Third grader Ryley Baker, left, asks third grader Andrew Diaz to play at recess Thursday at Bell Elementary.

There’s a new seat on the playground, but it’s not for resting, it’s for friendship.

Last month, Bell Elementary installed a Buddy Bench to ensure everyone has someone to be with during recess.

A Buddy Bench is a seat students sit on during recess if they are feeling lonely or shy. Other students who see them sitting on the bench are encouraged to invite them to play.

Principal Mary Derby said she is proud to have the new addition on the playground.

“I love it,” Derby said. “One of our main goals is to instill kindness in our students and give them opportunities to express kindness.”

The new blue bench outside the school reads “Buddy Bench” and was a collaborative effort between the Parent Teacher Organization and the Offutt Officers’ Spouses’ Club.

The project, which cost about $1,000, was a good investment, said Miranda Diaz, PTO board member and communications representative.

“We are very proud,” Diaz said.

Diaz said she hopes the bench can bring students together as well as inspire them to be kind to one and other.

“They can go home to their parents and tell them that they did something good today and made a new friend,” she said.

As president of the Offutt Officers’ Spouses’ Club, Angela Schermer said the club was happy to invest in such a meaningful addition.

“It’s such a great thing,” she said.

“It’s cool that students know to be looking for kids who are sitting on the Buddy Bench.”

Teachers talked to their classes about the bench to make students aware of the importance of inclusion, Derby said.

So far, she said, it’s been effective.

“I’ve seen lots of kids using it appropriately,” Derby said.

The bench, Derby said, also helps new students make new friends.

“It’s good for new students, especially if they are feeling like they don’t really know anybody and aren’t sure who to play with,” she said.

From new students to those who are looking for a friend, the Buddy Bench is a way to let students know they are not alone.

“I hope it brings more kindness,” Derby said. “It’s one of our core values and beliefs so this is one opportunity students have to do something nice for someone else.”

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