Cortney Haygood


SPARK! to Launch After School Programming

SPARK! To Launch After School Programming

by Beverly Davis

For centuries, the positive impact of creating has been widely recognized.  Some of our earliest childhood memories are of bringing art projects home from school and having our parents hang them on the refrigerator, or display them on a table.  The pride and boost to our self-esteem at these times was significant.

At SPARK! we focus on the creative process and teaching children problem-solving skills through that process.  These experiences grow confidence and give us the strength to tackle the next project or problem that comes our way.

Research helps inform everything we do at SPARK!  In 2016 we launched the Metamorphosis Research Project.  Among other variables, this research tested dosage. We measured impact on children who received three doses across a school year, versus those who attended a 5-day a week camp.  This research project ended about the same time the 2017 City of Learning project drew to a close. Between the two, it became evident that children need large dosages to truly learn and adapt new behaviors.  Minimal exposure for understanding of new concepts proved to be 20+ short doses or 30+ hours of concentrated application. This level of engagement provided the connectivity children need to gain mastery in a new skill.

These findings naturally led us to develop programming that would be offered for longer durations.  Launching October 1, 2018, SPARK! after school programs will include Music Study and the SPARK! Creator Studio.  These programs were BETA tested the week of August 13, through week long camps. In the Creator Studio camp, thirteen children ages 10 – 17 worked together to test their programming skills, assemble robots and build a castle.  Before the week was out, the castle soared eight feet high and had bright pink windows, two thrones and a table. The collaborative nature of such projects helps children improve socialization, collaboration and communication skills.  Completion of creative projects gives children the confidence and self-esteem they need to thrive in life.

It’s important to align interests with programming opportunities.  Natalie Rusk said, “Interests are a natural resource that fuel learning.” Children need a variety of activities from which to select that most interests them.  This helps maintain their interest, engagement and most importantly, excitement. Variety in task keeps children engaged and allows them to make new friends along common interests.

As SPARK! after school programs grow, they’ll be expanded to offer even more disciplines.  We envision workshops hosted by professionals from throughout the community. Plans include offering programs to help students build portfolios to get into magnet high schools and develop interviewing skills to assist throughout their careers.  Thoughts are already leaning toward entrepreneurship classes and rudimentary understanding of business models. With creativity, there’s no telling how far these kids will go.

We’ve stepped out in faith with after school programming, believing that if we build it, they will come.  Not only are we seeking children who will participate in the program, but funders who believe in the power of creative education who will support the programs.


The Arts, Humanities and Health

The Arts, Humanities and Health

By guest blogger, Dennis Kratz

I started to write something about the importance of ongoing efforts to integrate engagement with the arts into the education of future and practicing physicians. Then last week I had the opportunity over several days to observe physicians, nurses and other healing performers at work in a hospital. I saw injections given, medications administered, smiles, expressions of concern, and more readings of blood pressure and other physical functions than I could count. I heard questions to patients about how they felt emotionally as well as physically; kind Wordsworth patients from nurses, physicians, technicians, and fellow patients; a few diagnoses; dreams of future medical advanced; and conversations about valuing family, changing behaviors, and celebrating the return to health. My original subject, in retrospect, struck me as incomplete, as is the attitude that the arts -like the humanities – at best only complement the science of medicine.

I have come to believe that we should educate future physicians to approach the practice of medicine as the harmonizing of three powerful forces, each vital but ultimately incomplete without the others. Science is self-evidently not only essential but also irreplaceable as the guide to attain, recover and maintain good health. The arts and humanities, however, are equally essential to the health of individuals and communities. They are more than an accompaniment or an assistant to the healing process. They should play a role, hand in hand with scientific knowledge, in how we not only go about healing but also what we mean by “health.” Science refers specifically to the disciplined search to understand and explain the physical processes at work in the world. Art emerges from the innately human desire to make our experience “special.” Engagement with the arts – as creator and responder – hones our ability to imagine the “what could be” lurking behind “what is.” Among the best artistic expressions of artful thinking that I know is Rene Magritte’s painting “Clairvoyance,” often also known as “Perspicacity.” [My ideas about the nature of art are strongly influenced by the writings of the anthropologist Ellen Dissenayaki.] The Humanities study the processes by which we fill our need to find and express meaning in life. They enlarge the ethical and cultural contexts within which we assess the value of our actions.

Health, like every scientific theory or artistic creation (the list could go on an all) is partial and provisional – always susceptible to change thanks to new evidence or new perspectives. Health is more than a temporary biological condition like the absence of disease or the lack of obvious symptoms of sickness. What are the positive characteristics of a truly healthy person, community, nation or world? It is a question that physicians, philosophers and artists have long pondered. The philosopher Georges Canguilhem suggested that the essential characteristics of a healthy organism include the ability to respond to environmental change and adapt to new situations. He also suggested that energy, and a confident sense of adventure, are components of real health. I really like that image of health. I saw reflections of this more embracing concept at that hospital. Science and medicines alone can take us to the first stage of health – a biological system working as it should. Advertisements from pharmaceutical companies to the contrary, it can’t produce deep happiness or a meaningful existence. That requires the thinking, imagining and empathy enhanced by the arts and humanities. We should integrate these profound complementary forces of understanding – science, art, Humanities – into the education of physicians because we should integrate them into the education of everyone if we want to foster a truly healthy society. I would like to see the power of science enlarged by imagination and humanized by genuine respect for the welfare of others that I witnessed last week on display everywhere and every day throughout our society.


Shoes & Stories

This past Sunday, SPARK! hosted their fourth annual Shoes & Stories event. Led by storyteller, Dana Proulx-Willis, Shoes & Stories provided the girls a unique way of storytelling and design by illustrating their journey on a pair of white canvas shoes.

A special thank you to Marsha Clark & Associates for sponsoring our event!


Packaging the Maker Movement for Kids

 

The Maker Movement

Written by Beverly Davis

 

The Maker Movement entered mainstream awareness around 2005 and in that same year, Dale Cougherty founded Make Magazine, a magazine for the makers and the Do-It-Yourself audience.  When describing the “Maker Network,” Cougherty says, “…makers have a sense of what they can do and what they can learn to do. Like artists, they are motivated by internal goals, not extrinsic rewards.” He continues, “They are inspired by the work of others. Most importantly, they do not wait until the future to create and make. They feel an urgency to do something now— or lose the opportunity to do it at all. “

That spirit resonates with the work that we do at SPARK!  It’s that flexible and inspired way of thinking that children so desperately need to build the path to their future.  Maker Spaces have been popping up across the country. While most spaces are focused on adults, some spaces offer admission for teenagers and others provide summer camps for kids.  Truly progressive schools are incorporating these spaces for students at their facilities.

The affordability of new technology such as 3D printers and laser cutters, combined with collaborative online learning tools, allow more of us the ability to engage our impulse to create. Getting this technology in the hands of children will make learning more fun and relevant, while piquing their interests in problem solving.

 

“The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge.” —Seymour Papert. 

 

Papert was South African-born American mathematician. A computer scientist and educator, he spent most of his career teaching and researching at MIT. He was one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence and of the constructionist movement in education.

Papert believed that “Children deserve rich experiences across the widest range of disciplines available.” 

Here at SPARK! we agree.  Our mission is to ignite the spark of creativity inherent in all children. We’ve always believed that the best way to do that is to give children hands-on, practical experience in a wide variety of creative disciplines.

Papert points out the obvious tie between art forms and STEM education, stating, “Music composition is often required in programming a computer game or making your robot dance. Oral presentation skills are necessary for pitching your invention or in narrating your film. Artistic skills, creativity and curiosity are in high-demand by any project, no matter how technical.”

In August, we’ll introduce the SPARK! Creator Studio, to provide year-round, creative learning opportunities for youth. The SPARK! Creator Studio combines the equipment of a Maker Space with the technology of a Computer Lab and the materials in a Tinker Studio, to allow children to work on projects inspired by their own passions and interests.

An instructor will be on-hand to provide training on each piece of technology and equipment and will serve as a mentor to the students, providing help and feedback as needed. Participants will have the opportunity to earn digital badges as they learn to master software and technology.  In addition to the primary instructor/mentor, a rotating schedule of expert and professional guest instructors and lecturers will host classes and workshops that deliver insight and advice on a broad array of creative disciplines.

The goals of “learning by making” is to develop and increase student skills and confidence in the creative process through critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and self-management.  In the Creator Studio, the focus on education is a focus on the process while working toward an outcome or product.  When children engage in passion projects and combine this with peer review and collaboration, they are more interested and involved.  The learning is integrated and comes naturally through the projects they inspire and create.  The SPARK! Creator Studio will allow children to understand what they are truly capable of doing.

 

What’s available in the Metroplex for kids?

 

SPARK! Creator Studio in South Side on Lamar

Equipment: Both Apple and PC computers and tablets, IPad Airs, Software for music and digital recording and to drive all technology. Digital wood cutting equipment, 3D printer, two recording booths, 4/C silk screen press, large kiln, printers, industrial sewing machine, vinyl cutter, 3D pens, robotics, microcontrollers and access to all visual art supplies.

Staff: One full time coordinator, part time staff as required, rotating schedule of mentors, certification and digital badges

Programming: Opening the week of August 20, 2018: 4pm-7pm Sunday – Thursday, for students age 10 through high school; programming is free; however students and parents must sign contract for participation and rules of membership. One hour of community service required for every 5 hours of programming received.

 

Best Buy Teen Tech Center @ Juanita Craft Recreation Center

Equipment: bank of computers with Adobe Cloud Suite, large printer, sewing station, vinyl cutter , 3D printer , recording studio, Legos

Staff: One full time, one part time, mentors are difficult to arrange

Programming: 3pm-5pm for elementary kids, 5pm-7pm for middle and high school;

 

The Forge at Denton Public Library

Equipment: Mix of desktop computers, 3D printers, regular printer, resource library, software, supplies for Arduino, supplies for video & music production, Lego Mindstorms, Knex, Little Bits, two large presentation screens connected to desktop

Staff: tech librarian, business services librarian

Programming: Free to public during open hours, workshops required to run equipment, classes, charge for filament, paper

 

Techie Factory 5600 W. Lovers Lane

Equipment: 2 & 3D printers, sewing machine, Cricut, Macbooks, craft materials

Staff: Facilitator, part time adult helpers, teen helpers

Programming: Summer camps, after school labs

 

Walsh Makerspace W. Fort Worth

Equipment: woodworking equipment, computer design software, 3D printers, laser cutter, robotics lab, electronics lab, Lego wall, Makey Makey invention Kit.

Staff: unstaffed, offering classes and advanced operation of tools in the spring.  Plans to host regular programs for local student groups – Aledo ISD

Programming: Kid friendly methods to create

 

Dallas Makerspace

Equipment: 3D printers, automotive tools, sewing machines, vinyl cutters, electronics,  multi-meters, kilns, soldering tools, mills, saws and laser cutters

Staff: volunteer, membership-based organization

Programming: year-round classes taught by community members. Designed for adults.