Buddy Benches build connections
Before winter break, a group of sixth graders led by teacher Heather Anderson at DCS Montessori Charter School (DCSM) read the “Being a Buddy” story in TIME for Kids magazine. The narrative showcased a girl’s journey to create a Buddy Bench for her school, inspiring young students to make a positive impact. The DCSM students became dedicated to bringing this idea to life at school.
A Buddy Bench serves as a spot where students can sit if they are seeking a friend to play with, someone to talk to or assistance navigating social interactions. The concept is that when others notice a student on the Buddy Bench, they will join the friend on the bench and engage in a meaningful way. The intent is to foster connections among kids, encouraging them to chat or seek support for whatever they are experiencing.
The students approached Principal Jeromy Johnson with a proposal for fundraising and the construction of two Buddy Benches. They had to create a design plan, determine the required funds by pricing materials and strategize fundraising methods. Their goal was to build two benches with an estimated cost of $175.
They explored different designs with the help of Billy Anderson, Heather’s husband, and calculated the expenses, covering wood, outdoor paint, and hardware. Engaging with the school custodian Rick Franklin, they decided on the best locations for the benches.
Finally, the group was ready to raise the money. Just before the holidays, they decided on a bake sale and pitched the idea to the entire sixth grade class, asking everyone to contribute, bake or purchase items for sale.
Students distributed flyers in neighborhoods; a blurb went out in the school newsletter; and a thoughtfully crafted schedule allowed all of the grades to participate in the bake sale. The day before the sale, the class delivered and priced their baked goods, set up tables and divided up the remaining jobs. They remembered to include items that would meet the needs of all students, whether they had nut allergies, a gluten sensitivity or were vegan.
The response exceeded expectations, with items selling out within the first 45 minutes. Using part of the profits, the students asked parents to purchase more items to restock. By the end of the day, the event raised $633.
“I really liked doing the bake sale. It was fun to sell and see the other kids walk away happy knowing the money they spent was going to a really good cause,” said 11-year-old Annabelle.
Looking ahead, Heather and Billy plan to purchase the materials, cut the lumber, and paint the wood. The students will then be given the opportunity to construct the benches at school, adding their personal touch to the project.
“Our hope is to have them ready for the warmer spring months and that our students will be able to use the benches to help them navigate difficult social situations,” said Heather.
With the remaining funds, the class intends to identify additional needs that will benefit the entire school. This initiative not only highlights the creativity and determination of the sixth graders but also the collaborative and caring spirit of the community.
By Dani Salas; photo courtesy of Heather Anderson