• Our Philosophy:

    Ann Arbor Open offers a radical educational alternative to students, teachers and parents in the Ann Arbor Public School District.  Parents and Teachers founded Ann Arbor Open in the belief that children come to school already immersed in their learning and have their own strengths and interests.  We seek to support the individual and provide guidance and stimulation.  Ann Arbor Open strives to be a leading educational force in open education.

    As an open school, Ann Arbor Open promotes social and emotional development.  Children learn to share knowledge and feelings, to solve interpersonal problems, to develop common goals, and to respect each other’s values.  The emphasis is on challenging students individually based on cooperation rather than competition.  Freedom, responsibility, self-discipline, and consideration of others are learned by daily practice.  When combined with the richness of the school’s diverse population and a daily commitment to multicultural education, these various components challenge the barriers of sexism, racism, and classism. 

    Our school is a community of life-long learners.  School and home are blended into a larger community as children, teachers and parents work together.  Ann Arbor Open draws families from the entire Ann Arbor school district.  The community extends beyond the classroom walls to other classes, to our urban community, and out into the world.

    The following describes classrooms at Ann Arbor Open:

    Classes run on a continuum.  Each class has two or more grades and students remain in the same class for more than one year. 

    Curriculum is developed by the teacher in concert with the children.  Emphasis is on learning through experience using ever-developing problem solving skills.  Academic coals are achieved through an integrated approach linked with the children’s interests and needs.

    The teacher supports the learning environment as well as the learning style of each student.  Attention is paid to the variable ways in which children learn.   The idea is not what children should do at a given age or time, but what the child needs to help them develop to their full potential.

    Democracy is practiced in the classroom by the students with the teachers and extends throughout the school.  Through our General Assembly, everyone has a vote. 

    Parents at Ann Arbor Open are active participants in their children’s education and are integral to the Ann Arbor Open environment.  We encourage all Ann Arbor Open families to educate themselves and others in open school principles, philosophy, theory and action.  We believe these actions will strengthen our common bonds and facilitate community acceptance of innovative open school programs.

    We are proud of our pioneering program.  We offer our students the continuity of our program year after year.  We look forward to many years of innovation and self-evaluation to keep us on the cutting edge of open school and as a model the Ann Arbor Public Schools can display with pride. 


    History of Open Education and the Ann Arbor Open Program

    Open education is not new to Ann Arbor

    1971:  Ann Arbor had six informal classrooms which were precursors to an open school program.

    1972:  Community High School was formed.

    1975:  Thirty-six informal classrooms in thirteen different schools accommodated 95% of the students whose parents requested informal classrooms.

    1976: Middle Years Alternative was established and housed in the Forsythe School building.

    1982:  First through sixth grade open school program replaced the informal classrooms.  252 students and 10 teachers were divided into two groups.  One group shared the facilities at the Wines School building, the other at Pattengill.

    1986:  The kindergarten through sixth grade students were given their own principal and facility.  Bach Open School was established.

    1989:  The sixth grade joined the Middle Years Alternative School.  Bach Open School was modified to Kindergarten through Fifth grades.

    1998:  Bach Open School moved to the Mack School building and was renamed Ann Arbor Open.  The school was modified to include sixth graders in anticipation of becoming a Kindergarten through Eighth grade open school.

    1999:  Seventh grade added.

    2000:  Eighth grade added.


    What is Ann Arbor Open?

    A school where children:

    are prized as individuals

    achieve their fullest potential

    work at their own pace

    help set their own goals

    learn to plan and implement the use of their time

    are given choices as part of learning

    have access to a wide variety of resources, both within and outside the classroom

    learn to work cooperatively in a group

    embrace diverse cultures and backgrounds every day

    A school where classes:

    Have an informal setting

    Are multi-graded

    Work together

    Extend learning into the community through frequent field trips

    Bring the community into the classroom

    A school where learning is structured:

    Through integration of all the main subject areas

    Through goals set by teachers, parents and children together

    Through open communication

    Through a curriculum in which time is allowed for children’s interests

    Through varied activities that address every child’s learning style


    A school where teachers:

    Are guides for learning, using a variety of approaches and materials to meet the needs of individual learning styles

    Encourage self-direction and facilitate children’s pursuit of individual projects

    Integrate material from various subject areas

    Teach through real life experiences

    Respect children and foster self-esteem

    Take time for communication with parents


    A school where parents:

    Are welcomed into the classroom

    Share their skills with the children at school

    Are partners in their children’s education

    Help plan and organize school activities

    Are actively involved in blending home and school

    Are expected to contribute in their own way to the successful functioning of the school



    Ann Arbor Open is a magnet school program offered by the Ann Arbor Public Schools.  It draws children and their families from all over the community.  Our goal is to be representative of the local population.  The program was planned and designed to offer an alternative educational experience within the public school system.  Current residents of Ann Arbor are eligible to attend.  For more information, call (734)994-1910 or see our enrollment page.