Empathy in Action: The “Buddy Bench” at Todd Hall Elementary

This cool story comes to us from a Chicagoland elementary school and shows how social-emotional learning and teaching children about empathy can transform a school. The playground is a place for kids to take a break from school and run, jump and play without the normal confines of the classroom. It is also a place where bullying is more prevalent, especially for kids who are quiet or shy, and this can experience social isolation. Yet at Todd Hall Elementary in Lincolnwood, IL, a group of third graders turned these fears on their head and devised the “Buddy Bench.”

The Buddy Bench and how it promotes Social-Emotional Learning

buddy bench swing

The Lincolnwood Review describes the Buddy Bench by saying:

“A buddy bench, the article explained, is a place where kids can sit if they’re feeling lonely or too shy to ask their classmates if they can join in. If another student sees someone on the bench, they’re supposed to approach them and ask them to join their group.”

And ask they have. One student named Brandon at Todd Hall said that the Buddy Bench was something worth sharing and that “I’ve told my friends all about it, because when you see someone who’s not happy—well they should be because everyone deserves to be happy.”

Even though the playground is outside the classroom, students like Brandon and others at schools that employ techniques like the “Buddy Bench” are getting a different kind of education while they are out playing with their friends. The bench is merely a tool to teach social-emotional learning and show children how to look inward, to determine how they would feel about something happening to someone else and to act when they think something is wrong and needs fixing. These lessons by the swing-set help children learn from an early age the value of inclusiveness and kindness, and research has shown that social-emotional learning can help prevent things like bullying (also known as peer abuse) from happening in the future.

So kudos to the children at Todd Hall for executing this plan, and thanks to the administrators and teachers who saw the value in it and for helping to secure its funding. If you want to learn more about social emotion learning and preventing peer abuse, read about how we work to prevent peer abuse and bullying.

Does your community do something similar to help children learn about things like empathy and to help prevent bullying? Tweet us @PCAAmerica or leave us a comment on Facebook telling us about it, and you can inspire others the way these third-graders inspired us!

Back to the blog