SHS Senior creates Buddy Benches for Elementary School

Emily Sasser and Nicola Seager

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Newest eagle scout member, Joe Nathanson, a senior at Stamford High School, has developed his own community-gathering project called “Buddy Benches”. Nathanson’s spark for this idea stemmed from his own childhood fear of not being included by his peers. The “Buddy Benches” are Nathanson’s creation that act as a “safe haven” for kids to seek playmates and socialize

What is the “Buddy Benches” project?

I will be constructing four benches for Newfield Elementary School. Two of those four benches will be named “Buddy Benches”. Elementary school children use Buddy Benches  to seek a playmate or invite others to join in on their activities. A Buddy Bench is a small, safe haven. Children who are feeling emotional or lonely can sit on the bench as a clear signal to others on the playground that they are in need of social connection. These two buddy benches will also be marked to stand out from the normal bench, in order to differentiate it from a normal bench. These four benches will be constructed around the elementary school campus to supplement the use of pre-existing benches that have become decrepit. There are two playgrounds at Newfield Elementary, one buddy bench and one normal bench will be placed at each playground.


How did you come up with this idea?

The principal of Newfield is a long time family friend of mine, Mrs. Lisa Saba-Price. I worked with her to configure a much needed project for her school, and she pointed me in the direction to build these buddy benches. The benches around the elementary school campus are old, worn down, and decrepit. Installing new benches will not only gentrify the school’s environment, but also create a purpose, leading to making an impact.


What sparked your initial interest to do this project?

In my eyes, there are not just benches. They are a safe haven for children that are feeling left out and unincluded. As a kid, I grew up as an only child where the spotlight from my family was always on me and I would always get lots of attention. However, this affected my relationships with my friends and other people I’ve met along the way of life. As an only child, it becomes normal to be surrounded by attention and affection; this led me to have a fear of being left out, not included, or even not good enough. Growing up now, I have been able to grow out of that a little bit, but those natural feelings I grew up with still exist. By building this project, I feel like not only am I giving back to my community, but I am also giving children, who are now in my shoes as I once was, a chance to not feel what I felt growing up; AKA being scared of feeling left out and lonesome. By doing this, I know I am giving a younger generation an opportunity to embrace who they really are without being scared of not being adequate enough.


What do you hope to achieve by creating these benches?

I am hoping to boost the self esteem and morale of children. Little kids can be very mean sometimes, and we don’t even know it. Buddy Benches give children the space to feel safe, comfortable, included, and needed. Buddy Benches stand out from normal benches (we painted them blue and painted ‘buddy bench’ on them) and allow children to sit, play, or even make new friends without having the feeling of being left out, or not good enough. These are everyday real world problems that children have to face (we have all been there) when really kids should just focus on being kids and being happy. I am hoping to make an impact on everyone and anyone who uses these benches, especially the students of Newfield.


What has the process been like to make these benches? (hours, and budget)

An Eagle Scout Project is not an easy task. It involves creating, planning, budgeting, managing, and carrying out a project by myself. It starts with the proposal. First, I must propose my idea to the council that my troop is in. This involves coming up with my plan, a budget, and all the logistics necessary. Then, the proposal has to get approved. This process can take a while because scouts sometimes have to go back and forth and revise/fix their proposal so it’s just right. My proposal got approved right away. There are phases to the project, such as gathering all materials, recruiting volunteers, to even pouring cement mix into the ground. Many scouts need to fundraise in order to obtain their materials; I went to different local lumber companies and hardware stores to get my materials and I was able to get almost everything donated. First, we had to sand and cut all the wood to the right lengths and dimensions. Next, we had to assemble the two leg supports for each bench (8 total legs) by drilling in screws and hammering in carriage bolts. Then, we assembled the seat and back of the bench by drilling them in. There are a total of 4 benches; we painted two blue and stained the other two like a natural wood brownish color. After that, we used stuck stencils on the bench to spray paint the words ‘Buddy Bench’ in white so people can recognize it. The last step is to install them in the ground at each playground.


When will they be installed at the elementary school.

I am aiming to have them installed at Newfield Elementary School on the afternoon of October 6. There are 2 playgrounds at Newfield, one for kindergarteners and one for all the other students. I am installing one Buddy Bench and one regular bench on each of the two playgrounds. Once they are installed, I will be working with Principal, Lisa Saba-Price, to get her students to paint their handprints on the benches to give it a more welcoming and elementary feel. When installing them, we have to mix and pour concrete into the ground, then place the benches in the ground and make sure they are level.