screen-shot-2015-12-03-at-9-05-33-amNo Buddy Gets Left Behind With This Anti-Bullying Project

The Buddy Bench has become a force to be reckoned on school playgrounds around the world. The idea is simple enough. There is a special bench on the playground. If someone is being bullied or left out and has no one to play with, they can just go sit on the bench. It’s the responsibility of the entire school to keep an eye on the bench, and if they see someone on it, they know that person needs a buddy and it’s their job to go and invite them to play. From the moment I heard about it, I loved everything about the Buddy Bench.

Who: 300+ students at Bert Ambrose School in Fort St John, B.C., Canada

When: October 2015

Why Invest In A Project Like This

During the week I was at Ambrose I was doing some songwriting sessions with some classes, slam poetry with others and one filmmaking project. On our first day of songwriting, I asked the class to describe their school. I like to start the first songwriting session with brainstorming and getting students talking about their lives, their school, their class. I write any ideas or stories that really jump out, down on the board. Mostly cause I don’t want to forget, but also because I like the process of students seeing someone take interest in the stories they are sharing, and how different threads can weave together. I take a picture of the whiteboard at the end of the class with my phone, and if we happened to play around with chords or melodies, I sing that into my phone as well. That evening, after I’ve had a chance to sift through the stories, I often come up with a chord progression and melody.

The process is creative and collaborative. The process of working together to create something is actually the most valuable investment. It’s great to have a finished product like the video that I can share with someone like you, but for the school and the students it’s actually the process that is so rewarding.

Where We Produced The Elements Of This Project

Over the next two days, we wrote the song. This happens in a group setting. Sometimes I break them up into small groups to come up with lines and ideas for the song, and we all come back together to see if the pieces will fit. Following in a long tradition of pop culture musicians and songwriters, I don’t actually read music. I always have my phone with me and get the teacher to record a video of our process before I leave the classroom each day. I like to document the process of songwriting, but it’s also a really important way for me to remember what I played and how we sang the song.  This is especially important when I’m writing songs with 4 or 5 classes in the same week.

How We Wrote & Recorded The Buddy Bench Song

After collaborating on the lyrics and the call and response song structure, I bring my laptop and a microphone with me, so I’m able to set up my portable recording equipment in the classroom and record audio for the song. The songwriting session doesn’t allow for me to get too involved in the technology side of things, but I do want the students to see the process of how to use GarageBand so that they can use it after I’m going.

This video below starts with clips from the classroom session as we work out the song and then jumps to the assembly on Friday afternoon, where this class taught the song to the rest of the school.

What it means to be cool  (Repeat)
Just be yourself                   (Repeat)
What it means to be cool  (Repeat)
Just be yourself                   (Repeat)
Don’t skip out on school   (Lead Vocal)
Cause that’s not cool         (Crowd)
Don’t be a brag                   (Lead Vocal)
Cause that’s a drag            (Crowd)
Together on Chorus
On the Buddy Bench you’re an inch away
You can find a friend and make their day
On the Buddy Bench you’re an inch away
You can find a friend and make their day
Spoken Word Bridge:
Cause you’re unique
There’s only one you
Being yourself
Is the best thing you can do
That’s why it’s cool
Repeat Chorus

The Buddy Bench ended up being such a cool song and worked so well, that I recorded it on a children’s album. You can listen to THE BUDDY BENCH song and DOWNLOAD the album for FREE HERE!

childrens album

If you’re a musician and would like to learn to play the song, you just need to know how to play 4 chords to play this song.
D / F / C / G
In this video, I have my guitar in an open tuning and I’m playing with a capo, so it might sound a little different than you if you’re playing in standard tuning in first position. But these are the root chords and I play them in the same order all through the song.

I have had schools from other countries contact me to ask if they can perform this song themselves as they launch a Buddy Bench of their own. If your school would like to use this song you are certainly welcome to as well. Songwriting provides a great opportunity for students of all ages and grades to come together and be creative. Celebrating something like the Buddy Bench also provides a unique opportunity to connect the creativity of students to creating positive solutions that they face in their lives.

This next video comes from another Buddy Bench experience. I was in this school for the week they were building, painting and assembling their Buddy Bench. So I used the original song for the soundtrack to accompany the images of this school designing their Buddy Bench. It was a smaller school, so when we recorded it, I got some of the high school students to do the spoken word bridge part.

The Buddy Bench is such a great idea. Does your school have a Buddy Bench story you can share?


rik leafAs a performer/producer, published author and slam poet, discovering the value of my own creative talents and abilities has allowed me to tour the world, and participate in some life changing projects with the United Nations and the Foreign Affairs Department of Canada.

I’m the author of, Four Homeless Millionaires – How One Family Found Riches By Leaving Everything Behind, and the Creative Director for Tribe of One, an international collective of indigenous artists, musicians, dancers and slam poets.

Developing Songwriting in Schools is a passion project 10 years in the making.

I invite you to check out the Closed Facebook Group, The Teacher’s Toolbox. It’s an online community forum that provides creative resources to teachers.


Rik Leaf
Rik Leaf

Producer/Performer, Slam Poet, Recording Artist & Author I produce online creative development courses & resources for schools

    1 Response to "The Buddy Bench Anti-Bullying Project"

    • Amanda

      Awesome work Rik!

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