This was a great week of the year for all of us at SPARK. We just finished hosting our K-2 and 3-6 physical education Institutes and meeting approximately 100 passionate educators from around the globe. Since 1995, SPARK has been facilitating these professional growth opportunities for individuals whose districts are either too small, too poor, or too poorly prioritized to bring a SPARK trainer to them. Institutes provide the opportunity for people to come to SPARK — and we love it.
While we do our best to limit each program focus to the first 40 people to register, we usually invite a number of special guests to observe, and they may swell our numbers to 50 or more. This year, we entertained people from India, China, Canada, Australia and myriad cities and towns across the U.S. Personally, I think learning about physical education in other countries is fascinating. For example, in China, children start preschool at age 3 and don’t begin at the elementary school until age 6 or 7 — missing what we call Kindergarten, and beginning in first grade. In India, almost everyone speaks English, and our SPARK books don’t have to be translated for teachers there. What we refer to as Standards in the U.S., are known as Outcomes in Canada. And Canadian funding for education comes only from provincial money, not from the federal government, therefore, each province writes their own outcomes. By the way, SPARK has already aligned with Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan outcomes and they’re posted on our website Here.
In the evenings, we have a place selected for people to meet, eat, and socialize with our SPARK staff. While it’s definitely about having fun in the sun in San Diego and meeting new friends, SPARK Institutes are designed so each person receives the best possible physical education workshop — and learns SPARK’s unique content and instructional methodology. Our specially selected, fantastic trainers (this week it was Courtney Sjoerdsma and Ken McFadden for K-2; Julie Green and Joan Gillem for 3-6) inspire and motivate everyone, often taking the skeptical and converting them into our most enthusiastic advocates. And, each person leaves with a thorough understanding of SPARK and all training, materials, and support they need to begin “practicing” the craft with their students right away.
We encourage these newly formed professional families to stay in touch with us and one another, and we facilitate that via email distribution lists, our monthly newsletter, and the opportunity to visit SPARK again for another Institute in the future. For the people that attended the Level I K-2 and 3-6 last week, they’re ready now for Level II Institute next year, or whenever they’re ready to see us again.
If You haven’t attended a SPARK Institute yet, I highly recommend it. I don’t know anyone who didn’t think it was a terrific experience and well worth their time and money. Hope to see you in San Diego next year!