Photos and story by Gabrielle Olson
Tempe Elementary School District
Feeling excluded is often painful, lonely, and confusing for children. At Broadmor Elementary, students and staff have come up with a clever way to promote new friendships and a school culture built on inclusion and kindness.
Known as the Buddy Bench, it’s located next to the playground and provides a way for students needing a friend to communicate that need to their peers.
“If you don’t have a friend, this is where you go to get one!” explained first-grade student Kingston Guntei.
The Buddy Bench was a project led by last year’s student council. With the help of third-grade teacher Lyana Guevara and teacher on special assignment Andrea Wald, the students
worked on designing the Buddy Bench, researched ways to fund it, and also took leadership in communicating the purpose of the bench to their peers.
The bench was fully funded by the school last year and implemented in
“We have had several instances in which students needed a friend, or simply felt lonely or sad and have had their classmates step up and be there for them,” said Guevara.
“We have even had kindergarteners and first-graders befriended by their older classmates, fourth- or fifthgraders.”
“I used the Buddy Bench when it was lunch recess and I sat there for five seconds and then two friends came over and asked me to play,” said first grade student Adrita Hossain.
“It made me feel happy.”
When observing the playground in action, many students make a habit to wander to the Buddy Bench “just in case” there might be someone in need.
The bench has proven as a great way for Broadmor students to build their community and be leaders for their peers as well.
The Buddy Bench is not the only way Broadmor is working toward creating a more inclusive culture.
The implementation of the Second Step social skills curriculum, Positive Behavior Interventions and Support, and leadership from classroom teachers has been a coordinated effort to positively impact the school’s culture.
“I truly believe that the Buddy Bench has made a positive impact for children who need a friend, or want to be included, and helps to ensure every child has a place on the playground,” said Broadmor Principal Barry Fritch.
“It makes a difference every day.”