Green Circle: An Empathy Building Process for Adults and Children


WHAT IS GREEN CIRCLE?  The Green Circle Program, Inc. was conceived in 1957 by Gladys Rawlins, an African American, Social Worker and Teacher for the Race Relations Committee of the City of Philadelphia.  She was inspired from witnessing the hardening of the hearts on both sides of the issue of the Integration of the Public Schools.  It was during a Yearly meeting of the Religious Society of Friends that she first presented her idea of a one half hour Process of Empathy Building for four consecutive days for Second Graders.  As Green Circle spread quickly by word-of-mouth, calls for the program became nation wide.  Principals and Teachers were trained as facilitators, but as the Green Circle Movement grew, volunteer facilitators were needed.

Using a prescribed script and manual, they presented Green Circle as a human relations introduction with the understanding that classroom teachers would reinforce and expand the children’s awareness through on-going followup.  Simple and easy for youngsters to grasp, Green Circle does not teach values but provides a model through which children can evaluate their own actions and emotions.  In one session, children clap their hands together and on their laps, keeping the beat while calling out ways in which people are different.  Then, as the group discusses such characteristics as age, size, eye color and family background, children can see the impact that these variable have on their personal green circles.  The point is to make them feel inside the circle–their world of caring, sharing and respect–despite these differences. In 1997, Green Circle was recognized by the President’s Initiative on Race as a Promising Practice for healing around the issues of difference.  It became active in 49 states and 18 foreign countries by the year 2000.  The California State PTA endorsed the program in the late 1990’s.



ARE YOU deeply concerned that our children need more empathy skills to navigate the world they and we are living in.  With a wee bit of tweaking, Green Circle is a program/process for today’s children, also.

Green Circle was developed by Gladys Rawlings a dedicated teacher and civil rights activists that was touched by the hardening of the hearts of the children and parents involved in the Philadelphia school community regarding the busing policies of the school district in 1951. We added dialogue rules to teach the children.  We call it ROPES:

R for Respect    O for Openness    P for Participation    E for Exploration  and S for Safety.

The following is a list of concepts that are introduced in four 1/2 hour flannel board presentations to a group of children by a trained parent or volunteer.

Session I:

__The Green Circle represents “your world of people–the people you care about”.

__The Circle is Green to represent, “life, growth, and expansion”.

__The Circle must grow to include family and friends.

__It feels good to be inside the Green Circle…..

__It feels bad to be outside the Green Circle…..

__You are the most important person in your world of caring, because you can decide who is in and out of your circle of caring.

__People who are outside the Green Circle feel the same as you did when you were on the outside

__You must take positive action in order to include someone in your circle.

__Each person is unique, but we all share common needs.

Session II

__People can be both rich and poor and be in the Green Circle.

__People of all different sizes and shapes can be in the Green Circle.

__People of all colors can be in the Green Circle.

__People of all religions can be in the Green Circle.

__People of different ages and genders can be in the Green Circle.

__All people belong to the human family.

__Our Circle grows when our hearts are compassionate and loving.

__Each person must decide for themselves who will be in their Green    Circle.

__Other people influence you in your decisions and your relationships.

__You can know how it feels when someone else is left out.

Session III

–Storytelling:  The Story of Churkendoose.  Ends with this poem:

Does the Pear Tree say to the Apple Tree “I hate you because you are not like me?”  Does the Green Grass say to the Sky so Blue, “I’m green, why aren’t you green too?

A Rose smells sweet because it’s a flower.  An Onion tastes strong, a pickle tastes sour.  They are different, but they all get along; And, no one thinks its wrong.

MUST I BE A CHICKEN OR A GOOSE?  Or…Can’t you like me as a Churkendoose?

Session IV

Class Problem Solving:

1.__State the Problem

2.__Brainstorm the solutions

3.__Talk about the solutions

4.__Choose a Solution

5.__Evaluate the Solution.  Did it work?

Closing Activity–Keeping open to Surprise Packages


If interested in becoming an official participant/ trainer for this Green Circle program/process, please contact Dr. Cynthia Yoshitomi at:

We will be setting up training programs in the Winter and Spring 2016.  The Scripts are in Spanish and English.  We welcome Parents, Grandparents, Teachers, Administrators, PTA members.  We welcome private and parochial schools to participate also.  We have great reviews from Santa Monica School District.  Los Angeles School District and California PTA.

Please contact us at  as soon as possible

There are five women in Northern and Southern California that would like to bring back Green Circle both in the State and Nation wide.  Please if you have Green Circle Kits, Scripts in Spanish, English, Chinese, or Japanese please contact us.  Also contact us if you have any information regarding the Incorporation status of Green Circle.  Please also share your personal story with Green Circle.

We would also like to lift up the work of  Gladys Rawlins. She was laid to rest in 1999 in York County.  See Black History Profiles Part III, January 29,2008.  Posted by Jim McClure.

UPDATES on Progress: August-October 2016

*Had a meeting with former facilitators of Green Circle on August 2, 2016.  Lots of progress.  Here is what we came up with:

*Introduced Green Circle to local school districts

*Develop and update Training Skills and Resources for Training in local Schools 2016-2017 year.

*Made Contact with Girl Scouts and other past supporters of the work of Green Circle

Update 2017

May 2017:  Begin work on revising the script in both Spanish and English.

Summer 2017:  Testing of of new script and concept with parents and teachers.  California but possible East coast involvement with the Girl Scouts.

October 2017:  Tentative Meeting with Human Relations National Organization in Santa Barbara California to recommend acceptance of Green Circle Training support.