Buddy Bench

First of four elementary schools to add Buddy Bench
Posted on 11/21/2019
Students gather on the buddy bench.

Oak Grove has installed the first buddy bench of Poplar Bluff’s lower elementary schools upon successfully collecting over 250 pounds of plastic lids and caps in a student-led effort. 

The recycled piece of furniture, picked up in Indiana about a week ago by special education teacher Becky Ingle, was secured through the ABC (A Bench for Caps) Promise Partnership program under Green Tree Plastics.

The bench will be utilized on the playground for students to signify that they are seeking a friend to talk to or play with during recess, according to the children. 

“Instead of having to sit on the ground if they’re lonely, they can sit on the bench,” explained Tinsley Statler of the third grade. “Sometimes people don’t realize them [when they’re on the ground]. Now we’ll realize them.” 

Representatives from the schools listened to Mary Kay Campbell discuss the concept during a previous Kiwanis Club luncheon. Beginning this school year, elementary students began collecting plastic bottle caps and lids to containers. At Oak Grove, the Service and Recycling clubs volunteered to give up their recess period for several days to clean, sort and weigh a dozen trash bags worth of recycled items for delivery on Friday, Nov. 8. 

Emmalynn Dennis of the Service Club recalled how she “felt weird” going around asking spectators for their bottle caps during soccer games, but was willing to step out of her comfort zone in order to help the school achieve its goal. Her father works at a pharmacy and her mother is employed at Physicians Park, she noted, and she additionally went to the places of business to collect medicine container tops. 

Clint Wallace, also a leadership team member, said he might have drunk some extra bottled waters at home to enhance his contribution. Oak Grove also received donations from civic organizations and churches, most notably Memorial Baptist Church, helping to accelerate the process. 

“It’s only the beginning of the year, so we’ll get it for the rest of the year,” Tinsley observed. “We’ll get to have it for a long time.” 

Envisioning when they graduate high school and take their Senior Walk through their former elementary school, Clint commented: “We’ll get to brag to all our friends that, ‘We built that.’” 

Memorial Baptist agreed to rent a U-Haul for Ingle and her husband Tim to visit the plant that compresses the plastic to make the benches, along with other recycled furniture. The Parent Teacher Organization took care of the processing fee, as well as the blue and black color enhancement to match existing pieces of playground equipment.

Tinsley pointed out how she first learned about the concept of the buddy bench from her older sister Brylee of the fifth grade, who asks schoolmates to join her when she notices them having a seat during their recess period. The Middle School introduced the district’s first buddy bench constructed out of wood at the upper elementary grade-span last year. 

Eugene Field, Lake Road and O'Neal are still accepting plastic lids and caps to obtain buddy benches. The schools are all reportedly about halfway toward their goals.

“It was a lot of fun to make, looks really cool, and I’m excited to use it,” concluded Tinsley on behalf of the student body. 


Cutline: Sitting on and surrounding Oak Grove’s new buddy bench, Service and Recycling Club students are pictured with teacher Becky Ingle on Thursday, Nov. 14.

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