San Dieguito sophomores set up ‘kindness benches’ for elementary schools

Eight San Dieguito Academy High School sophomores are aiming to promote positivity among elementary students by installing “kindness benches” at Encinitas Union School District schools.

The high school’s Future Woodworkers of America club was founded about a year ago as an opportunity for students interested in woodshop to hone their skills.

First, the items they created started off as recreational items, like skateboards.

Then, they got approached to create kindness benches to give back to the community.

The idea with the benches is for children who are seeking a buddy to hang out with can sit on the benches, and other children will ask them how they are doing or if they want to play.

Debbie Glaser, a Capri Education Specialist, thought of the idea to install the benches so children could feel more included at recess.

She said she was required to do a project as part of her administrative review and read about other schools installing kindness benches.

Then, she brought the idea to other teachers, and Sheila Clarke, who works in the school’s special education department and whose son, Aiden, helped found the Future Woodworkers of America, overheard the conversation.

“I thought, ‘My son’s club could totally do this,’” Sheila Clarke said.

The decision to create the benches was easy, Aiden said.

The 15-year-old sophomore said he believes people need to be reminded that they should accept everybody.

“Everyone needs a friend,” he said.

The bench at Capri — which cost about $165 in supplies and was paid for with funding provided by Capri’s Parent-Teacher Association — was installed last year, he said.

More benches are planned to be installed at three other Encinitas Union School District schools.

John Hamala, 15, a member of the Future Woodworkers of America, said he knows of some classmates who had trouble making friends in elementary school. He hopes the benches will give kids today a different experience.

Sheila Clarke said she believes the message of the bench at Capri is working.

“When I was out on noon duty last week, I did see a student sitting on the bench reading a book,” she said. “Without going there and asking why they were there — just to see what would happen — I saw someone came up and sit next to that kid and began talking to him.”

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