Heritage Elementary, high school welding class collaborate on friendship bench project

 02/27/2018 - 23:54
Heritage Elementary School's friendship bench
Heritage Elementary School social worker Joel Benedek takes a seat on the school's new friendship bench, with sign provided by high school welding students.

A collaborative project between Heritage Elementary school and Saline High School’s welding program has resulted in a “friendship bench” and sign being installed on the elementary school’s playground.

Friendship benches, also called “buddy benches,” were created by a Pennsylvania elementary school pupil, Christian, who proposed having a buddy bench built at his grade school. The idea has spread to other elementary schools around the country.

Heritage Elementary’s social worker Joel Benedek said school staff felt that calling it a “friendship bench” was more appropriate for fourth and fifth graders.

The school’s parent-teacher organization funded building of the bench, which was installed near the start of the 2017-2018 school year. Later, Benedek reached out to the high school’s welding program to make a sign for it.

Benedek said students “jumped at the chance” to collaborate on the project. They programmed a computer-aided-design machine and cut out the letters with a hot torch. The sign, installed in early February, now reads “Heritage Friendship Bench – Make a Friend, Be a Friend” to indicate what the bench should be used for.

“It’s a designated seating area where students who are feeling lonely or upset can find camaraderie,” Benedek said. “You’ll sit on the bench, and maybe someone will come sit by you. Or someone will see you on the bench and ask you to join their game.”

Benedek said school staff made a video about the bench and showed it in classes to make sure pupils understand what the bench is for, but says that, with the sign, it’s self-explanatory.

Benedek hopes the collaboration can continue, with Heritage Elementary pupils visiting the welding class at the high school to learn more about all the vocational courses offered through the school district's consortium programming.

“Maybe a pupil will see that they have 10 brand new cars in the auto shop, or that they can learn silk screening or TV production. It just might be inspirational,” he said.

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Sarah Rigg
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in southeast Michigan. She has worked in community journalism for over 20 years covering education, business, arts & culture and other topics as a reporter, with experience in copy editing, layout, and proofreading.