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Students get Buddy Benches to foster friendship and prevent bullying

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One of the "Buddy Benches" at Nolan Elem. photo One of the "Buddy Benches" at Nolan Elem. photo
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - A group of local students is celebrating a big accomplishment. They wrote a persuasive letter to the school PTA with an idea of how to be more inclusive on the playground. And they listened.

Now both playgrounds at Nolan Elementary on Signal Mountain have a "Buddy Bench."

"If there's no one on there and they just sit down, someone would hopefully go there and make friends with them,' said 4th Grader Jake Hanners.

Fourth Grader Jake Hanners was new to Nolan Elementary last year and thought recess was boring before he met a good group of friends. He hopes other students can have an easier time making new friends, notably those new to the school or with special needs.

Hanners and his classmates in Mrs. Becky Leary's 3rd grade classroom wrote a letter to the school PTA suggesting they add Buddy Benches.

Jake wrote in part, "I think Nolan should get a Buddy Bench because I always see people walking around on the playground. For example, new people like me and people with disabilities... At recess if a child has no friends to play with, they would sit on the buddy bench and someone would hopefully ask them to play or if two people are on the bench, the two kids could play with each other... I'm a new student to Nolan so I know what it feels like to be lonely at recess and trust me it's BORING!"

"Our class had six new students last year, as well as three students with special needs," Mrs. Leary said in a letter explaining the benches. "My children recognized the difficulty their peers had in developing friendships. We also discussed conflicts on the playground, and that the Buddy Bench concept could assist students with the initiation of friendship, and reinforce student conflict resolution."

The school PTA listened to Mrs. Leary's students, right down to the bright color and design suggestions. The art teacher created the knight and dragon design signifying friendship.

"Well I've gotten a lot of new friends so I can play with them and its not as boring as just walking around at recess," Jake said.

Jake said yes, the idea is working. What looks like just a bright bench to an adult could very well become the spot for fostering friendship on the playground.

Mrs. Leary said she hopes the students learned that they do have a voice.

Click here to visit Nolan Elementary's website.

Click here to learn more about the Buddy Benches.

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