Caption: Students and staff stand proudly after installation of the Buddy Bench
A bench isn’t usually a remarkable addition to a school playground, but the new Buddy Bench at James Hillier Public School isn’t just another place to sit.
The Buddy Bench arrived this fall, and was greeted with much enthusiasm as students, parents, and staff cheered along its installation. The James Hillier School Council funded the project with the aim of fostering a friendly school community centred on compassion and empathy.
“The Buddy Bench serves a simple yet profound purpose on the playground because it promotes inclusion and a sense of belonging for all students,” explained Jeanette Marry, principal at James Hillier PS. “The bench provides opportunities to build positive relationships, start conversations, and support students in their day-to-day experiences.”
To explain the bench’s purpose, students in Mrs. Clement’s Grade 6 / 7 classroom spearheaded a marketing campaign to promote the project throughout the school prior to installation. Through information posters, presentations, and skits, they informed the rest of the school of the Buddy Bench’s intent.
“The Buddy Bench is here, so if you need someone to talk to or play with, you can sit on the bench, and someone will come over and invite you to play,” explained students through a presentation. “Everyone from Kindergarten to Grade 8 can use it!”
Echoing Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan, the bench is promoting environments that are healthy, and that recognize the well-being of mind, body, emotion, and spirit of students and staff. Reflecting the school’s and Grand Erie’s values, the bench promotes practices that help students, families, and staff feel safe, welcomed and included, which are key indicators of the Plan in the areas of Equity, Well-being, and Community.
Meanwhile, on the playground at James Hillier PS, students are actively engaged in using the Buddy Bench to sit, talk, and meet new friends at recess. In practice, the Buddy Bench is truly a place where friendship meets.