'Buddy Benches' help students build friendships

FLORENCE, Wisc. — Students at one elementary school in Northern Wisconsin started their first day of the year Friday morning with a little surprise in their playground.

Florence Elementary School is now home to two ‘Buddy Benches.’ A couple of the school’s teachers found the concept online, and they thought that adding the camaraderie-building benches to the playground would be a great idea.

“If somebody doesn’t have a friend to play with, they could sit on the ‘Buddy Bench’ and look for a friend, or somebody could come over and play with them,” said second grader Greta Nault.

“They are to help foster friendships, eliminate loneliness on the playground, and to kind of expose the kids to the feelings of empathy and acceptance,” said first grade teacher Kerrie Steinbrecher.

The benches are all painted up in Bobcats colors thanks to a little help from some local friends.

“We had benches already on the playground, and we took the benches and had the Girls Volleyball teams come over, and they painted them for us this summer and got them all ready,” Steinbrecher added.

Students were introduced to the benches and taught how to use them on Friday. The ‘Buddy Benches’ go hand-in-hand with lessons students learn about respecting one another and getting along.