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Bench installed to foster friendship at Reserve Primary playground

| Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Bethany Hofstetter | Shaler Journal
Reserve Primary School kindergarten students in Camille Barrett’s class gather around the school’s new buddy bench, which was installed to encourage friendships on the playground.
Bethany Hofstetter | Shaler Journal
Reserve Primary School kindergarten students in Camille Barrett’s class gather around the school’s new buddy bench, which was installed to encourage friendships on the playground.
Bethany Hofstetter | Shaler Journal
A buddy bench was installed at Reserve Primary School to encourage friendships on the playground.
Bethany Hofstetter | Shaler Journal
A buddy bench was installed at Reserve Primary School to encourage friendships on the playground.

Reserve Primary School has a new feature on the playground aimed to help foster friendships between students.

Before the end of the school year, students, faculty and parents celebrated the installation of the Reserve Buddy Bench, a 4-foot long, multicolored polyethylene bench designed to help encourage friendships and eliminate loneliness on the playground.

Students are encouraged to sit on the bench, located by the school playground, walking trail and field, when they are lonely or looking for a playmate or new friend, and other students are encouraged to invite students on the bench to play.

“I think it will help people make more friends, so everybody doesn't get left out when someone is playing,” said Mya Goetz, a third-grader at the school.

Anka Clark, one of seven members on the school's parent-teacher organization executive committee, proposed the idea for installing a buddy bench at the Shaler Area school after hearing about a story of a young student having one installed in York, Pa.

“They're trying to teach the kids about sharing and being caring and compassionate, and I thought it would fit well into our theme,” Clark said.

Reserve Primary Principal Eloise Groegler said the buddy bench ties in with the school's anti-bullying “Starfish” program. Each letter of the word starfish stands for one of the program's themes: the “i” stands for “Invite others to play with you.”

“I think starfish are everyday heroes,” said Kylie Clark, a third-grader. “The ‘i' in starfish goes well with the buddy bench.”

Anka Clark had the bench designed and made by members of the Mast family and craftsmen at Swiss Country Lawn & Crafts in Sugarcreek, Ohio, who create Amish-made lawn furniture and ornaments.

The blue-framed bench has slats in orange, red, yellow and green and has the phrase “Reserve Buddy Bench 2014” engraved on it.

“When I went to the store, the guy looked at me like ‘oh my goodness,'” Anka Clark said. “No one had ever asked him to do the rainbow theme before.”

Students love the rainbow colors and were excited about the opportunity to use it at the end of the 2014 school year.

“I like the colors,” said Alexis Humphries, a third-grader. “The bright colors make you happy.”

At the suggestion of a group of third-grade girls, next school year, one student from each class will be named a buddy ambassador for a designated period of time and will be responsible for encouraging others to play together and make new friendships.

“For me, it is all about tying into our program of kids helping kids,” Groegler said.

“In life you need to learn about others. We want students to branch out from their current group they play with and get to know others.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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