Holly Lane students go beyond "buddy bench"

The Beyond the Bench program teaches students and staff to help eliminate loneliness on the playground using a Buddy Bench.

Holly Lane Elementary School launched the Beyond the Bench program this week to teach students compassion and conflict management skills.

The program is the result of the Buddy Bench – a bench on the playground designed to eliminated loneliness and foster friendship on the playground by providing children with a tool to identify those who need a peer to play with and to encourage those already engaged in play invite others to join in the fun.

Beyond the Bench is a training program from Westlake nonprofit Connecting for Kids that develops improved conflict resolution skills among students, celebrate students who act with compassion and remove the stigma of asking for help.

Despite the good intentions behind the Buddy Bench, many fall short of actually helping children because the supporting culture is not in place. The Beyond the Bench training program was designed by a pediatric psychologist and provides a school-wide training to teach students and staff the reasons to use a Buddy Bench, including:

  • You are new to the school
  • You want to make new friends
  • Your friends aren’t at school on a particular day
  • You want to play something different than what your friends are playing
  • You’ve having a problem with your friends that you can’t solve and want to take a break
  • You want to be a buddy

Holly Lane Principal Mimi Verdone said the Buddy Bench and Beyond the Bench programs tie in with the school district’s Continuous Improvement Plan, which calls for providing an “all-inclusive environment,” as well as the school’s International Baccalaureate and Positive Behavior Intervention Support initiative.

“The Buddy Bench cultivates developing friendships on the playground by having a designated place to go to for students who need a peer to play with and be invited to play with others,” Verdone said.

Holly Lane unveiled its Buddy Bench at its Wise Owl Wednesday all-school assembly on Oct. 7.

Earlier in the month, Dr. Meghan Barlow, a pediatric psychologist, held a series of classroom training sessions to discuss with students the reasons to use a Buddy Bench. Teachers, recess monitors and other professional who work with students during recess were invited to the training to learn the Buddy Bench concepts and reinforce them on the playground.

Through the Beyond the Bench partnership, Connecting for Kids will provide parents with ongoing education and support, including: discussion groups, support groups, mentor matches in their child's area of struggle, and educational materials.

Hilliard Elementary School, which already has a Buddy Bench, will go through the same Beyond the Bench training program later this fall.

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Volume 7, Issue 20, Posted 10:02 AM, 10.20.2015