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'Buddy Bench' promotes friendship on playground

The playground is supposed to be a fun outlet for students to channel their energy, but it can also be a lonely place for students who have trouble feeling included.

Wieland Elementary School is promoting inclusion with the buddy bench, which is designed to give students a safe place to sit during recess when they don’t have anyone to play with, encouraging others to make a new friend.

“When I was new here I used to see people playing together who knew each other as good friends, but I didn’t know anybody or who to play with so I was just bored sitting there,” fifth grader Theo Saldanha said. “The buddy bench would have helped then because it is a quiet signal that shows people that a kid is lonely and doesn’t have anybody to play with.”

PTO treasurer, former middle school teacher and the person to thank for establishing a buddy bench at Wieland, Michelle Tippins, understands the difficulty some students have making friends.

“Coming from the classroom, I sometimes saw kids get left out or left behind,” Tippins said. “They don’t always have the opportunity to meet other children because they might be too shy. I think this [buddy bench] allows kids that access.”

The buddy bench movement began in the United States in 2013 by a Pennsylvania elementary student. Word spread through social media and news outlets. Today, over 2,000 schools across the country have introduced buddy benches on their playgrounds.

“I felt happy [when the buddy bench arrived] because you don’t have to ask people, ‘Will you come and play with me?’ and then they reject you,” fourth grader Ava Hernandez said. “You just know when somebody comes to the bench it means they want to play with you.”

Wieland staff is excited about the bench because not only will it foster friendships and help eliminate loneliness on their campus, but also it will provide the opportunity to spread the “No Place for Hate” message.

The Anti-Defamation League website states, “No Place for Hate helps to create and sustain inclusive school environments where all students feel valued and have the opportunity to succeed by promoting respect for individual difference while challenging bigotry and prejudice.”

Tippins is glad the buddy bench will continue to help students on the playground for many years.

“I’m happy that we have finally been able to do something that is going to have a lasting effect,” Tippins said, “not only for the school but for our neighborhood community as well.”

For more information about the buddy bench movement visit