Buddy Benches Spreading Kindness at Rhein Benninghoven and Highlands

Benninghoven Buddy Bench
Shawnee Mission School District

New playground features, created to help students make new friends, have recently been given to a couple of Shawnee Mission elementary schools.  

 Jacob Parker, a sophomore at Shawnee Mission Northwest and graduate of Rhein Benninghoven Elementary School recently gave back to his former elementary school by installing two buddy benches. Parker built and provided the gift as part of completing his Boy Scout Eagle Project.

Buddy benches are designed for students who would like someone to talk to or interact with on the playground. When they sit on the bench it is a signal for someone to join them.

In October, the buddy benches Parker built were installed on the playground. He said he remembered being shy in elementary school and thought a buddy bench would have helped him meet more classmates.

“We have many students who are new to the district or new to Benninghoven,” Brittany Gonser, principal said. “The benches provide a wonderful way for the students to help make friends and get to know each other.”

Rhein Benninghoven recently hosted a dedication ceremony to celebrate the two benches. Soon, the student council will make a video to help all the students understand the purpose and encourage them to use the benches to make new friends.

Sixth-graders, who graduated from Highlands Elementary in 2018, gave a similar gift of kindness to their school. They purchased and had a buddy bench installed on their playground. Students on the Kindness Committee wanted to give a gift to Highlands that would remind all students to be kind.

“Oftentimes students can feel left out if they don’t have someone to play with at recess,” Lea Ann Combs, principal said. “The intent is if students see someone sitting on the bench, they are looking for a play mate, it makes it easier for students to be inclusive.”