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 Metamorphosis Project

By Beverly Davis

SPARK! helps children metamorphose into their full creative potential.

This statement is the inspiration behind the beautiful butterfly mural Rolando Diaz painted on the front doors of SPARK!

There’s a vast body of research that has been conducted about the importance of developing creative thinking skills, or problem solving skills, in children.  The data shows that self-perception, a sense of inquiry and the fortitude to take risks or “try, try again” are developed through participation in creative activities and are needed for success.

Shortly after SPARK! opened its doors, we launched a research survey that we called “Metamorphosis.” The name was derived from our desire to see children metamorphose into their full creative potential.  The objective was to understand exactly how many exposures to SPARK! programming were needed to make a lasting impact on a child’s life. We truly appreciate the Moody Foundation and the Harold Simmons Foundation for funding this work.

Metamorphosis examined the steps of the creative process as defined by SPARK! – Inspiration, Collaboration, Iteration and Innovation. Dr. Magdelena Grohman of the University of Texas, Dallas, compiled a questionnaire tool for Metamorphosis by consolidating three survey stems into one comprehensive series. Students were given a pre- and post-instrument and were measured in two groups: short-term exposure – (students receiving one week of continuous creative programming) and long-term exposure (students receiving multiple engagements over one year).

The population for this study included children aged 10 – 17 from low-income homes in or near Dallas County, Texas.  Students were recruited for both test and control groups.

The short test group represented strength when looking at the notion of imagination. These students received a more intensive, hands-on application of the creative process.  Students in the short test group attended a 5-day, week-long camp and were immersed in both the SPARK! creative environment and programming in the creative process every day for one week.

Responsively, the long test group demonstrated consistent and steady improvement in students receiving programming.  Continued practice and participation yields greater results.

We also noted that students who received programming at SPARK! had a higher perception of their own creativity than students who did not receive the programming. Studies have shown that enhanced perception of creativity is known to bolster self-esteem and help students confidently navigate the process of Iteration, or trial and error.

Students who come from educational institutions with the focus on daily inquiry do indeed outperform their peers in the area of creative perception.  The chance to utilize critical thinking skills repeatedly and pursue passion projects offers the greatest opportunity to turn new skills into practiced and recognized habits.

The data gathered was reviewed and plotted by the Statistical and Analytics department at SMU and released to Dr. Andra Barton to write the abstract.  In summarizing the impact seen through the research, she wrote, “The need for intentional acts that aid in the development of creativity should be frequent and ongoing for youth.  SPARK! is a prominent forerunner in creative development for students.”  Her abstract went on to say, “The increase represents the need for teachers to be exposed to training methodologies that embrace the SPARK! creative process of: Inspiration, Collaboration, Iteration and Innovation.

Since the completion of the Metamorphosis study, SPARK! has developed plans to engage children in creative learning on an ongoing basis.  Currently under development are plans for after school and weekend engagements.

The SPARK! Creator Studio will combine the equipment of a Maker’s Space with the technology of a computer lab and the materials in a Tinker’s studio. Children will be able to access the studio throughout the year, after school and on weekends beginning this fall semester.

A music program is under development and will launch with a week-long camp this summer.  Children will experience percussion, gain an understanding of rhythm, explore singer/songwriter programs, as well have opportunities for jam sessions and open mic performances.  This, too, will be offered year-round.

While we’re not currently staffed to provide teacher training on a widespread basis, the SPARK! team piloted a program with the Mesquite School District in March 2018 to train teachers in teaching the creative process.

The Metamorphosis study provided us with insightful data. There is a strong need for ongoing creative learning. The programming at SPAK! will help students enhance their creative skills which will ultimately allow them to excel in school and compete in the workforce.


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.

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 3.45.23 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 3.41.20 PM

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.


Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program

After completing 35 hours of workforce readiness training, two participants of the Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program have joined our staff for the summer. According to their website, the program aims to “introduce exemplary Dallas high school students to future careers, professional employment opportunities and valuable workplace skills while providing area companies, nonprofits and government entities a meaningful way to make an investment in the youth of Dallas and its future workforce.”

Each student is assigned an intern advisor through the program and is responsible for journaling about their experiences as well as completing numerous assignments throughout the summer. SPARK! is thrilled to participate in this program for the second year. Meet our two awesome interns Angie Gonzalez and Morgan Jones!

Angie Gonzalez, 16

Mayors-Intern-Angie

I am an amateur artist with a passion for monochrome paintings and have been studying art for five years. I plan to finish high school and attend Art Institute, to further my education in art studies and design. I then plan to teach high school art, while working on my reputation as a freelance artist. I love to teach and believe the best way to learn is through the creative process.

Morgan Jones, 16

Mayors-Intern-Morgan

I attend W.W. Samuell Early College High School, and am on track to graduate high school with my Associates Degree in Applied Sciences from Eastfield College. After high school, I plan to attend Grambling State University for Sociology, then move on to Rice University do get a Masters Degree in Business Accounting.

I selected SPARK! for my summer internship because I have always liked arts and crafts, as well as doing my own creative things over the year. I also wanted to have the opportunity to get kids who weren’t already interested in the arts, and let them experience the importance of creativity firsthand. I share my passion of art through scrapbooking, and also taking and collecting polaroid pictures. 


Samsung Gives

Samsung-Volunteers

Last week, 20 Samsung Volunteers chose to spend their community service day at SPARK! They spent more than four hours cleaning, setting up for events and adding to our creative environment.

Volunteering as a group at SPARK! is a great way to offer support, but it also helps employees get to know each other by working together, outside of the office.

SPARK! has also hosted corporate volunteers from Mercedes-Benz, VHA, Fossil and Neiman Marcus. Activities can range from decorating for themed events to testing new programming activities.

Samsung-Volunteers2

 

Send an email to volunteers@sparkdallas.org if you’re interested in hosting a corporate volunteer day at SPARK! Learn about additional volunteer opportunities here.


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.

Photobooth1

Photobooth


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 – Haunted Landscapes

We’re so excited to be hosting our first-ever public event, Halloween Spooktacular, on October 31 at SPARK! While you’re here, you’ll get to explore our newly renovated Creepy Crawl and participate in creative, Halloween-themed activities as a family. See the Mad Scientist in action, decorate your own trick-or-treat bags 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.

Take advantage of this event as an opportunity to lead your children down the path of self-discovery and help them identify as creative individuals. (Before they decide they’ve outgrown Halloween.) Take a note from researcher Viktor Lowenfeld on the stages of creative and mental growth, explained through drawings by Betty Edwards.

According to his studies, during the dawning of realism stage (occurring between the ages of 8–10) children find that generalization doesn’t suffice as a form of expression for reality. Instead, children spend more time on detail imitating reality. And while we sometimes suspend reality for Halloween, SPARK! offers art activities that challenge children to think abstractly and independently.

To kick-start their creativity, we’ve decided to give you a sneak peak of a few activities happening the day of our October 31st event. (All materials are included with admission.) First up: Haunted Landscapes with one of our favorite instructors, Vet.

Materials:

Black Construction Paper

Oil Pastels

Objective:

Using oil pastels, create your own haunted landscape against a black backdrop and then take your masterpiece home and hang. We suggest skeletons, ghosts, monsters and mummies. This activity is suitable for all ages.

Final Product:

Haunted-Landscapes

Stay tuned for the next featured activity: Storydoodling on Trick-or-Treat Bags