The Girls Circle model, developed by One Circle Foundation, is a structured support group designed to increase positive connections, personal and collective strengths, and competence in girls, using a unique gender-based approach.
The model uses an 8 - 10 week curriculum, depending on the chosen module. Groups of girls meet once a week for 60 minutes.
Women's Network PEI was running eight Circles for girls aged 10 - 13 in schools across PEI. Each week 8 to 10 girls participated in the program. Schools were chosen for geographical diversity and to address the needs of particular groups (newcomers to Canada, Aboriginal and francophone). Facilitators worked closely with guidance staff to deliver the programming.
At-risk girls were referred to the Girls Circle project by school counselors, community youth workers, police, and community partners. The intake process was based on a risk assessment developed and conducted by the Program Facilitators and Program Coordinator. Girls accepted into the Circle had to display at least two risk factors including:
- Early onset of substance abuse
- Association with negative or older peers
- Poor school attendance or performance
- Inability to access needed community based services
- Low self-esteem or self-efficacy
- Contact with police
The curriculum addressed different areas of girls' lives including friendship, self-image, body-image, relationships, assertiveness, and self-talk. Weekly themes were integrated into the Girls Circle format, and verbal and creative activities focus on the theme for the week. For example, the theme for week one of the Paths to the Future module is Friendships and Bonding with objectives such as to unite girls in their experience of getting to know one another; to explore the meaning of true friendship; to learn from each other the key elements of healthy friendships; and to develop trust, bonding, and healthy friendships.
In November of 2011 Women's Network PEI hosted facilitator training led by Kitty Tyrol from Girls Circle (now One Circle Foundation). Over two days, thirty-six women from community groups, schools, justice system and policing were trained to deliver programming to at-risk girls. Following the training, with 36 trained facilitators in the community, circles were up and running or being planned across PEI.
At that time, the Girls Circle programming had already been used widely across the US and Canada and was brought to PEI through funding from the National Crime Prevention Centre, Public Safety Canada.