Riverton and Hall Elementary School have both undertaken the community-based “Buddy Bench” project this year. The project is a collaboration between the elementary schools and the Portland Arts and Technology High School, Deering High School, Hancock Lumber and WMTW 8 News. As a result of the collaboration, Buddy Benches are being installed at the schools' playgrounds in May.
How does the Buddy Bench work? A child feeling alone or upset during recess could sit on the wooden Buddy Bench for peer support. That would signal trained student “buddies” to join the child on the bench to talk and/or engage in productive recess play. The benches will help fourth- and fifth-graders become empowered as school leaders and mentors for younger students.
DHS students have trained the fourth- and fifth-graders on how to be “buddy” mentors. Training has focused on what it feels like to be excluded, how to help other students feel more included, and how to be part of a school culture that supports kindness and friendship as a general practice. At Riverton, the project connects with the school’s Positive Behavior Support and Second Step programs. Riverton has been filming the initial training to use with other grade levels, in order to reinforce positive school culture and how such positive behavior is an expectation for all students.
With the aid of material donated by Hancock Lumber, PATHS students in the Woodworking and Masonry program have been building two Buddy Benches this year, one for each elementary school. WMTW 8 News is the schools' media partner throughout the project, in connection with the station’s “Rise Up Against Bullying” program.
Our students were recognized for their part in the project at the Portland school board meeting on June 2nd.