We spend a lot of time talking about sparks in the Arts & Smarts after school program. Our adult volunteers and staff have shared them. Then the children have added their own.
No, it’s nothing dangerous. Sparks are actually something that helps kids succeed in life!
It’s all based on research that comes from The Search Institute. As part of this research, they have developed the concept called “sparks” in order to name and to celebrate the interests and passions that young people have within themselves that light a fire in their lives and express the essence of who they are and what they offer to the world.
For example, playing guitar is one spark that two of our adult volunteers shared this fall. They each brought their guitars and played for the kids. They talked about ways they share their music with others. They led the group in singing songs together.
Through this process, several of the children said that they like to play guitar and sing. One girl brought her guitar in to share. From there, the adults suggested that they could offer guitar and ukulele lessons twice a week for any Arts & Smarts participant who wants to develop his or her interest in music.
And that’s how it works!
Research has repeatedly shown that youth who have identified their sparks, who have opportunities to develop those sparks, and who have adult support for those sparks have better results on both developmental and academic outcomes. They do better in school, they have better psychological well-being and resilience, and they engage in fewer risk-taking behaviors. Youth who have deep interests and are supported by family, friends, school, and community in the development of those passions have more interpersonal communication and friend-making skills, more empathy, and a better ability to work in teams. (see source)
This research supports the philosophy of our Arts & Smarts program. We have always taken time to build relationships with our participants, to learn what they are interested in, and to organize programming around these interests. Some of the sparks identified by our Arts & Smarts participants this year include visual arts, running cross country, dance, and sharing with others.
So, what’s your spark?