Burchfield Primary receives grant for buddy bench
Thursday, December 19, 2019 | 12:01 AM
Burchfield Primary School staff unveiled a new buddy bench Dec. 13 during a monthly school-wide positive behavior assembly.
Students may sit on the bench when they seek someone with whom to play during recess. Their classmates, in turn, are encouraged to invite them to play.
“Students have used and benefited from the buddy bench. The concept is important because, not only does it provide a way for a student to ask for help and try to use his or her own problem-solving skills, but it also allows other students to empathize with a fellow student and desire to help another student in need. I have had many students tell me about how happy they have been that someone helped them on the bench and vice versa,” school counselor Lezlie DelVecchio-Marks said.
The 6-foot-long composite wood bench will replace an existing buddy bench installed near the school’s playground in 2016, she said.
“Our art teacher at the time painted the slabs different colors with different positive messages on each slab. However, the paint has come off and the messages can no longer be seen. The bench was constructed of wood and has become worn,” she said.
Pennsylvania School Counselor Association Executive Director Dr. Judy Bookhamer was present during the bench dedication. Her organization provided a $500 grant for the new OCC Outdoors Inc. bench.
Bookhamer told students she hopes the bench will help them “make some new friends and keep the old ones.”
Over six years, the PSCA has funded the purchase of approximately 12 buddy benches, according to Bookhamer.
Shaler Area High School’s technology education department engraved the bench to denote the PSCA’s contribution.
Burchfield staff works to educate students about the buddy bench’s purpose. At the school year’s start, students view a video DelVecchio-Marks developed with students when the buddy bench program was launched.
This year, staff shared Trudy Ludwig’s “The Invisible Boy” book with students about a boy who doesn’t feel included.
“Our hope is that our students do not feel invisible. Each student in this school matters to us and the buddy bench is a way to help students advocate for themselves so that they can prove that they are indeed visible and valued,” DelVecchio-Marks said.
During the assembly, Principal Jeff Rojik led a scenario during which students played four square and tag then invited another student, who was sitting alone on the buddy bench, to join in on the fun.
“This buddy bench is extra special to me because I know that I cannot always be available to a student who is in direct need of a buddy,” DelVecchio-Marks said. “My hope is through the counseling classroom instruction and school-wide programs that students learn problem-solving, bully prevention, friendship and empathy skills to help others on the playground and beyond.”
Reserve and Marzolf primary schools also have buddy benches.