One Macarthur school is launching a clever initiative to fight back against bullying and promote social inclusion in the playground.
Oran Park Anglican College (OPAC) has revealed plans to install two “buddy benches” before the end of the year.
The initiative encourages children to sit on the bench when they feel lonely in the playground. A fellow student will then come over to give them company.
OPAC teacher April Lindsay said her Year 4 students came up with the idea to have the benches installed at school.
"A big benefit of the buddy bench is showing that we’re against social isolation,” she said.
“The kids came up with the idea earlier in the year and part of the project planning included the students conducting a survey of the college’s preparatory to Year 6 students.
“The survey found that 40 per cent of our junior students said they sometimes felt lonely and didn’t have someone to play with.”
Ms Lindsay said OPAC planned to make the buddy bench environmentally friendly.
“Our students did a learning unit which looked at the problems associated with plastics,” she said.
“We showed them a video about a young girl from the US called Sammie who collected plastic bottle lids and sent them away to be manufactured into a buddy bench.
“Our students decided to combine the two ideas and then checked to see how much plastic was in the playground.”
Ms Lindsay said her students took three weeks to formulate a buddy bench plan which they pitched to OPAC’s executive team.
“The idea has been approved, as long as we raise the money ourselves,” she said.
“The benches will cost about $900 each to make and will be put into the college’s junior and senior playgrounds.”
The students will pitch the idea to parents and the school’s community at OPAC on September 11 at 9.30am.
Ms Lindsay said everyone was invited to attend and OPAC would begin fundraising for the benches in the near future.
“We have invited representatives from other schools to come along and check out the plans too,” she said.
"We are really proud our students came up with the idea and have the stamina to stick with the project.”
Buddy Bench Australia managing director Brian Blowes said his company had sold more than 150 benches nationally in the past year.
“It’s a nice feelgood story and we’ve had multiple schools call back wanting more benches,” he said.
“We pride ourselves in what we do.”
We are really proud our students came up with the idea and have the stamina to stick with the project.Oran Park Anglican College teacher April Lindsay
Clinical physiologist and Monash University senior lecturer Dr Katherine Lawrence said the buddy bench initiative was enormously positive if provided with the right support.
“It's really important to promote social collectiveness and a sense of belonging,” she said.
“It is terrific that schools are thinking about tangible ways that kids can feel connected to their peers and feel protected from bullying.
“The success of something like the buddy bench will depend on how well it is monitored by the teachers and accepted by the students.”
Dr Lawrence said bullying was more prevalent now in schools because there were more avenues for anti-social behaviour, such as text messaging and social media.
“Bullies can be anonymous now and that can bring a new level of hurt,” she said.
“The buddy bench teaches students to keep an eye out for their peers which is an important thing to learn.”
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