Liberty school using ‘Buddy Bench’ to encourage inclusion among students

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LIBERTY, Mo. -- The more, the merrier. Educators say that old adage doesn't always apply on the elementary school playgrounds.

It's an idea that's gone from Pinterest to the playground at one Liberty elementary school.

The Buddy Bench is more that just a fixture on the playground. It's a safe haven, where kids who are bored or lonely can go to seek a friend or someone to play with. Second grade teacher Joan Paluso saw the idea online, and asked school leaders at Kellybrook Elementary School to give it a try.

"You'll see children walking around just kicking stones and looking down and looking lonely," Paluso said. "Or they'll come talk to the teachers because that's the one person who'll talk to them no matter what."

The idea was such a hit with Kellybrook's principal, Andrea Wilson, she asked her husband to build the Buddy Bench. Wilson has been in education for 21 years, and says for now, the bench is still a novelty, but it has a purpose.

"I've also had an opportunity to see some of them sitting on it and see someone else come up to them and say, "Hi, my name is. What's your name? Would you like to come play with us'?" Wilson said.

And the proof is in the kids -- who have spent the past week with the bench.

Six-year-old Maxx Gearhart says earlier this week, he saw two boys meet on the Buddy Bench and a new friendship was struck.

"They came over and said, "Do you want to play?' Gearhart said, recalling the first meeting between two new friends.

"We have a promise in our classrooms, and many of them do, saying we take care of ourselves and others. So, we're just building on that," Paluso said.

Kids within the school say they're excited for the Buddy Bench because it can break down cliques and include everyone in one social environment within the school.

Teachers at Kellybrook Elementary School originally saw those plans on Pinterest. Here's a link to that Pinterest page.

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