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.