Girl Scouts battle bullying, back buddies with bench at Skyline School

Three Solana Beach Girl Scout troops teamed to build the Buddy Bench.
Three Solana Beach Girl Scout troops teamed to build the Buddy Bench.
(Kristina Houck)

Three Solana Beach Girl Scout Junior troops teamed up to battle bullying and back buddies with a new bench at Skyline Elementary School.

Dedicated on March 19, the “Buddy Bench” sits on the school playground, providing a safe spot for students feeling lonely and looking for a friend. The project helped the members of Solana Beach-based Troops 1754, 1825 and 3005 earn their Bronze Award while giving a gift to their elementary school.

“We should all help out by inviting someone to play with you and your friends when you see someone on the Buddy Bench,” said Piper Levy, 11, encouraging her schoolmates at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“Even without the Buddy Bench, we should be kind and include everyone when you see they are lonely,” added 10-year-old Greta Boatcher.

Greta’s mother, Loretta Boatcher, leader of Troop 3005, read an article about an Escondido troop’s donation of a Buddy Bench last summer. Boatcher shared the article with fellow troop leaders Melissa Fischel of Troop 1754 and Jenn Levy of Troop 1825. Together, they approached Principal Lisa Denham with the idea, which she fully supported.

“It was something they could do for their Bronze Award and also outreach to everyone at the school and in the community, in the spirit of camaraderie,” Boatcher said.

“Maybe a kid who is lonely isn’t technically being bullied, but in their mind they feel that way. Now, they have a place to go.”

Combined, the three troops have 23 girls — all fifth-graders at Skyline School. Every Girl Scout Junior sold cookies to raise funds for the materials. Each troop raised about $500.

The troop leaders also reached out to local businesses for support.

Solana Beach businesses Baker Iron Works and Karten’s Case designed and constructed the bench at no cost. John Bruun of Baker Iron Works created the metal legs, while Daniel Karten of Karten’s Case crafted the wooden seat.

“I think it’s a nice idea,” said Karten, whose daughter, Mimi, attends Skyline School. He has been a furniture maker for 18 years. “It’s an opportunity for kids to come together when they’re not feeling 100 percent.”

“It was nice to do something with the Girl Scouts for the community,” added Bruun, whose business is the oldest family-owned business in Solana Beach. Baker Iron Works opened in 1929. “It benefits the kids.”

It took about a week to construct the base of the bench and four days for the seat. Because Skyline School is the home of the Waves, the bench is shaped like a wave. There is also no back to the bench so it is accessible and visible from all sides, emphasizing the “openness” of the bench and its overall concept.

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” Denham said about the bench.

“It’s amazing,” Boatcher added. “It turned out better than I could have ever imagined.”

A Buddy Bench is intended to help eliminate loneliness and foster friendships on school playgrounds. The concept originated in 2013, when Pennsylvania second-grader Christian Bucks noticed that some of his classmates were lonely at recess.

After sharing the idea with the principal of Roundtown Elementary, the school installed a bench where children could go if they were lonely and looking for a friend. Thanks to news reports and social media, schools across the country have since installed Buddy Benches.

“Remember that it’s OK to sit on the bench,” 10-year-old Sofia Fischel of Troop 1754 said to her schoolmates. “Don’t be scared.”

For more about the Buddy Bench movement, visit buddybench.org.


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