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Students at East Sac’s Theodore Judah Elementary School have a new, nonverbal way to invite other kids to play with them. It’s called “the buddy bench.”
It’s a regular metal school bench, painted bright orange and situated next to the school’s playground. All a child has to do is sit on the bench, and other kids instantly know that child is looking for a friend.
The bench is part of the school’s Kindness Alive! program, a 3-year-old program developed by the PTA to promote a culture of kindness on the campus and to encourage empathy, tolerance and respect.
“The bench encourages kids to be inclusive and to think about how other kids are feeling,” says Laura Barrett, who oversees the program and has two children at the school. “If they see someone on the bench, they know to be proactive.”
Barrett says the bench works. “One little girl told me that she was sitting on the bench and a girl invited her to play,” she says. “Now they’re friends.”