Wisconsin students create ‘Friend Bench’ to combat bullying

STRATFORD, WI (WAOW/CNN) – Elementary school students in Stratford, Wisconsin have found a unique way to combat bullying.

They created a special place on the playground where kids can make friends.

It’s a heartbreaking issue.

“Some people are different from other people and some people laugh at that,” third grader Sonia Peterson said.

But these students found a heartwarming solution.

“We go over by them and say, hey what’s wrong, and then we say, do you want to be friends with us?” student Ava Weix said.

That’s what happens on the friend bench.

“Without friends you wouldn’t have anything to play with,” added student Ben Zuelke.

Third graders at St. Joseph’s Catholic School created this friend bench. It’s their effort to combat bullying.

“Starting young and working their way up that we can maybe prevent bullying,” third grade teacher Tammy Belisle said.

A way to make all these students feel included.

“A first grader, she has four other boys in her class and no girls so they don’t really play with her that much. So I’ve seen her on the friend bench a few times and I’ve come over to talk to her,” Ben said.
This all started in January.

“They were sad about some kids that didn’t have friends to play with at recess time,” Belisle said.

So when the class saw the idea of a friend bench online, they knew that was their answer.

“People need friends because like heartbroken when someone, if someone doesn’t have a friend or they don’t have someone to play with,” Ava said.

So far, it’s been a success.

“They say thanks for being my friend, yeah I like you,” Ava said.

Every day these third graders go out for recess. Each with a careful eye on the bench.

“They sit on the bench and then we look after the friend bench and we go make friends with them,” Ava said.

Making friends for a day, a week, or a lifetime.

“Do you want to be friends with us?” Ava said.

The friend bench, or buddy bench, was started by a first grader in Pennsylvania last year. To learn more about this movement click here: http://buddybench.org/us/christians-story/

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