When Stephanie Niedermeyer was a Montgomery Elementary School student, all of her friends liked to run during recess.
Stephanie, now a ninth-grade student at Valley Central High School, was never a fan of running, and consequently spent many recess periods at Montgomery Elementary School (MES) playing by herself. So, when Stephanie was tasked with working on a community project in order to receive the Girl Scouts Silver Award, she had the perfect project in mind: The Bucket Filler Buddy Bench – a bright blue bench that students who are feeling lonely can sit on as a signal that they’re looking for someone to play with.
“To get the Silver Award, you have to work on a project that contributes to the community,” Stephanie explained. “I thought it would be nice to give back to my elementary school.”
In order to receive the Silver Award, which according to the Girl Scouts’ website is the highest award a Girl Scout Cadette may earn, Stephanie spent more than 50 hours and a big chunk of her summer break contacting members of the school’s administrative team to discuss the logistics of the project, having conversations with her mentor and finessing all the small details necessary to bring the Bucket Filler Buddy Bench to fruition. She was presented with her award, alongside 140 other Cadettes during a ceremony held at the Paramount Theater in Peekskill, New York.
Learning to be a “bucket filler” rather than a “bucket dipper” is a part of an MES education. The bucket filler philosophy is that every person has an invisible bucket inside of them. Bullying, self-doubt and negative actions all dip into a person’s bucket, whereas acts of kindness fill a person’s bucket. Every day, MES staff encourages students to fill each other’s buckets.
“Developing character qualities in our students, such as kindness, thoughtfulness, respect and a sense of community, is a significant goal here at MES and the bucket filling analogy resonates well with even the youngest students,” Principal Matt Canino said.
“Being a bucket filler means being respectful to each other,” MES kindergarten student Owen explained.
“It’s doing something that makes other people happy,” Owen’s classmate, Pauline, chimed in. “Like, I was a bucket filler this morning when I helped Owen pick up his chair at math center.”
The Bucket Filler Buddy Bench is currently stationed in the MES lobby and is expected to be installed on the playground in the spring when the weather warms up. Once it is, students will have even more opportunities to practice their bucket-filling skills.
“The MES community is grateful to Stephanie for having the initiative to create such a wonderful addition to our mission in building a culture of kindness,” Mr. Canino said. “Not only will the bench give students the opportunity to ask for a friend in a safe way, it also gives other students a clear opportunity to be a friend by inviting a student to play.”
“I’m happy that we got the new bench,” kindergarten student Benjamin said. “When you feel sad or mad you can go sit on it and someone will see you there and come and play with you.”