Puyallup: Sumner

Belonging Bench helps teach Sumner students servant leadership at early age

Ilee Lewis, left, speaks while presenting the Belonging Bench to students at Maple Lawn Elementary in Sumner on June 9. When students feel lonely or don’t have anyone to play with, they can go sit on the bench, and someone from the Early Act Club or another student will invite them to play.
Ilee Lewis, left, speaks while presenting the Belonging Bench to students at Maple Lawn Elementary in Sumner on June 9. When students feel lonely or don’t have anyone to play with, they can go sit on the bench, and someone from the Early Act Club or another student will invite them to play. jbessex@gateline.com

Students at Maple Lawn Elementary in Sumner got creative when it came to ways to make their peers feel more included during recess.

The Early Act Club, a Rotary service club for elementary students, came up with the idea of placing a Belonging Bench on the playground. When students feel lonely or don’t have anyone to play with, they can go sit on the bench, and someone from the Early Act Club or another student will invite them to play.

“We want kids to serve and think of others,” said Kathy Hayden, club founder and Sumner Rotarian. “It’s part of planting the servant leadership skills early, and to teach our kids to be better servants of service.”

At the club’s first meeting earlier in the school year, students were brainstorming ideas to improve their school — and to ensure no Maple Lawn students go without a friend.

It will be a good addition to our school to allow kids to make new friends.

Fourth-grader Alyse Haft

“It will be a good addition to our school to allow kids to make new friends,” fourth-grader Alyse Haft said of the bench.

The Belonging Bench is expected to be installed in the fall. For fifth-grader Rylee Smith, the bench means leaving her mark on her elementary school when she starts middle school in the fall.

“I’m sad I won’t get to use it, but it’s also really cool to see,” she said. “It’s a really cool thing to adapt into Maple Lawn to show belonging.”

The bench was built and donated to the Early Act Club by Jerry Thorsen, a retired East Pierce fire chief and fellow Sumner Rotarian. Various students helped paint and decorate the bench.

Curtis Thiel, assistant governor of Rotary Area 12, was on hand at the school’s end of the year assembly last week to announce the addition of the bench to the playground.

“Rotary was founded on fellowship,” Thiel said. “This bench really puts that to work, and is a reminder of the idea of belonging and togetherness.”

Heather DeRosa: 253-256-7043, @herald_hderosa

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