1979-1990: Multicultural Understanding through the Arts

In the early years of our work, we focused on multicultural understanding, especially through arts of diverse cultures. We assembled exhibitions of art by indigenous Americans and exhibited them in museums in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, and we produced supporting educational publications, videos, lectures, and children’s activities. We brought collections of art and artifacts from these cultures into schools, where we provided extended residencies to raise awareness of self and other and to teach curiosity and respect for differences among people. In 1990, we published the book To Hold Us Together: Seven Conversations for Multicultural Understanding, to support our multicultural work in schools.

1991: Building Academic Communities Through the Arts

As we worked to foster multicultural understanding, we saw that operating in an imaginative mode through the arts brought out great possibilities for building community. We began to offer programs for children and adults through arts residencies during the school year, and summer workshops, Building Academic Communities Through the Arts (BACTA), for teachers to develop their own arts capabilities and encourage their students to do the same by integrating the arts into everyday learning. Schools hosted BACTA workshops to help build teacher confidence and skills in integrating arts into subject areas. Arts integration supports our goal of helping schools create orderly, safe climates. The arts nurture engagement in learning, and engaged learners tend to behave respectfully.

1997: Midwest Regional Center for the Responsive Classroom Approach

In the late 1990s, we encountered the Responsive Classroom approach for building safe and supportive communities. We saw that, in the context of good relationships, a school can achieve a climate safe enough to support both excellence in learning and appreciation for differences. For seventeen years, The Origins Program served as the Midwest regional center for the Responsive Classroom approach, licensed by its founder, the Northeast Foundation for Children.


Origins branches out developing the Middle School level professional development. Starting as Responsive Designs for Middle School and eventually becoming the workshop it is known as today, Developmental Designs for Middle School 1 and Developmental Designs for Middle School 2.

2004: Developmental Designs Approach and New City School

In 2004, we introduced an approach to the integration of social and academic learning that is tailored to the needs of middle-level learners: Developmental Designs. We began offering workshops and on-site support helping middle-level schools engage students in learning by building caring, supportive communities.

Origins assisted the founding of a public charter school demonstration site for the consistent implementation of our approaches and to pilot new strategies. New City School, in Northeast Minneapolis, models the integration of a strong, supportive social program with a challenging and imaginative academic approach. New City School implements Responsive Classroom (K-5) and Developmental Designs (6-8) approaches, arts-integration, reading, writing workshops, and integrated thematic learning for social studies and science. For more information, visit the New City School Web site.

2005: Establishing Developmental Designs as an Evidence-based Approach

Soon after its introduction, Origins started work on establishing the Developmental Designs approach as evidenced-based. Developmental Designs practices are research-based; Origins will now gather evidence that the particular integration of social-emotional and academic practices within the approach positively and significantly impacts middle-level learning. 

2008: New Focus on Publishing

To support training and implementation in the Developmental Designs approach, Origins began developing the Best Practices Series and a number of additional resources. Educators use these publications to support implementation of the approach, both as an initial point of departure and to follow and reinforce training.     

The Advisory Book: Building a Community of Learners Grades 5-9 provides a full year of advisories designed to meet adolescents’ developmental needs of relationship, autonomy, competency, and fun


Mixed-methods evaluation design study of the Developmental Designs professional development approach lead by Dr. David Hough, PhD, Missouri State University


Classroom Discipline: Guiding Adolescents to Responsible Independence helps teachers build a classroom climate where students practice positive behavior, help develop daily routines, and endorse expectations


Tried and True: Classroom Games and Greetings, Grades 4-9 gives educators energizers to engage and connect adolescents through the power of play during advisory and throughout the day.

Origins began to implement a School and Teacher Case Study research project at a St. Louis Park, MN, middle school, examining the quality of teacher implementation of the Developmental Designs approach.

Developmental Designs for High School 28-hour professional development was created specifically with students in grades 9-12 in mind.


The Middle Grades Research Journal Volume 6, Issue 3 (autumn, 2011), was dedicated to an examination of the Developmental Designs approach. Dr. David Hough, of the College of Education, Missouri State University, reported on his 2008-2009 mixed-methods evaluation design study of the Developmental Designs professional development approach. The report noted that improvement in both behavior and academic performance in high-poverty schools were associated with implementation of Developmental Designs practices.

Learn more about Developmental Designs research activities     

The Advisory Book Study Guide, the first in a series of professional development guides that support school-wide implementation of Developmental Designs core practices

The Circle of Power and Respect Advisory Meeting DVD, the first in a series of Developmental Designs instructional DVDs


Classroom Discipline Study Guide the second in a series of professional development guides that support school-wide implementation of Developmental Designs core practices

Modeling and Practicing Classroom Routines DVD, the second in a series of Developmental Designs instructional DVDs


Face to Face Advisories: Bridging Cultural Gaps in Grades 5-9, a series of dynamic communications for educators and students that builds appreciation in a diverse community and addresses bias and discrimination

Chip Wood Joined The Origins Program as the Inaugural Fellow

Chip Wood served a one-year fellowship at The Origins Program, which focused

on building equity in education so that all children can thrive. Nationally-known educator Wood is the co-founder of the Northeast Foundation for Children and author of Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14 and Time to Teach, Time to Learn: Changing the Pace of School

The Origins Program Articles Of Incorporation & By Laws


A Leader’s Guide to Face to Face Advisories: Start and Sustain School-wide Explorations of Culture, eBook that helps school leaders develop staff’s skills and insights to forward cultural conversations among students and each other

Developmental Designs Self-coaching Guide: Reflection, Feedback, and Strategies for High Student Engagement, helps practitioners gauge and forward the effectiveness of Advisory, Goal Setting and the Social Contract, Modeling and Practicing, Empowering Language, and Pathways to Self-control

Developmental Designs for Elementary School: Teaching for Education Equity

The Origins Program introduces a powerful collection of teaching practices to help elementary staff work together to achieve education equity and excellence in their classrooms. The Elementary approach is based on research and strengthened by developmentally responsive teaching strategies.

Teaching for Equity Book 

Teaching for Equity returns teaching and learning to the primary relationships between you and the student, student and student, school and family. Celebrate the strength that comes from a diverse classroom and community and regards each child as an individual and able learner.

2016: Power of Play Backpack 

With a little play, students are much more likely to become engaged and lively learners. This backpack filled with fun partners with Tried and True Classroom Games book to bring hours of fun into classrooms. Power of Play grows learning in the classroom!

2017: GS Advisory Practices 

This two-day professional development was introduced to focus on learning the proven Developmental Designs advisory structures of the Circle of Power and Respect (CPR) and The Activity Plus (A+).

Trauma Sensitive Schools 

Professional development introduced in response to the need to understand how trauma affects neurobiology and ways to mitigate and support our students and staff through affirming practices for our early childhood through grades 12 students.

2019: Open Circle to Mitigate Bias 

In this professional development we focus how implicit biases often stand in opposition to a person’s stated beliefs. We might believe that we are an advocate for our students but, when unconscious bias and assumptions drive our actions, they impede student achievement.

2020: Tried and True Classroom Games for Elementary School 

This book, comprised of the games, greetings, shares, and affirmations that experienced teachers of elementary students have found to be community-building favorites, hits the market.


The Origins Program announces all workshops will be offered in a live virtual platform to continue to support our mission through the pandemic.

2021: Online Games Build Community 

The Origins Program launches for the first time an all games all online professional development. Providing further support for building a stronger community in a virtual classroom.

Tried and True Virtual Games: For K-12 Classroom Kindle edition is for sale on Amazon.