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Welby students build buddy benches on Better World Day

Everyone needs a buddy sometimes. That’s why all of Welby Community School of the Arts’ students helped build and decorate four buddy benches that now sit around their campus. The project started on Friday, May 5, for Better World Day, when kids from every grade painted the benches’ wood planks that the school’s sixth graders later assembled.

a buddy bench in front of a field

Better World Day is an annual event where members of the EL Education network around the country, like Welby, express how they are making the world a better place for people. Welby chose to make buddy benches because they are meant to prevent students from feeling lonely. When a child sits on one, it signals to other children that that child might want a friend at that moment.  

“It can make people feel better because when we see someone sitting alone on the bench, we can sit next to them and ask them to play,” said Denver M., a Welby first grader. “You say, ‘you could play with us, and you don’t have to feel bad,’ and take their hand and play with them.” 

Girl paints a plank of wood

The benches also support anti-bullying efforts, and Welby’s school director, Danielle Dickson, said they send the message that everybody has somebody. Welby staff used the buddy bench project to educate students’ parents about the Olweus Bully Prevention Program, the most researched and best-known bullying prevention program available today, which all Mapleton schools teach. While the students painted the wood, staff invited parents inside the school to learn more about Olweus and how the benches and other school efforts build inclusivity. 

The activity fits well with Welby’s philosophy as an EL school, where students, staff, and families consider themselves "crew" rather than "passengers." Everyone is a valued community member and is held accountable for the entire school's progress. 

“This was a way for us to have a little fun and celebrate with our community and demonstrate what we value, who we are, and that we expect our kids to get along,” said Ms. Dickson. “Welby is great because we have this balance of joy and learning, community engagement, high rigor, and super high expectations of achievement.”