Two benches that will make it easier for school children to make friends and find playmates soon will be installed at Cedarville Elementary School

Two buddy benches for the elementary playground were purchased and will be installed by May 1, said principal Rebecca Reed.

A child who is shy, in need of a friend or playmate, or looking for a game to join can sit on the bench, giving other children an opportunity to invite them to play.

Reed said the buddy bench project was endorsed by students, with Xaviar Estes, a member of the school’s student council, leading the charge.

Estes first spoke about buddy benches at the beginning of the year while running for student council, Reed said.

“Some of our students who came from other districts came from districts with buddy benches, so they related to what Xavier was talking about,” Reed said.

School officials started working on the project around the beginning of December, Reed said. They wanted student input, so the school counselor begin organizing group sessions to talk to kids about the benches, she said.

“She opened it by talking about friendship and kindness, about being a good friend and about making friends,” Reed said.

Then fourth grade students were asked to write essays on why the school should or should not purchase the benches, Reed said.

“Some of our kids were really concerned about the buddy benches,” Reed said. “They were afraid that if we didn’t have some really good rules in place, the benches might be misused.”

While most students supported the bench idea, many were concerned about bullying, Reed said.

School officials held a meeting with the students to outline the pros and cons and present a guideline of how the benches could be used to allay those fears, Reed said.

To use the bench, students must first look for someone to play with or a game to join. If they are unable to find a playmate, they can have a seat - but must say yes to the first person to ask them to play.

Students are encouraged to check the bench to see if there is someone who needs a playmate.

During the week of March 13, 2017, students signed a pledge promising to be a good friend and to always follow the buddy bench rules, Reed said.

A ribbon cutting for the benches was held March 17, with Estes acting as master of ceremonies, Reed said.

Estes gave a speech during the ceremony about why he supported the buddy benches.

“My brother sat by himself during recess a lot because he didn’t have any friends to play with,” Estes said. “This made me sad and upset when he came home telling us how lonely he was at school. I always wanted to fix it and make him feel better. The buddy bench is a way to know when someone needs a friend. If you’re shy or feel lonely and you need a friend to play with, all you have to do is sit on the bench.”

Reed said the school main goal for the buddy benches is “to make sure all of our kids feel safe at school and can make friends in a safe way.”