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.