Lisa Oldham

Summer Camp June 2020 Canceled

We regret to inform everyone that we have chosen to cancel the June Summer Camp to keep our staff and campers safe. If you currently have a reservation, feel free to contact us in regards to a refund or more information at INFO@SPARKDALLAS.ORG

We will be accessing the information from the CDC, our local government, as well as input from our wonderful visitors; YOU! At this time, we are putting together a program that will allow folks to visit with timed entries and online ticket purchase, as well as space rental for birthday parties or group “play dates” and other controlled events. As we formulate this plan, please check our social media and website for more information. If you currently have camp scheduled for July or August, field trips, or parties, we will update you as soon as possible to either refund/cancel, or let you know our protocol moving forward.

Thank you to everyone for your patience and understanding.

The fine folks at SPARK!



Reserve Summer Camp Now!

Covid 19 Update March 19th 2020

Dear SPARK! Friends & Supporters – 

It’s proving true once again, that necessity is the mother of invention.  During these times of social distancing, SPARK! is excited to offer virtual programming to keep your children engaged in the creative process, problem solving and education from your home.  
While our doors remain closed, we have eagerly reassigned our instructors to generate lessons that you can implement with items commonly found at home. I hope you’ll enjoy our SPARK! Create at Home series, which you can find on our  YouTube channel, or on our Facebook page.
We appreciate your support of SPARK! and all our efforts to engage children in the creative process.  As a 501c3 nonprofit, SPARK! is dependent on your support to deliver programs. 
If you have booked an event with us, or have any other questions, please call us at 214 421 7727, or email at

Be safe, and be well.

The SPARK! Team

Jumping, Leaping, Swinging, Tagging … Climbing, Crawling, Sliding … The Amazing Risks We Took As Kids

Believe it or not, the actions listed in the title of this blog, once deemed innocent, carefree play, are now considered to be “risk taking” activities for children. Movements such as these allow children to understand and develop their physical strength and coordination. Motor skills, problem-solving and resilience are all learned through play, if we allow a sense of adventure and unrestricted movement.

Free and unstructured play give children the opportunity to create their own boundaries, develop relational skills with others, understand and extend their own physical strength and learn to function without overt adult supervision.  To better navigate the world around them, children need to practice risk assessment. This includes thinking through outcomes, developing creative solutions and implementing options to evaluate the results.

SPARK! is a facility designed for “older” children to learn the creative process. Our goal is to provide them the opportunities to develop and strengthen their motor skills. Research shows that around the age of six or seven, children are honing these skills, assessing minimal risk, and engaging in a process designed to produce an outcome. At SPARK! we engage the physical needs of growth through our Climb, Crawl, Slide Sculpture. Instead of using soft materials, we introduce the kids to steel, wood, hard surfaces, elevated climbs, steep slides and dark, confined adventures. SPARK! offers a minimal amount of risk so children can explore and consider their own physical limitations.  

Dr. Lala Manners in Articles Teaching and Learning shares, “Physical experience informs bodily knowledge that leads to physical maturity and the optimum use of skills across all the environments children experience and encounter.”

We want our children to be mentally strong. However, in today’s world, we’re removing all physical risk and depriving children of the opportunity to develop critical motor skills. Since the 1970’s, concerned parents and educators have been removing risk, sanitizing playgrounds and promoting more sedentary learning.  

In her book Balanced and Barefoot, Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist, says, “When children are allowed to take reasonable risks, they actually become safer. Through the risks they take, they develop a better ability to assess risk, use critical thinking, and to troubleshoot when problems arise.”

There’s a big difference between danger and risk. Don’t be afraid to let your kids take risks. SPARK! provides a safe way for them to experience risky play. We promote learning through the creative process and physical movement. Our field trip students engage in play which allows them to push their own physical boundaries, promotes a sense of adventure and allows for unstructured discovery. This experience prepares them both mentally and physically to engage in hands-on practice through the creative process.  It also helps burn-off some of the abundant energy that young kids have and enables them to focus on the task at hand. 

Creativity and Childhood Self-Esteem

To set the stage for this blog, I want to put forth a definition of the subject at hand:  Self-esteem. By this we mean self-respect, or a confidence and satisfaction with oneself.   

Self-esteem is not a fixed measure. It ebbs and flows with time and experiences.  Each of us has our own self-esteem metric for various aspects of our being. At SPARK! we focus on the self-esteem that exists in a child. It is the gauge of their ability to learn, grow, create, problem-solve and perform in the world.

InMinding the Muse,” a book about creativity, author Priscilla Long shares, “Improving self-esteem is a matter of taking regular steps, no matter how small, to set goals to achieve what you intend to achieve ….”  

At SPARK! our teaching of the creative process helps children set goals, envision outcomes and take the steps needed to achieve that outcome.  Our proprietary definition of the creative process is Inspiration with Iteration and Collaboration leads to Innovation.  Inspiration is the impetus to start a project. Collaboration and Iteration are two valuable steps in working through trial, error and even failure. Lastly, the desired outcome is achieving Innovation.

Based on research around creative development, SPARK! programming focuses on children ages 7 -18.  During the early teen years, kids have a tough time figuring out who they are and where they fit in the world.  Helping them develop their creativity and their self-esteem can help smooth out some of the bumps in their path through puberty.  While boys and girls are quite different, their path through creativity can be similar.

“Challenge boys and allow them to develop skills. You throw boys as a group into a very challenging situation, and let them figure it out and find their own leadership. They’ll come back thinking, ‘We did it. We did it.’”   Michael Thompson, PhD, coauthor of Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys.  “It involves creating a situation in which they can develop a skill and, as a result, will have self-esteem.”

Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, authors of The Confidence Code for Girls, surveyed 1,300 girls between the ages of 8 and 18.  Among the findings is a startling desire to be perfect.  At age 13, 45% of girls report feeling like they’re not allowed to fail.  Over half of teenage girls report pressure to be perfect. When this research was published in The Atlantic, the answer seemed to be getting girls accustomed to risk-taking and failure.

Engaging in the creative process meets the need for boys and girls.  It provides challenges, allows for risk taking and room for failure. It helps them persevere to accomplish work of which they can be proud.

The Family That Engages Together Stays Together

The Family That Engages Together Stays Together

In a July 2017 TED Talk, I narrated the story of why Devon and I decided to create SPARK! I share an excerpt from that now to address the SPARK! model of engaging the entire family.

My husband, Devon and I have three nieces and one nephew.  When they were young, we took them on field trips to introduce them to new opportunities and experiences. We took those kids to sculpture parks, history museums, science museums, art museums, and more.   All this with the goal of opening their eyes to new and exciting possibilities.  

In 2003, something totally unexpected happened.  We visited City Museum in St. Louis for the first time.  We were all mesmerized – the kids and the adults. We played and explored in a wildly creative environment.  After a while the kids started asking questions such as: How does that work? Who thought of that? How did they make that?  And then, they asked, “Can we make something like that?” It was incredible. They were asking questions to learn. Their eyes were open to remarkable possibilities.  When we returned home, we were able to engage them in hands-on learning per their request.  

These experiences led us to the decision to found SPARK! and build a facility that offers families creative immersion and exploration with hands-on learning.  That means we want the parents and guardians to engage along with their kids. SPARK! provides a much needed and hard-to-find, unique opportunity for the entire family to explore, discover and create side-by-side.  

A large body of research shows that playtime with parents is important to the development of children.  And, kids crave time with their parents. During play, we have the opportunity to get involved, to praise them, encourage them and laugh with them.  Play can help you discover your child’s special interests and skills. Playing with children builds a lasting bond and lets the child know they are loved.

SPARK! offers many opportunities for family fun in two basic ways: physical exploration and hands-on creative experiences.  Our stated vision is, “To provide a unique environment, that combined with creative programming inspires minds, builds confidence and shapes the future for all children.”

Physical Exploration

In our Climb, Crawl, Slide sculpture, both children and adults are given the opportunity to move, all while exploring a wildly unique and physically challenging environment.  

“We find that parents lose the ability to play,” said Nancy O’Conner, director of the Kansas State University Family Center in a statement to Newswise.  She suggests that parents relearn the ability to play.

Physical movement and childlike play is also a great stress reducer for adults. Family activities help develop strong and lasting bonds.  Exploration such as that offered at SPARK! builds gross motor skills, communication, supportive collaboration and cognitive development. These experiences also build self-esteem, social skills and a sense of connectedness that help kids and teens learn to use good judgment when confronted with difficulties and temptations.

The family that plays together stays together. 

Hands-On Creative Experiences

Family visits to SPARK! should include participation in pop-up creative experiences.  SPARK! is not just an indoor playground. It is a creative experience that offers physical exploration and discovery in conjunction with the creative endeavor.   Our mission is “To ignite the spark of creativity inherent in all children.”

Pop-up opportunities vary by visit and explore creativity through dozens of art mediums, music, performance, dance, virtual reality and more.  These programs are designed for the family with children second grade and older and provide opportunities to innovate together.  

Creative exercises provide a platform for children to practice patience, problem solving, social skills, and iteration.  In today’s academic environment, children are pressured to get the correct answer and are rarely offered the open-ended opportunity to explore alternatives, work through trial and error and yes, even fail.  SPARK! provides a safe place for all of this. 

Children who define themselves as creative have higher self-esteem, better problem-solving skills and go further in their education.  Parents who engage in creative and other learning opportunities with their children tend to have more positive and open relationships with their children.  Jane Dee Hull, the first female governor of Arizona, once said, “At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.”

The family that creates together stays together.