Full-Circle Learning Preschool at Rancho Sespe: A School Graduates Along with Its Students

Many of the Mexican-American children from Piru and Fillmore, California, who received their earliest training in a Full-Circle Learning preschool, are now entering middle school as leaders. Thanks to their district’s expansion of services, their preschool teacher will now lead all the preschool teachers in the district.

The Full-Circle Learning Preschools at Piru and at Rancho Sespe has inspired children who later became leaders at Piru Elementary School. (Of those receiving academic awards, a disproportionate percentage received their first lessons in the “Whys” of education as three-year-olds in a Full-Circle Learning classroom. Students served since early childhood had a different consciousness about why to learn, how to lead, and ways to treat others kindly, based on teachers’ comments.

Stories like this one example why. One of the habits-of-heart units the children experience is Patience. During the long drought, they not only made “patience watches” and role played personal applications of the habit, but also learned about the farmers waiting for their crops to grow with very little water to help them along. The teachers used hands-on activities to teach science lessons about the water cycle. The children then learned math with measuring cups and made pumpkin pies. They practiced songs an made artistic gifts. At a special feast, they honored the farmers for their patience, giving the pies, the music and art. The children understood the many layers of patience. Later at home, one four-year-old explained the water cycle to her 11-year old sister, who said, ‘We’ve been reading about that concept all year, and I never understood it until you just showed me!”

The children conducted wisdom exchanges with Guatemala and Zambia and Liberia. They honored those who care for animals at the zoo.

Their parents received bilingual reading workshops to reinforce character development and early reading at home. Parents also participated in advisory boards, raising funds for field trips and special programs and caring for the preschool’s physical repairs. In 2000, the students won the prize for community support in the holiday parade. In a later year, as children showed how to speak words of respect in public places such as trains and stores,, a parent contributed a tractor to use as the base for a parade float. The parents turned it into a train and rode on their “train” in the parade speaking words of respect. (The photo shows a student looking out a window.)

Ultimately, the local elementary school district received funding to open its own preschool classes and serve students throughout the area. This meant our farm families would have access to services for more hours per day. Our teachers could at last have better health care benefits as well. We worked to help them transition into the new program.

Based on the success of the Full-Circle Learning (FCL) nonprofit preschool and summer school programs since their inception in 2009, and based on Full-Circle Learning’s recommendation, the district hired FCL site director Sugey Lopez to direct all preschool services for the district. Staff members were hired into other positions, to continue serving children with the skills they had learned in their careers in Full-Circle Learning classrooms.

The FCL Board feels deeply grateful for the steadfastness, love and creativity of this staff. The board thanks them also for galvanizing the Rancho Sespe HUD management and parent community and for shaping the lives of a generation of children. We especially thank Sugey Lopez (pictured with students) for her humble, inspired leadership.

We also express profound gratitude to Patricia Cervantes, our grant liaison through Santa Clara Valley Neighborhood for Learning/Ventura County First-Five. We thank the Samuelsson Foundation for a grant that funded supplies and the Bessie Minor Swift Foundation for their bilingual home learning grants.