by Alison Rooney
A new bench graces Haldane’s blacktop, but its purpose goes beyond just being any old place to sit. Dubbed “The Buddy Bench,” it is the result of a class project organized by Mrs. Hartford’s fourth-grade students, who painted and decorated it, to make it welcoming. The white bench is decorated with hearts, smiling faces and a sun, and “If You Can Be Anything, Be Kind” written across the top.
More than utilitarian, this bench has a mission: anyone who doesn’t have someone to play with on the playground and is feeling a little shy, or who may want to join in activities yet may not be confident enough to enter a game, know the rules of a game, or, may simply be seeking one other person to talk to can sit on it and, spotting this, another child will come over and be their buddy.
The idea for the bench began a couple of months ago, when Hartford made a post on her class blog about a boy who developed an idea to solve recess loneliness. As she recalls: “My students responded so well to it that as a class we thought it would be beneficial to Haldane. So, we had reached out to a few local communities earlier in the year for donation of materials to our compost bin. We talked to some of those companies and Scanga Woodworking decided to donate the whole bench to us. They built it according to what my students researched would be a good size for our playground. My students painted it with Melissa Scanga and presented it at Discovery Night. From here, we still have a lot of work to do to get the message to the other grades about the Buddy Bench. We are in brainstorming mode to see what would work best for everyone to understand the usage of the bench. Short movie, skit, children’s book, etc. are just some ideas floating around.”