitting on the bench are encouraged to observe the activities happening around them and ask to join. The Buddy Bench teaches students to show compassion and caring for others and fosters new social connections between students.
The Buddy Bench also creates an inclusive school environment. When students feel compassion and empathy for others, bullying incidents tend to decrease. A 2017 report found 10% of pre-school children said they were lonely, and that percent jumps to 20% for children aged seven to twelve. The Buddy Bench is just one tool a school can implement to eliminate social barriers for young students.