Countering Childhood Obesity With Spark Solutions
 

What is SPARK?

SPARK: Countering Childhood Obesity Since 1989

SPARK is a research-based, public health organization dedicated to creating, implementing, and evaluating programs that promote lifelong wellness.

SPARK strives to improve the health of children, adolescents, and adults by disseminating evidence-based Physical Education, After School, Early Childhood, and Coordinated School Health programs to teachers and recreation leaders serving Pre-K through 12th grade students.

Each SPARK program fosters environmental and behavioral change by providing a coordinated package of highly active curriculum, on-site teacher training, extensive follow-up support, and content-matched equipment.

A Healthy Beginning:

The SPARK team began studying elementary physical education in 1989, and today, the name SPARK represents a collection of exemplary, research-based physical activity/nutrition programs. The original SPARK study was supported by the Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health and San Diego State University.

Results:

Numerous refereed publications (over 45 to date) have reported SPARK physical education (PE) program effects, including papers showing evidence of achievement in the following variables (the number refers to the citation listed on the bottom of the page):

  • Physical activity (1, 4, 5, 6)
  • Physical fitness (5)
  • Lesson context and teacher behavior (4)
  • Academic achievement (7)
  • Motor skill development (2)
  • Student enjoyment of the program (3)
  • Adiposity (6)
  • Long term effects/institutionalization (4, 8)
  • Process measures (parent behavior, teacher acceptance of program) (1)

Awards and Honors:
  • SPARK has been honored as an Exemplary Program of the U.S. Department of Education; featured in the Surgeon General’s Report as a “School-based solution to our nation’s healthcare crisis;” earned a “Governor’s Commendation;” and in 2005, was awarded “Gold” (highest ranking) for their elementary and middle school PE programs in an independent study commissioned by the Cooper Institute. SPARK is the ONLY program to earn “PE Gold” grades K-8.
  • SPARK was recently identified as a successful model for combating childhood obesity in the report, “Fighting Obesity: What Works, What’s Promising” by the HSC Foundation. The report speaks of SPARK’s history, practice, and methods. SPARK was the ONLY program recommended for physical education AND physical activity. Click Here for the full report.

Sharing Good News and Growing:

Following the research phase, the elementary PE program was expanded to focus on dissemination. Over the years, additional research has led to the creation and development of:

  • Early Childhood (ages 3-5)
  • Middle School PE (grades 6-8)
  • After School (ages 5-14)
  • High School PE
  • Ignite a Healthy Environment
  • Wellness for Staff
  • Nutrition Services
  • Health Education
  • SPARKuniversity
  • Classroom Activity and Recess (SPARKabc’s – Activity Break Choices)

SPARK Certified Trainers bring SPARK to you, working with a single site, a cluster of sites, or entire districts/cities in an effort to improve the quantity and quality of physical activity/education. The SPARK Programs also offer Institutes in the summer to give educators in-depth training in sunny San Diego.

Selected references:

1. Marcoux, M.F., Sallis, J. F., McKenzie, T. L., Marshall, S., Armstrong, C. A., & Goggin, K. (1999). Process evaluation of a physical activity self-management program for children: SPARK. Psychology and Health, 14, 659-677.

2. McKenzie, T. L., Alcaraz, J. E., Sallis, J. F., & Faucette, F. N. (1998). Effects of a physical education program on children's manipulative skills. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 17, 327-341.

3. McKenzie, T. L., Alcaraz, J., & Sallis, J. F. (1994) Assessing children's liking for activity units in an elementary school physical education curriculum. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 13, 206-215.

4. McKenzie, T. L., Sallis, J. F., Kolody, B., & Faucette, N. (1997). Long term effects of a physical education curriculum and staff development program: SPARK. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 68, 280-291.

5. Sallis, J. F., McKenzie, T. L., Alcaraz, J. E., Kolody, B., Faucette, N., & Hovell, M. F. (1997). The effects of a 2-year physical education program (SPARK) on physical activity and fitness in elementary school students. American Journal of Public Health, 87, 1328-1334.

6. Sallis, J. F., McKenzie, T. L., Alcaraz, J. E., Kolody, B., Hovell, M. F., & Nader, P. R. (1993). Project SPARK: Effects of physical education on adiposity in children. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 699, 127-136.

7. Sallis, J. F., McKenzie, T. L., Kolody, B., Lewis, M., Marshall, S., & Rosengard, P. (1999). Effects of a health-related physical education on academic achievement: Project SPARK. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 70, 127-134.

8. Dowda, M. C., Sallis, J. F., McKenzie, T. L., Rosengard, P. R. & Kohl, H. W. (2005). Evaluating the sustainability of SPARK physical education: A case study of translating research into practice. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 76, 11-19.

Our new Grant Finder Tool will help you find grants specific to your state and type of program. New grants updated daily!

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We have been working with the SPARK team for many years now. Their professionalism, the quality of their work and their guidance has been extremely important for the work that we have been doing in...

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