Surrey students build ‘Belonging’ benches for local organizations

Teacher: ‘Our deep hope was that students would discover a sense of belonging in our local community’

SURREY — Students at Surrey Christian School sawed, nailed and painted their way to a greater sense of community belonging.

As part of a “Belonging Bench” project, more than 100 Grade 6 and 7 students were urged to contact local organizations to see if they’d be interested in having a bench “that would tell the story of what it means to belong to their organization.”

During three months of work this spring, 22 benches were built and later given to the organizations, which include BC Vintage Truck Museum, Royal Canadian Legion, Urban Safari Rescue Society, Options Community Services Society and NightShift Street Ministry, among others.

“Our deep hope was that students would discover a sense of belonging in our local community,” said Austin Malnis, a teacher who helped organize the project. “A bench seemed like a good way to do that.”

Students helped design a 3D template on a computer and, in telling the story of each organization, they reached out based on their own passions and interests.

On June 8, the benches were showcased for the organizations during an event at the school gym, where everyone met and talked about the students’ “learning journey” in the project.

For the organizations, it was a chance to connect with a local elementary school and receive a practical gift; for students, it was a chance to practice a way of being.

“At first, I was worried about the idea of us building benches, because I was scared we would kind of mess them up,” Martin Chan-Cung, a Grade 7 student, told school administrators. “But once I saw what they looked like in the end, I knew we did a really good job with them.”

The benches looked amazing, school principal Danny Nagtegaal said. “People were thrilled with the results,” he added.

Teachers at the school are already dreaming about what next year’s “Belonging” project could look like.

tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com