COOS BAY — Children are learning about kindness at the Coos Bay School District.

The idea of “Buddy Benches” has passed around the administration for a year, but is finally coming to fruition in November.

The global program teaches children that if they sit on these Buddy Benches, it tells other kids on the playground that they need a friend.

“These benches are the idea of creating a totally inclusive school culture where kids have friendship and can model kindness, where no one is alone or feels left out and neglected,” said Peggy Thornton, coordinator for talented and gifted and the instructional coach for the Coos Bay School District.

Right now the program is being used in over 1,000 schools and on six different continents.

“When you go to the Buddy Bench and someone asks you to play, you go with that person and if that’s not something you like, you can go back and try again,” Thornton said. “It opens up your field and we’re planning on modeling this program by having Marshfield High School students take a power point around to introduce it.”

Marshfield students will go to both Madison and Blossom Gulch elementary schools, where the benches are to be installed, to explain what the new program is and what it means. Thornton hopes that having this explained by high school students will hold more weight with the elementary kids than coming from an adult.

Four benches were made for the new program, two for Madison and two for Blossom Gulch. Each bench has its own design, painted by students Lindsey Putman, Paige Hinkel, Natalie Goering, Victoria Cox, Rowan Mukaida, and Robert Kliewer.

The benches were sponsored by the Bay Area Rotary Club and created by the Coos Bay Boat Center. Each bench will have a plaque commemorating help from the Rotary Club, a branding from the boat center, and the artist’s signatures along with their caricature.

“Eventually little kids will crawl under the bench and see that this is art,” Thornton said.

The Rotary Club got involved as a sponsor after member and boat center owner Tom Leahy brought them the project.

“This project fits with our mission with a huge focus on youth in our community,” said Rotarian Steven Schneiderman. “It’s a no-brainer for the club to be involved.”

Each bench took 10 hours to build and cost about $100.

“The cost of all the benches together is priceless to one friendship that can be made,” Leahy said. “I’m interested as a former teacher and principal of this building in this project because it’s a counterpart to the bullying in the district. This balances the behavior.”

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.

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