Two newly painted benches will hopefully foster friendship on the playground at Georges Vanier Elementary School.
Lori Buckton, Aboriginal youth care worker at the school, said she heard about buddy benches “a while ago” and was “pretty impressed.”
“Some teacher initiated the buddy bench — it was called a friendship bench at the time — and the whole idea is if a student is feeling lonely and wants a buddy, then they sit down on the bench and it’s an unwritten understanding that if they see somebody on the bench, then they say hi because they know that (the student) wants a buddy or someone to talk to. It’s not easy for some kids to say, ‘I want to play with you’ or ‘I want a buddy,’” Buckton said.
“That sort of takes that awkwardness out of finding somebody to play with.”
Buckton, who also ran a craft circle with the students in December to make bracelets to raise funds for the Surrey Food Bank, said more students signed up to help paint the benches.
“Same as with the craft circle, I thought I’d have a select few kids who wanted to be a part of it, now I have a bunch of kids who want to be a part of it,” she said.
Buckton said she couldn’t have all the students come and paint the benches, so she had some students come up with concept designs “through the eyes and minds of children” for the benches. About five weeks ago, Buckton said, she started doing an art circle with the students to come up with the concept designs.
She said she was “shocked” at all the common themes and designs, plenty of which included rainbows and Earth.
Then last week, the benches were primed and students started painting on March 14.
Grace Wani, a Grade 4 student, said she’d heard of buddy benches before since her previous school had one.
Asked what she would do if she saw someone sitting alone on the bench, Grace said, “I can try to be their friend.”