In brainstorming project ideas for their Bronze Award (the highest honor a Girl Scout Junior can achieve), the girls in Girl Scout Troop 198 from Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania knew they wanted to do something to help new students in their community thrive. So they decided to build and donate one “buddy bench” to each of the three elementary schools in their district: Mifflin Park Elementary, Brecknock Elementary, and Cumru Elementary.
“The idea [with the benches] is that at the playground, when kids feel lonely or don’t want to do what others are doing, they can sit on these buddy benches and sort of signal to other kids, who will then come over and play with them,” said troop leader Tabitha Hoppman. “It’s all about fostering kindness, and letting the kids know that there’s somewhere to go to make a new friend when they need it.”
To complete this project of kindness, the girls (21 of them!) split into groups and set out to come up with their own bench designs. One group decided it would make its bench out of recycled materials, another out of concrete, and the third landed on a cinder block design. (The girls felt it was important to choose something that would look nice but was also within their reach to build.)
Armed with their design decisions and to-do lists, the girls headed to Home Depot, where they were given a tour and learned about the different kinds of materials available. They took down notes on supply costs, which they later used to build their own, detailed project budgets. Impressive! After purchasing their materials, the girls promptly got to work, and all three benches were finished and installed at each school by May 2016.
“What they really loved about the project was being able to leave a legacy for all the other kids who would attend the same schools they had,” said Tabitha. “It also made them feel more grown up, being able to help younger students—and they just loved learning how to use power tools!”
Along with Tabitha and the girls themselves, David Argentati, principal of Mifflin Park Elementary, was very proud of what the troop was able to accomplish. “It was great to see the girls understand the importance of inclusion, respect for others, and building relationships within their school and communities. That alone speaks volumes about them, their troop, and the Girl Scout [organization].”
The principal of Cumru Elementary was also happy to see the girls’ project come to life. “At Cumru, we strategically placed our buddy bench beside our third- and fourth-grade playground area,” he said. “As role models to our younger students, our upperclassmen need to be there for one another—always encouraging friendship and supporting those who need a pick-me-up when they’re feeling down.”
The girls of Troop 198 learned so much, and they had a great time along the way!
“I really liked using a recycled headboard to build the bench, and learning to use new tools like the power saw and the caulk gun,” said Rebecca Lynn.
Fellow troop member Megan added, “I’m so glad we did this. We took a big step to help kids not feel alone at recess, and I had never used an electric screwdriver or drill before.”
And Girl Scout Mia’s favorite part? Carving the purple foam for the bench molds. “I had a lot of fun and learned about teamwork.”
Thank you, Troop 198, for bringing so much awesome friendship, joy, and inclusive spirit to your area elementary school playgrounds. Your kindness and effort are greatly appreciated!