Students at five grade schools will benefit from the craftsmanship of one of Elmira District Secondary School’s Grade 12 woodworking classes, who spent the last month researching, designing, and building buddy benches.
They’re so named because they’re meant to help kids who might otherwise be too shy to ask their peers if they can play with them. Children who are looking for someone to play with will sit there and wait for someone to invite them.
“Any kid that’s shy and has no idea how to approach someone or who’s afraid they’re going to make fun of them when they ask, this takes the onus off them, and allows the extroverts to come talk to the introverts. The introvert has a chance to be amalgamated socially with the student body,” EDSS teacher Alex Derma explained.
Derma contacted EDSS’ feeder schools and four said they were interested, plus the principal of one in Guelph who Derma knows.
The benches will be going to Floradale Public School, St. Jacobs Public School, John Mahood Public School, Linwood Public School and Willow Road Public School.
The benches are supposed to go near school playgrounds so kids playing will notice the other kids and hopefully ask them to come play.
“I have young kids, and one, his best friend left and he struggled a little bit this year trying to find people to meet. I thought this may help somebody,” Derma said.
The cost is covered through the Specialist High Skills Majors program, which helps students focus on their career by coordinating their interests and skills with similar courses.
Derma decided to run the buddy bench idea by his Grade 12 class because he heard about the initiative and thought it was a good idea to help local kids.
“This class had the maturity to get it and we had lots of discussions about it. They bought into wanting to make it. It was good that way. So I just decided that’s the class to do it. The more they saw the process go and the more we talked about it over the month and the more people we told, and they realized it was an important topic, they got excited about it,” Derma said.
The class spent a month making them, followed by getting them stained at TopCoat Finish in Waterloo and they were ready to be delivered last week.
The students made the benches as part of their unit on mass production, which helps them get a feel for what it’s like to be on an assembly line.
“Someone will be in charge of legs one day, someone else will be in charge of assembly, someone else will be foreman, someone will be layout, and we do that all the way through the entire process. Each person would switch jobs so they all had a chance to do that job,” Derma explained.
Buddy benches have been made in all sorts of designs, so the class spent a day researching designs. Derma sent the top three to the schools who are receiving the benches and they chose the one that the class made.
Kelby Martin and Luke Charter are in the class and helped build the benches.
“It was a good project to do, going for a good cause,” Charter said.
Martin added it was nice for them to work on a project for someone else.
“I know some kids have a hard time making friends. You see that outside when you’re at schools. I think it will be awesome for the schools,” Martin said.
The buddy bench is still a relatively new idea, but has gained popularity over the past couple years. Derma says it’s a fairly easy project if local high schools get behind the idea and want to make buddy benches for their feeder schools.
He also mentioned to the schools it would be a good idea to explain it to the student body, so they understand the meaning behind it, and the older students don’t mock it.
“Bullying has been a topic for years, a long topic. Kids have always been historically shy and now mental illness is a big topic. So if we can at least avoid any of those three things in any way or at least help them, if you make one kid comfortable, then it’s worth building a bench and putting it there for a kid to be comfortable. Giving them an option to feel safe is better than nothing,” Derma said.