There are a few new additions to the playgrounds at Benton Elementary School — and the benefits are already showing.

Buddy benches were added on May 14 after the Student Council at the kindergarten through grade six school decided how many to get (two), what color (blue) and where to place them on the playgrounds.

The benches were intended to help students make friends, and so far it’s been working, said Student Council officers Taylor Wilkie, Andrew Trombley and Corbin Kissinger, all sixth-graders. Hannah Soule, also an officer, wasn’t present at an interview Friday.

Students who are new to the school or those who just feel lonely can sit on the bright benches, which signals to other students that they need a friend. The hope is that someone will sit with the student on the bench and help them feel included. The benches have boy and girl icons holding hands on them with the words “Buddy Bench” underneath.

The student councilors Friday said they’ve seen students sit with people on the buddy benches already — and not just the younger students.

“To know that sixth-graders are using it, hopefully that gives people encouragement,” Andrew said.

Every year the Student Council chooses one large thing to do for the student body, which in the past has included buying new books or scheduling an author to speak at the school.

This year, the council picked buddy benches after hearing about them from Lynn Hamlin, a computer teacher at the school who’s also a Student Council advisor. The other advisors, Donna Foster, a mathematics coach, and Lisa Roy, a literary coach, said some teachers also had seen information about buddy benches spread on social media.

“I think it’s giving those quiet, shy kids more of a voice,” Hamlin said. The teachers said they see a student using the bench nearly every day.

“There are some kids who it’s really benefited already,” Roy said.

The students chose two benches so there can be one on the playground for grades 1 through 3, and another on the playground for grades 4 through 6. The benches cost about $1,000 apiece, which the council raised through fundraising projects, including a school store and movie afternoons. When the council asks an author to visit the school, that usually costs around $2,000, Roy said.

Len Poulin, the father of two children who attend the elementary school, volunteered to install the bench through his construction and excavation business. He also paid for the materials, which came out to a little under $500.

“It’s always nice to give back to the community,” he said.

Poulin finished the project a week after the benches arrived, so the 21 fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade students in the council could see what they accomplished before the end of the year, Roy said.

“We wanted something that could show that we’ve worked hard,” Taylor said.

The Student Council advisors said they’ve heard a school in Thorndike also is trying to get a buddy bench.

The idea of buddy benches in the United States came from a Pennsylvania elementary school student who saw something similar on a website for a school in Germany, according to the website

The student eventually got a buddy bench at his school, Roundtown Elementary in York, Pennsylvania, which garnered local and national media coverage and inspired other schools across the country to do the same.

Madeline St. Amour – 861-9239

[email protected]


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