On June 9, Child and Youth Care Counsellor Mallory Minerson with Mental Health Counsellor Amy Ryan, held a full-school Buddy Bench painting day in Fort Smith. Buddy Benches are a tool to promote inclusivity and to reduce isolation at recess. If a child is feeling alone, they can sit on the bench and a peer will invite them to play. Benches had been purchased and students were offered the opportunity to paint a section of a bench to create ownership of the program initiative, creating community of caring.
Mallory and Dwan Hiller, an educator of JBT Elementary School in Fort Smith have been working on the Buddy Bench project since 2018. “I have seen Buddy Benches be an effective tool against bullying and towards inclusion,” says Mallory. Being able to complete this project required coordinating time with the school, ensuring supplies were available, counselling schedules, and having the physical benches assembled. The benches were not only a tool to connect students, but also the community as dental hygienist, Val Herring had helped assemble the benches with Mallory and prepare them for the students.
“I am so happy that we have finally been able to have this happen!” says Dwan.
Prior to the painting day, Mallory had provided the teaching staff with an overview of the purpose of a Buddy Bench, “My intention in having the students paint the benches themselves was to invite ownership over the concept of inclusion in the school, community, and on the playground.”
With assistance from Amy, the painting day was a success with each class having the opportunity to contribute to painting the benches outdoors and discuss their importance with students. Mallory highlights that, “students were very receptive to the concept and enjoying painting. They filled the three benches easily and I am sure over time the school and community will benefit from adding additional benches to the project.”
The benches have been sealed and will be placed on the school grounds in the Fall.