The Safe School Buddies Program (SSB) is a social-emotional (SEL) learning program that harnesses the power of younger students to promote kindness and respect of others.
The Safe School Buddies Program is designed for students in first through third grades. The SSB Program empowers and equips socially influential students to promote kindness, respect for others, and to be positive role models with their peers. It includes a strong literacy component focused on helping young learners meet classroom literacy curriculum standards. At its core, the SSB Program prepares younger students to become upstanders, to set positive and inclusive social norms on campus and also to become Safe School Ambassadors when they enter 4th grade. This is achieved by focusing on social interactions, emotional awareness and self-regulation.
The selected students participate in a two-day training which provides the Buddies with examples of mistreatment and helps them understand what mistreatment looks and feels like. They learn and practice age-appropriate Buddy Actions they can use when they see different types of mistreatment such as teasing, put downs and exclusion. They also learn age-appropriate ways to effectively resolve conflict and problem solve. After the training, small group meetings of Buddies are held on a regular basis throughout the year.
These meetings, led by the adult mentors, provide time for strengthening the social emotional skills learned during the training and includes engaging activities that provide literacy skill reinforcement.
When the Safe School Buddies Program is implemented and delivered with fidelity, the following results are expected:
- Increased awareness and understanding of what it means to be a good friend and positive influence in a peer group
- Decreased incidents of mean spirited and hurtful behaviors
- Increased ability to peaceably resolve conflicts and problem solve
- Increased respect for diversity and different ways of thinking and acting
- Positive feelings of connectedness to school and each other
- Increased aptitude and confidence for emergent, initial and transitional readers
- Increased literacy skills including reading, writing, listening and speaking
The SSB program is most effective when implemented over a 3-year time frame, which allows it to develop strong roots that anchor it firmly into school culture and practices. After the first three years of a Community Matters trainer providing the 2-day SSB Training, the school can move into a Training of the Trainer (TOT) model whereby selected adults at the school are trained to provide the 2-day SSB training for the students and to keep facilitating the program. When schools move into the TOT model, Community Matters partners with the school to support the long-term sustainability of the program. With this approach, the core values and principles of the SSB program become embedded into the school practices as a way of thinking, communicating and behaving.
“We’ve noticed a steady decrease of negative behaviors and an increase in positive behaviors. Students report using conflict resolution skills at home with family members, on the bus, on the playground, in class and even at the park after school.” -Vickie Duty, Principal, Desert Heights Elementary, Reno, NV.