Dovetail Learning, The Toolbox Project

Congratulations! This Entry has been selected as a finalist.

Dovetail Learning, The Toolbox Project

Multiple cities through out California, United StatesSebastopol , United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Dovetail Learning's Toolbox Project is a new way forward in education - building children & their family's resilience, self-mastery & empathy for others.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The prevailing educational system has produced devastating results for US students: clinical depression in over 8%, at least 14% have had suicidal ideation, 1 in 4 teens binge drink, 25% of high school students drop out, and there has been 130% increase in homicide among youth in the past ten years (National Institute of Health, 2010). The additional downstream social costs include billions of dollars in medicine, law enforcement and loss of potential. Our education system is facing the dangers of eroding home life, violence, learning difficulties, classrooms in chaos and teachers’ loss of hope. More importantly, the present systemic norms do not cultivate children's innate emotional capacity for empathy to self and others. This untapped treasure exists within all children.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Dovetail Learning directly addresses these avoidable and disastrous consequences by bringing out the multiple resilience assets innate within all children worldwide. Dovetail Learning and The Toolbox Project's comprehensive K-6 curriculum provides children the opportunity to tap into their (heretofore unattended) inherent capacity to go inside themselves to find solutions to social and emotional challenges. Teaching the 12 tools, i.e., life skills, (Breathing Tool, Quiet/Safe Place Tool, Listening Tool, Empathy Tool, Personal Space Tool, Using our Words Tool, Garbage Can Tool, Taking Time Tool, Please & Thank You Tool, Apology and Forgiveness Tool, Patience & Courage Tool) creates a school-wide easily accessible "common language". Toolbox is an upstream investment empowering each child toward self-mastery accessing their inner strengths, increasing self-awareness, self-regulation and empathy which naturally leads to decisions that will positively impact their entire life.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

This solution makes a difference to children, parents and teachers: The 12 Tools are taught in class using hands-on Tool/Toolbox cut-outs, literature, puppets, role-plays, journaling, art work, pair-shares, circles and council. These tools build a "common language" used in the classroom, across the school community, and at home. The following quote from a parent of a second grader exemplifies how this work makes a difference: “I can see Sally using her Toolbox at home when we are having a conflict, when she feels too hassled or upset. I have seen her breathing and counting, using her garbage can, (though she’s learned not to put moms advice there, ha,ha,) and asking for “personal space”. Empathy is probably most important to her. She has reminded me many times to “have empathy”, or, “ Where’s your empathy?” when I’m pushing too hard. She’s good at forgiveness and apology and the toolbox supports those as well as “Please and thank you” “I’m sure teaching these concepts early on has resulted in prevention or lessening of all types of conflict at this school, making it a safer environment. If these children can carry these tools with them all their lives and perhaps teach them to others, the world should improve. thanks for your work.” ~ parent The impact on teaching is exemplified in this quote from a major district superintendent: "I believe these tools not only make a difference in the classroom but contribute to children in the whole of their lives. The toolbox makes social-emotional strategies of great teachers available to all teachers."

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are many national Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs (Second Step, Responsive Classroom, etc.) teaching character and values education from the outside in (adults learning what kids need to thrive). Bonnie Benard, National Resilience expert says, "The Toolbox Project is the only program that teaches children about their own resilient nature." Toolbox is unique because it redirects children back to what they already know, inviting them to discover what “Tools” they have inside themselves. When this “missing piece” is in place, children are naturally accountable and responsible from an inner felt-sense of autonomy. This is a paradigm shift. The Toolbox skills "Dovetail" beautifully with the work of our peers. What we do adds and contributes to the field of SEL.
About You
Dovetail Learning
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Dovetail Learning

Organization Country

, CA, Sebastopol , Sonoma County

Country where this project is creating social impact

, CA, Multiple cities through out California, Sonoma County

Your role in Education


The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with

Public (tuition-free)

How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

How long has your solution been in operation?

Operating for more than 5 years

Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]

Dovetail Learning's Toolbox Project provides a new way forward in building children's resilience, self-mastery and empathy for others.

Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]

Toolbox provides a common language that transforms our assumptions about what it means to be an educated person in the 21st century.

Social Impact
What has been the impact of your solution to date?

Formative research on The Toolbox Project, was conducted by WestEd measuring teacher perceptions of changes within a 14 week period. The study employed multiple, pre-post measures showed significant, positive change in the following resiliency skills and assets.

Interpersonal Strength Scale (Apologizing; Using anger management skills; Accepting criticism; Admitting mistakes; Showing remorse; sharing; and Reacting to disappointments calmly).

Intra-personal Strength Scale (Identifying feelings, personal strengths, enthusiastic attitudes about life; and self–confidence) .

Affective Strength Scale (Accepts closeness and intimacy; Acknowledges painful feelings; Asks for help; and Discusses problems).

Improved School Climate/Connectedness (teacher support of student resilience; school supports students’ social and behavioral growth; and Improved quality of student and teacher learning supports provided by the school.

We are in 60 schools serving 10,000 children.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

In 2012 we will expand to 76 schools, increasing to 110 schools in 2013.

Our primary target audience is low-income disadvantaged children. We are working to build fidelity and sustainability within our current user-group. We are expanding our work within the Richmond, CA WCCUSD school system, one of the most traumatized/marginalized populations in CA from 2 to six schools.

We have a request from Kaiser Hospital to train staff in Toolbox skills and through collaborations with CBO's we are building a community wellness model that impacts, children, schools, and the entire community.

This year we are building a train-the-trainer program to expand to a national and international audience. We have had requests for our work from as far as Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Georgia.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

System wide education funding continues to decline, though many schools are purchasing our work. Dovetail Learning is currently dependent on philanthropic support to serve schools with financial need. Patrons who experience the Toolbox story of our work find it deeply compelling; an upstream investment that relieves incalculable downstream human costs.

In scaling to a national model we need more financial support. We are currently focused on fund development and receiving guidance from many directions. WCCUSD is sponsoring a convening of 45 individuals representing funding organizations. We are working closely with the Stuart Foundation of San Francisco to meet with mid to large size foundations. We are seeking corporate giving (current funders include AutoDesk, Tibco, Wells Fargo).

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Dovetail Learning Blueprint: Funding and program Fidelity

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Hire Fund Development director to lead Implementation activities

Task 2

Realize Annual Campaign goal of $230,000 ($49,000 raised in just 1.5 months.) in order to fund core staff.

Task 3

Create the Toolbox Community of Schools rubric for multi-year teaching practices including fidelity & sustainability criteria

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Dovetail Learning Blueprint: Scaling program, model and research

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Create a Train the Trainer Program.

Task 2

Develop a Community Wellness Model to include Community Based Organizations, Hospitals and corporations.

Task 3

Begin a efficacy study using a pre-post experimental research design, and publish results.

Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]

One morning a truck driver dad came into his daughter’s kindergarten class. Billy, the single father of five-year-old Cindy, had a story to tell me. He asked sternly, “What is this thing called the Empathy Tool?” I replied “What do you mean?” He continued, “We were driving home late last night when Cindy called out from the back seat and said, ‘Dad, I am still hungry and I need to have something to eat when we get home.’ I told her that it was too late and she needed to go right to bed because she had school the next day. Then she softly said, ‘But dad, you are not using your Empathy Tool, you are not thinking about how I am feeling.’” I explained the Empathy Tool further and in that moment, Billy understood his daughter in a new way. When these innate skills come from within the children to their parents, the impact is life changing. I knew in that moment that teaching these tools to the world would result in a major paradigm shift for children, their families and communities!

Tell us about your partnerships

The Stuart Foundation of San Francisco is a long-term mentor and fiscal partner helping us to scale to a national audience.

The 60 Toolbox Project Community of Schools in N. CA. are partners in building and refining our program model.

WestEd Health & Human Dev. Dept. is a primary partner in publishing, evaluation and research.

California Parenting Institute is a primary partner in delivering our programs in multiple schools. CalServes is partnering with us to use Toolbox in after-school programs.

Seyfarth Shaw LLP national law firm providing all legal services pro-bono.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]

- 6 Staff includes the Founder/Executive Dir., Training/Program Dir., Dir. of Operations, Dir. of Development, Finance Dir. and admin. assistant.

- A strong 6 member local Board of Directors is the foundation of our fund development efforts.

- 14 Member Advisory Board is a core resource to achieve our mission: Angeles Arrien, PhD; Glen Price, GPG; Sam Kimbels, Jungian, PhD; Graciela Italiano-Thomas, EdD, Consultant; Marilyn Schlitz, PhD President, IONS; Carol Wilkins, Consultant; Dan Millman, Lecturer, Author; Phyllis Goldsmith
, UC Berkeley

- Committed Community volunteers

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

After 18 years of development, our primary need is access to funders who can help us build capacity to "scale" what we have found within all children - benefiting families, schools and communities. We invite funders to make this work their legacy.

We want to collaborate with kindred others, thought leaders and programs that share our mission for community wellness and global partnership.