CoverIntroductionWellbeing and Its Importance in SchoolsWhat models/frameworks exist to promote school wellbeing?What is the best approach for my school or district?Valuable Tools and ConsiderationYour Call to ActionStudent Wellbeing InterventionsPositive Emotion Three Good ThingsCounting BlessingsEnvisioning Your Best Possible SelfUnderstanding HumorThree Funny ThingsOutdoor LearningBringing the Outside InBibliotherapyEngagementRecognizing and Utilizing Personal StrengthsARCS Model of CuriosityCarousel BrainstormingGenius HourPerspective Taking and Role-PlayArts IntegrationDrawing and Coloring TherapyCulturally-Enriching and Arts-Based Field TripsCulturally Responsive PracticesSocial Belonging InterventionEmotional Self-Regulation: RULER methodModeling Emotional Self-Regulation SkillsTeacher PraiseRelationshipsModeling Love, Kindness and ForgivenessActive Constructive RespondingDialogue JournalsSecret Strengths SpottingPeer Praise NotesActs of KindnessVolunteeringFast FriendsBuddy BenchMeaningEducating Students about Benefit AppraisalsGratitude LettersSavoring StrategiesTaking in the Good (HEAL)Mental Time TravelBrief Mindfulness ActivitiesMindful BellMindful BreathingBody Scan RelaxationMindful Walking/MovementFive Senses MindfulnessMindful PhotographyMindful Self-CompassionAccomplishmentFuture Thinking & When/Where PlansHope MapG-POWER Goal SettingEmbedded Self-Regulation StrategiesGrowth MindsetGrit and Deliberate PracticeDeveloping Students' Resilience and Coping SkillsHealth and VitalityHealthy Sleep HabitsClassroom Physical ActivityYogaCreative Playground EquipmentHealthy Body Image InterventionStudent-Led Health ProgramSchool-Led Interventions for Teachers and StaffSupporting Teacher AutonomyMindfulness TrainingCompassion TrainingHumor TrainingIncentivizing Physical ExerciseIndividual Interventions for Administrators, Teachers and StaffPositive and Reflective JournalingSelf-Regulation and Coping StrategiesSelf-AffirmationSelf Compassion LetterDiscovering and Utilizing Character StrengthsJob CraftingMindfulnessAdditional Interventions to ConsiderDedicated Wellbeing SpacesIndividual Wellbeing Plans for School EmployeesOther ResourcesPROSPER

Buddy Bench

Keywords: Elementary Education

The “buddy bench” or “friendship bench” has become a popular intervention in primary schools to reduce social isolation and encourage friendship-building in young students, particularly during recess activity time. This simple intervention involves adding a bench (or a few benches) around school playgrounds, designated for students to find a friend to play with. These benches are often decorated in bright colors and labeled as a “buddy bench.” Students who need a friend to play with can sit on the bench during recess and other students are encouraged to invite those they see sitting on the bench to play with them.

Grade Level: K - 6th
Materials: A sturdy bench, paint to decorate if desired
Duration: Only requires set up time. Teachers may wish to take additional time to instruct/ role–play with students on how to use the bench.
Implementation:
  1. Purchase or build a small bench to be the designated buddy bench. You may decorate it or assist students in doing so.
  2. Introduce the concept of the buddy bench to the whole school, and send a newsletter to parents explaining the intervention.
  3. Have teachers explain buddy bench rules to students and post a list of rules in the classroom. Possible list of rules explained below.
  4. Have teachers role-play with students on how to use the bench.

Does it work?

Though the buddy bench has gained popularity in elementary schools globally, there has been limited research completed assessing its effectiveness at improving student relationships and belonging. Recently, a study was completed involving students in grades 1-6 at a Title I school in central Utah, United States (Griffin et al., 2017). Two separate playgrounds were observed (one for students grades 1-3, another for students grades 4-6). “Buddy benches” were put in prominent places on the school playgrounds so students could easily recognize and find them. The following rules were posted near each bench and in each classroom: “If you are alone: 1.Sit at the buddy bench.2. If someone invites you to play with them, say ‘yes’ or ‘no, thank you.’ If you see someone who is alone at the bench: 1. Join them and invite them to play, talk or walk with you. 2. If they say ‘no,’ say ‘okay, maybe next time,’ and walk away” (Griffin et al., 2017, p.29). It was found that the bench was more frequently used by younger students, but there were more play invitations accepted among the older group. With the buddy bench intervention, solitary behavior among students decreased by 19-24% compared to baseline levels. When the buddy bench was removed, solitary behavior returned to near-baseline levels, but immediately was reduced when the bench was again added to the playgrounds. A few concerns presented were that some students reported feeling uncomfortable having to use the bench themselves, and some teachers felt that rules weren’t followed appropriately (Griffin et al., 2017).

Another study evaluated students' perceptions of the buddy bench activity and its impact on their perceptions of self, others, and play during recess (Clarke, 2008, p. 11). This qualitative case study was completed at an elementary school in the Western US with 500 students. Student perceptions of the buddy bench were acquired by having them create two drawings- one of the playground with the buddy bench, and one of the playground without the bench. Students were then asked to describe their drawings. This was based on research done by child psychologist Richard Coles that children often express their views of the world through art (Clarke, 2008, p. 11). Data was also collected through interviews with parents and school staff. For many students, the buddy bench represented solidarity, worthiness, empowerment, and an improvement in playground climate. Students also reported that with the buddy bench intervention they developed a greater understanding that everyone feels lonely at times (Clarke, 2018).

References:

Clarke, K. M. (2018). Benching playground loneliness: Exploring the meanings of the playground buddy bench. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 11(1), 9–21. https://edtechbooks.org/-bSi 

Griffin, A. A., Caldarella, P., Sabey, C. V., & Heath, M. A. (2017). The effects of a buddy bench on elementary students’ solitary behavior during recess. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 10(1), 27–36. https://edtechbooks.org/-rJRa

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