Out of trauma comes innovation and collaboration.
Civil unrest plagued 57 city blocks of urban Los Angeles from April 29 – May 2, 1992. The fires left an ember amid the ashes, however. That spark ignited a widespread desire among professionals and volunteers alike to help the traumatized children find healing and grow into solution-givers for their community.
People from all walks of life reached across the divide to teach the children to trust once again. Meeting in space donated by the Los Angeles Baha’i Center, service groups representing various ages, causes and ethnicities each offered to spend one afternoon each week with the students.
Volunteer Bob Hopper helped students paint flowers on burned down buildings.
It soon became clear that shared hobbies, homework help, superficial character education lessons, and fractured volunteer schedules did not go far enough to unleash the potential of these young change agents. They needed systematic opportunities to discover that their learning, their character, and their talents could uplift, inform and advocate change—that they could generate well-being and advance a more unified community.
The pilot site thus became a laboratory for discovering how service to the human family can influence learning. The integrated educational model called Full-Circle Learning emerged from the process and mushroomed into a global movement, creating bonds among diverse learners and broader community members across the world.
Educators took note as the learners infused habits-of-heart, curiosity, creativity, and conflict resolution into transformative community service projects. Long-term data showed that their skills and motivation advanced far beyond that of peers outside the program. Even the conflict resolution techniques built into each unit deepened to include guided imagery and self-reflection and empathy. As teachers used effective strategies to help them addressed relevant sustainable development goals, the students gained a new sense of purpose.
In the early years, the students began to develop problem-solving partnerships with other schools in developing nations. They collaborated on themes and essential service across borders. These wisdom exchanges broadened their perspectives and their capacity to layer wisdom and achieve solutions to dilemmas with a local and global context. Students experienced a growing connection to their human family and advanced in grade equivalency as well as resiliency.
News of the effectiveness of the programs quickly spread. Educators requested Full-Circle Learning training and support. The organization developed a series of books, workshops, CDs and college courses to help guide the process.
By then, teachers in diverse settings had embraced a common vision. Their learners thrived as they reached out to vulnerable populations, addressing eldercare, equity, hunger, health and homelessness. What began as a grassroots project inspired thousands of lives and nurtured a new generation of humanitarian change agents.
The model was adaptable for classrooms from preschool through college. Learners reshaped their communities by applying a unit-based habit-of-heart such as respect, kindness, integrity, advocacy, to the new challenge embedded into each learning unit.
These historic highlights followed:
- Origin: The early version of the educational model and NGO began to develop in 1992.
- Research by 1998: independent assessments showed that 80% of students increased their grade equivalency academic rankings. 100% of parents also reported enhanced social cohesion skills.
- Translations by 2002 (year 10): Teachers in ten regions had received training. The curriculum had been translated into Spanish and Chinese.
- Awards: By 2004, the Academy for Educational Development in Washington, D.C. had granted its Promising Practices award. The Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission honored the organization with a John Anson Ford Award. The Ventura
County Baha’is offered their Human Rights Award.
- 2002 (year 10): 10 locations had received training and the curriculum had been
translated into Spanish and Chinese.
- 2007 (year 15): The organization had served 75 schools.
- 2010 (year 18): Training programs extended from the Americas to Africa to Asia. All the new teachers across China’s Zhejiang Province learned the model. Chinese book series are translated at the university. Spanish and Tamil translations are also in place for Latin American and Indian students.
- 2012 (year 20): 105 locations exist, with additional projects in Melanesia, the Middle East, and Europe. French translations are added.
- 2016 (year 24): Approximately 30,000 teachers in 27 nations participate.
- 2020 (year 28): Services expand in Sub-Saharan Africa. Full-Circle Learning offers capacity building (onsite and online learning), community impact grants, scholarships, and humanitarian aid.
- 2023 (year 31): The number of teachers, students and broader community members affected tops one million in a year. As a top-rated nonprofit on aevaluation sites. Full-Circle Learning has touched the lives of people in 38 countries over time.