Open Circle

open circle logo

Ongoing since 1987

Co-Directors: Nancy MacKay, B.A. and Nova Biro, M.B.A.

Open Circle is a comprehensive, grade-differentiated social, emotional and academic learning program for grades K-5 children, their teachers, administrators, other school staff, parents and other caregivers.

The mission of this project is to work with school communities to help children become ethical people, contributing citizens and successful learners. By helping schools implement Open Circle, we foster the development of relationships that support safe, caring and respectful learning communities of children and adults.

Recognized as a leader in addressing the need for social and emotional learning in schools, Open Circle is listed in the U.S. Department of Education Expert Panel guidebook of Exemplary and Promising Safe, Disciplined, and Drug-Free Schools Programs and has been designed as a “Select” program by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. Open Circle has trained more than 7,000 teachers and reached over 400,000 students in public, independent, parochial, urban, suburban, and rural schools in New England, New York and New Jersey.

The core of the program is the Open Circle Curriculum (grades kindergarten–5), which integrates research findings in child development with the best teaching practices. The curriculum’s holistic approach involves training the adult role-models in a child’s life to teach and embody principles of communication, responsibility, cooperation, respect and assertiveness. These principles are essential for helping children foster healthy relationships, become engaged, thoughtful citizens, and enjoy productive, fulfilling lives.

The Open Circle Curriculum presents a consistent set of skills and concepts across all grades, and these essential skills and concepts are explored in greater depth and reinforced as students proceed from year to year, building a common vocabulary that is shared by the entire school community.

From the foundation of this carefully developed and proven classroom curriculum, the program expands outward to engage and train administrators and caregivers, as well as teachers and students. In this comprehensive mode, entire schools become communities in which all participants - children and adults alike - work together to resolve conflicts and to build relationships in ways that mirror how our society should function at its very best. Children receive the positive models of behavior and support that they need. Adults acquire new perspectives and strategies for transforming schools into constructive microcosms of society that counter a culture of violence and confrontation.

Open Circle is listed on the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP). NREPP is a searchable online registry that lists intervention programs. Open Circle's ratings were comparable to other social-emotional learning (SEL) programs such as Second Step, PATHS, and Positive Action. Learn more >>

Learn more about Open Circle in this video with Nancy MacKay

Find out how the Open Circle program works in a school system. Nicole Mack, former principal of the Edward Everett Elementary School, discusses Open Circle in this video. And Sarah Trantina, the kindergarten teacher at the Edward Everett Elementary School, talks about how Open Circle is used in the classroom and at home in this video.