A young man, 24 year-old Nishanth Selvakumar, lost his life in a car accident in January 2005, while working in California.
This tragic event brought heartache to his family, friends and coworkers, as he was known by so many for his loving presence and formidable character.
Nishanth’s mother had always committed her efforts to educating and helping the children of her community. Now the only way she could ease the pain of her loss was to turn her immense heartache into an effort to help children rise to greater levels of achievement and civic service.
Unwilling to let tragedy bring an end to this son’s influence, the family wanted to extend his goodwill by helping other young people become like Nishanth. His father and mother, Selva andShanti, set up an educational family trust and renovated the family property beside where Nishanth grew up to prepare to open the first educational project in their son’s name, in Chennai, India.The school was located on the family’s property, Nishtanth’s childhood home as well as his resting place.
Kavian Maghzy, the boy’s former employer, promised to facilitate the training of teachers. As a supporter of Full-Circle Learning, hearranged a collaboration between Shanti and the board, to provide curricula, professional development services, and collaboration on how to launch a school.
The project’s first class of students learned to infuse love, respect and sacrifice into their studies. They applied the lessons of national hero Gandhi into their application of academic and artistic skills to improve their community.
The Year of Love project in Chennai, India began when teacher trainer Anisa Qualls presented the children with a glass of water, an ice cube and a cloud. The class discussed what each of these has in common. (They are all made of water.) They observed the special properties of water and demonstrated how molecules stick together even as water changes from solid to liquid to gas.Students built water molecules from tinker toys.
Anisa used the molecular structure of water (the bonding of hydrogen and oxygen) as a metaphor for love: We show our love in many ways. It can take the form of words, affection or service.Love is a bond that holds people together, just as molecules hold water together to form ice cubes, clouds or oceans. Like a drink of cool water each day, love keeps us alive and growing.
The principal, Raji, and the teachers at
the school, went on to hold many activities that helped the children express love for each other and for their community. They discussed ways to conserve clean drinking water and to keep their families’ water supplies clean. They held a march for clean water and air in their community, to remind others about the life-sustaining importance of these principles.
Next, they talked about ways to show love by developing qualities such as selflessness, generosity and inner beauty. On Founder’sDay, a five-day community holiday, they held a festival and invited everyone. They celebrated the occasion with Full-Circle Learning songs about each of these qualities. They enacted role plays to show the community how to treat others. They demonstrated how to use the conflict bridge to resolve difficulties. They held storytelling sessions. After cleaning up their water supplies, they held meetings and provided examples to teach their community the idea that “Beauty is caring. Beauty is helping. Beauty is loving.Beauty is what you do. “
After five years, local officials honor the Selvakumar family for the changes in education and in community life brought about by these changes, through the Nishanth Full-Circle LearningAcademy.
As a tuition-free school for children of servants, the school could still convince children their services were needed.Below, left, they learned how to plant trees and taught orphan show to beautify their own surroundings.
Children in each grade level presented issues they wanted to change in society at a community program.These children sang about communal harmony.
Each year on Gandhi’s birthday, learners went to his resting place to advocate for peace.Some reenacted the life choices of Gandhi.
Wisdom exchange partners at the Full-Circle Learning Academy in Los Angeles performed a simultaneous program, comparing the nonviolent strategies of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King.
Teachers selected books that reinforced theFull-Circle Learning curricular approach, customizing for context and culture. Teachers experienced the benefits of action-based learning over rote memorization alone.