How can SPARK be 25 when I’m only 39??
But it’s true! In June, 1989 a couple of “relatively young” Professors from San Diego State University, Drs. Jim Sallis and Thom McKenzie, received a large award from NIH (National Institutes of Health) to create, implement, and evaluate an elementary school physical education program that could maximize health and behavior related outcomes, and eventually (if successful) become a nationwide model. Project SPARK (Sports, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids) was born 25 years ago.
As they say, the rest is history. Today, after many more research and special projects from Early Childhood through University levels, SPARK is referred to as, “The most researched and field-tested physical education program in the world.”
While the data tells an impressive story about significant student outcomes in physical activity, fitness, motor/sport skills, academic achievement, enjoyment of PE, activity levels away from school, program sustainability and more, there are a few lesser known stories from the early years of SPARK.
Did you know?
- Jim Sallis thought of the name SPARK and the acronym
- The first SPARK logo was orange and black (scary!) and the colors were voted on by kids in the study
- One of the original consultants on the first SPARK study was Dr. Bob Pangrazi. And Bob came back and spent a couple weeks in San Diego with us during our M-SPAN (Middle School Physical Activity and Nutrition – funded by NIH) project that ran from 1996-2000.
- Kecia Carrasco was Jim and Thom’s first hire, and Kecia is still with SPARK today, 25 years later!
- BJ Williston worked on the pilot study from 1989-1990 and after a hiatus to work on other studies/projects, she came back to SPARK again about 10 years ago and is now a Lead Trainer.
- I met my wife Wendy in 1990 when the intervention began and we were married in 1991. She was one of the elementary classroom teachers at a school we were working with.
- SPARK won the Governor’s Commendation Award from California Governor Pete Wilson in September 1993
- The SPARK dissemination effort began in 1994 (20 years ago) and Poway Unified School District was the first to purchase SPARK
- SPARK’s Director of Dissemination, Leticia Gonzalez, joined SPARK as a part-time employee after her freshman year at San Diego State and has never left!
- We used to have two cartoon characters in the pages of our manuals – SPARKle and SPARKy! They were pretty cute, some of us were sad when they grew up…
- SPARK’s first “beyond the 50 U.S. states experience” was Saipan in 1995. I led workshops for the elementary physical education teachers on the island and it was a great experience. Ironically, we’re sending trainers back there again this month.
- Jim pronounced me – decreed actually — Godfather of SPARK in 1995. I have a plaque to prove it! So, if you want a favor, you’ll need some cannoli…
Over more than two decades, all of us at SPARK have appreciated the opportunity to provide innovative instructional materials, effective teacher training, excellent follow up support, and content-matched equipment to thousands of physical educators and physical activity leaders across the globe.
Cheers to another 25 years!