Spark is in its fourth year at Sunnyside Elementary School. Soon, we hope to expand the program for children at École primaire du Jardin-des-Frontières. Spark unites more than 30 students from grades 3 to 6, once per week for 90 minutes after school. It was designed to cultivate a love of learning through activities that are hands-on, fun and team-spirited. Spark is a break for students from the structure of regular school activities. Students in the program work with older or younger peers — a fun mixing of strengths and levels of ability. Students learn teamwork, leadership, how to keep a clean workspace, how to stay focused and how to stay on task, all within a deadline.
A Spark session begins with 40 minutes of outdoor or gym play, followed by a healthy snack. Students are then divided into teams of four and compete in a hands-on challenge such as a science experiment, math-based problem or art project. Kids can be tasked with anything from building a catapult that launches marshmallows, to creating a comic strip featuring their favourite character, or designing a new animal that mixes features from other animals. Kids at Spark are so engaged in the challenges that they are often unaware of all they are learning in the process.
After four years, we now have 94% of students from grades 3-6 at Sunnyside participating in the program. Teachers report a strong increase in teamwork, ability to self-regulate, problem-solving and confidence among their students who participate and students genuinely love the program.
“Our students visibly love Phelps Helps activities. They get a chance to interact with adults other than their regular teacher. The skills they learn at Spark show in the classroom.” — Rachel Bury, Grade 2 teacher, Sunnyside Elementary School