TRENTON — Snow Ross, third-grade teacher at Trenton Elementary School, noticed last year that some of her students didn’t seem to have anyone to play with at recess.
“Recess was becoming stressful, which is the last thing it should be,” she said. “So I presented the problem to the kids, and we did a lot of brainstorming and eventually came to the idea of having a bench that kids can go to if they’re feeling they have no one to play with.
“The idea is that somebody will come and say, ‘Hey, do you want to play?’”
A small, temporary “buddy bench” was placed beside the playground last spring, and the students posted the rules they developed for using it.
One rule is that you can’t sit on the bench unless you want someone to come and ask you to play. If someone does ask you to play, you have to say “yes.”
“You can’t wait for the person you ideally want to come and ask you,” Ross said.
If a couple of people are sitting on the bench, you have to ask them both to play.
After getting the bench in place and establishing the rules, the third-grade students went around to the other classes, fifth grade and under, to introduce the concept.
“It really caught on,” Ross said. “The problem was much bigger than we even knew.”
Over the summer, a permanent “buddy bench” was installed near the playground in memory of Peter Rees, a Trenton resident who was a prominent social justice activist and volunteered as an adviser to the school’s Civil Rights Team.
After Rees died in 2015, a memorial service was held at the school, and his daughter gave the school a donation in his memory.
“We weren’t sure what we were going to do with it,” said Steffanie Roguski, Trenton Elementary’s office manager. “Then when I saw the third grade trying to work on the buddy bench, we just felt that’s what we should do.”
The metal bench is painted purple. Roguski designed the dedication to Rees on the bench, which includes paw prints representing the school’s sports teams, the TimberWolves.