Community Engagement


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.

 


Girl Scout Gold Award At SPARK!

Sixteen-year-old Mallory Rasco is working towards earning the highest achievement in Girl Scouts: the Gold Award. This seven-step project aims to impact the community in a big way. Lucky for us, Mallory has chosen to make an impact on SPARK! We can’t wait any longer to share her plans for a permanent installation in our creative environment. Read on to learn how she is transforming one long, dark tunnel into an out-of-this-world adventure.

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What was your source of inspiration for this project?

At the beginning, I was mainly thinking of big environments that would be interesting for kids to explore. That was when I initially thought of space, but then when I started thinking of cool details and activities to be in the tunnel, I used more of my personal knowledge. I’ve always enjoyed star gazing and Astronomy. I went to a weeklong Girl Scout Camp where I studied the stars, and I enjoyed myself immensely. I used all that I’ve learned to make the tunnel interesting and exciting for people to explore. So in total, my inspiration drew from my personal experience with studying the field and what I have enjoyed from my adventures.

What are some exciting elements of the project that we can expect to see?

Throughout the tunnel, it will look like a spaceship. There will be a control panel where kids can feel like they’re flying through space. I’m excited for this because I have been able to acquire actual pilot seats from Southwest Airlines to use for my project, so it will feel more genuine. And, at the end of the tunnel, I’ve designed it so it will look like the kids are floating in outer space, with constellations and stars and planets. Everything in there will be for kids to play with and enjoy themselves.

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From start to finish, how long do you expect to be working on this project?

I really started moving on this project at the beginning of June when I started thinking of the details in the tunnel. I am hoping to be done with most of the construction by the end of July. Then, I will finish up any last details and work on the paperwork for the Girl Scout Council in the first half of August, right before school starts. So, the entire project will last about two and a half months, basically all of summer.

What does earning the Gold Award mean to you?

Earning the Girl Scout Gold Award means the world to me. I have been a Girl Scout for eleven years, and everything has led up to this. I have already earned my Bronze and Silver Awards; to receive the Gold and finish the journey would give me the most amazing feeling. I will feel so satisfied with all the work I have done and the difference I can make for the kids.

Tell me why you chose to do your project at SPARK!

The first time I came to SPARK! I learned all about their message and goal. This is what told me that I needed to do my project here. I love everything that SPARK! promotes such as creativity and confidence. All of this is so important for children to hear, so that when they grow up, they can make a change in the world that we need.

How do you think this project will impact the community?

I hope that my project will impact children most of all. I want them to see how I brought something from my imagination to real life. I hope it will inspire higher confidence in themselves and their decisions when they design something or think of a different way to complete a task. It will teach them that if they work hard enough they can accomplish anything.

If you’d like to donate supplies to help Mallory with her project, check out her list of needs here.


Success Story: Camellia Gets Creative With Clay

At SPARK! we measure the success of a student’s visit in two ways:

  1. Did we help increase their self-definition as a creative individual?
  2. Did they begin to understand and use the creative process as we define it? (Inspiration with Iteration and Collaboration leads to Innovation.)

During her second consecutive week in our summer camp program, Camellia (or Cam), took another shot at sculpting. We are so thrilled to hear about her new understanding of creativity because of it. Here’s her story.

Name: Camellia

Age: 13

What school do you go to? J.L. Long Middle School

What sort of creative activities do you do at school? I’m not in art class anymore. The only creative thing I do is doodle on the sides of my papers.

Do you wish there were more opportunities to be creative at school? Yes. I’d like to work more with clay since I don’t buy it and I don’t have a kiln or any tools.Summer-Camp-Success-Story2

Tell me about your experience with sculpting clay at SPARK! for a second time this week. I did a wolf head. Ms. Raines gave me tools that helped me make the fur. I didn’t know I had to hollow things out. I like sculpting now because it is satisfying to do whatever you want with it and see at the end how beautiful it is. Clay is fun to use because it’s squishy.

Do you think it’s important to try things twice? Yes. I went all out the second time and did something I wanted to do instead. I finished in two days. It took some patience.

Did you improve? Yes.

How did you use iteration during your second sculpting experience? When I was doing the snout I noticed it was too long so I had to cut off different parts to see if it looked normal. The ears were hard because I had to put the back of them on first and then the curving inside. One ear looked kind of weird. I didn’t know if I should leave a part of it missing. I eventually made it look like it was cut off a little bit half way down. I definitely had a problem with the eyes. I couldn’t figure out how to do it with them open so I decided to do it with them closed. For the mouth, I just did lines to signify where it was. I wanted jowls to look more obvious so I had to add more clay to it.

Summer-Camp-Success-Story1Are you proud of yourself after seeing the final product? Yes. It looks better than what I thought it would. It does at least look like some sort of dog. Not a cat or anything. The fur actually looks like fur not just clay and triangles. It looks like a wolf.

Did you consider yourself creative before you came to SPARK! for camp? Yes.

At SPARK! we try to help kids understand that creativity isn’t just fine arts. Do you feel like you have a better sense of that now? I still identify creativity with art but now I see how it can relate to other things such as writing, ideas and stories.

What’s the most important thing about being creative? The most important thing is being able to do what you want. Putting whatever you think of onto paper.


Dallas Art Fair Partners with SPARK!

In April, over 100 high school students experienced total creative immersion and engaged in an in-depth creative project at SPARK! To kick off World Creativity and Innovation Week, SPARK! partnered with the Dallas Art Fair & Neiman Marcus to execute the Slot Art Collaboration Project, leading these students through the creative process and guiding them in the discovery of their unique creative abilities.

For this project, the high schoolers were asked to illustrate an answer to the question: “What inspires you?” The result was a collaborative sculpture connecting each student’s individual creation. The inspirations depicted by the students are proof of their creative minds coming to life while immersed in the SPARK! environment. “Dallas is fortunate to have SPARK!” said Autumn Hill, Learning Coordinator at Dallas Contemporary. “It was delightful to see so many smiles and such unrestrained creativity coming from our student group – a combination that I greatly attribute to this welcoming facility and its warm staff.”

A huge THANK YOU to the Dallas Art Fair and Neiman Marcus for making this possible! Come see the sculpture for yourself when you visit SPARK! this summer. Starting June 4, we’ll be open every Saturday from 10am – 4pm! In the meantime, check out these pictures of their inspiring creations!

Slot-Art-Sculpture

 


New Toys at SPARK!

Giant Light Bright

Brace yourself for a blast from the past. We’re certain you’ll feel nostalgic when you get your hands on the bigger than life-size version of this beloved toy. While attending an IAAPA conference in Orlando, Florida, the SPARK! team decided a Giant Light Bright was a great way to engage kids in fun, creative play. With more than five colors to choose from, guests can create words and images with sidewalk chalk-sized pegs. You can even black out spaces with black-colored pegs! The Giant Light Bright is available during all public events as well as scheduled group visits.

Giant-Light-Bright-CIS

Giant-Light-Bright

Web-Enabled Photo Kiosk

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words – and we believe you’ll have LOTS to say about SPARK! Check out the kiosk, strike a pose in front of the green screen and select from several SPARK! themed backdrops to get those creative juices flowing behind (and in front of) the lens. Be your own photographer and jump in front of scenes including the capsized ship and multi-colored mermaid. Throw a party or event at SPARK! and you’ll receive printing privileges for these special, hand-held memories. Customized backdrops with company logos or names are available for private events.

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Spend Your Birthday At SPARK!

Looking for a unique twist on birthday parties?

Celebrate at SPARK! and let your guests explore their creativity in our fully-immersive, creative environment. Get lost in the 6,000-square-foot Climb, Crawl, Slide Sculpture or join a creative, instructor-led activity. All before you cut the cake.

Why is creativity so important to us? Because kids who identify as creative individuals are more likely to receive higher test scores, finish high school, go to college, get good jobs and become contributing members of society. Sure beats a goody bag, right?

SPARK! birthday parties are not only an opportunity for friends and families to create and play together, but a chance to teach kids how to give back, even on a day that’s about them. All the proceeds from parties benefit our programs and support our mission to ignite the spark of creativity inherent in all children.

Find more information on our birthday party packages here.


Halloween Spooktacular Featured Activity – Story Doodling

In celebration of our first-ever public event on October 31 at SPARK! we’re sharing three featured activities happening that day. Our first post was an overview of how oil pastels and black construction paper can be used in a project to spark creativity in kids ages 8–10 before they outgrow Halloween. More on that here.

Our second activity is story doodling on trick-or-treat bags, another craft we believe can challenge kids to think beyond what they know and tap into their imaginations to produce original work. According to a study on Drawing Development in Children by researcher Viktor Lowenfeld, kids enter the the “pseudo- naturalistic stage” around age 12. Meaning art is no longer a spontaneous activity because their focus has shifted towards creating “adult-like” naturalistic drawings. We’re confident that this activity will teach kids to be less critical of their work by helping them slow down and enjoy the process. Here’s how it works.

Materials:

A brown paper bag

Story doodling worksheet

Markers

Instructions:

Utilize the worksheet as a brainstorming exercise. Next, review your worksheet to use it as inspiration to design your bag. Select your favorite doodle(s) and repeat across the surface of your bag.

Final Product:

Story-Doodling (1)

During the Halloween Spooktacular, you’ll also get to explore our newly renovated Creepy Crawl, see the Mad Scientist in action, and stop by all 13 treat stations. This event is open to families with children in 2nd grade through high school. No drop-offs are allowed. Admission is $8 in advance; $10 at the door.

Stay tuned for the next featured activity: Spooky Jars