When you are a child, finding someone to play with in the schoolyard can at times be challenging.
Sometimes children are left feeling isolated and lonely as they navigate the complexities of relationships and play.
To help create a more inclusive playground, Curtin Primary School has become the first Canberra school to install a Buddy Bench.
If a child is feeling left out, cannot find their friends or wants to make new friends, they can sit on the bench.
Another student will then invite them to play in a new game or simply sit and talk.
“Someone will come along and say, ‘come and play with me’ so they’re not left feeling alone and that they don’t have anybody to play with at lunchtime or recess,” principal Kerri Clark said.
Sometimes students simply become TIRED of playing a particular game and want to do something different.
“But they’re not sure how to go about that so they quite often rely on the teachers that are on playground duty to solve that problem for them,” Ms Clark said.
“Through our teaching them the purpose of the bench and unpacking how we can use it to build those relationships with others, this is an opportunity to provide them a tool to develop their skills in that area.
“So they are able to solve problems themselves and develop more of those pro-social behaviours of looking out for one another, taking care of each other, developing that empathy for one another.”
Buddy Bench ‘a valuable teaching tool’
Ms Clark said the bench was a valuable teaching tool that complemented the school’s social and emotional learning in the classroom.
“We’ve placed it in our junior playground so we can develop those skills right from the early phases of schooling and give the students those skills to carry though their schooling with them,” she said.
“So the bench becomes superfluous; it’s the skills that are important.”
‘Not all kids find it easy to make friends’
Elizabeth Patron’s son attends the school and she also runs the school canteen.
“Unfortunately not all kids are that outgoing and find it easy to make friends,” she said.
“There are some kids that don’t feel like they have that little friendship group.
“So it’s great when children see them sitting there and they invite them to play.”
Buddy Benches will be installed at another four Canberra schools over the next month.