SPARK! is a National Science Foundation funded program designed for underrepresented students in grades 4-8 in Philadelphia public schools. It is a partnership between the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education (GSE) and School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), iPRAXIS, the School District of Philadelphia, and the
Philadelphia Zoo.

SPARK! intends to increase student interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by offering sustained out-of-school time (OST) science activities focused on problem solving and
engineering design.

Students are selected based on recommendation by their teachers and get plugged into exciting new science experiences offered by SPARK! after school, and on designated Saturdays and mini summer camps at the Philadelphia Zoo, UPenn School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Science Center. Hands on activities cover topics in biotechnology / bioengineering, health science, robotics, information technology, nanotechnology, and environmental zoology.

History & Mission
  • SPARK! is a three-year NSF-supported grant under program title Academies for Young Scientists (AYS). The AYS initiative was created to gather credible evidence of the impacts that out-of-school time (OST) programs have on student interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
  • Sixteen projects were awarded across the U.S., with two
    in Philadelphia.
  • The AYS goal is to catalyze and maintain interest of K-8 students in STEM and increase the pool of individuals pursuing STEM careers.
  • The SPARK! mission is captured through four programmatic objectives:

    1. Increase interest in STEM through real world, culturally relevant problem solving.
    2. Develop and reinforce student science, math and problem solving skills that are prerequisites to success in high school STEM courses by providing continuity between OST and IST experiences.
    3. Motivate under-represented, urban elementary and middle grades students to aspire to pursue STEM courses in high school and envision themselves in STEM careers by providing mentors and role models.
    4. Provide professional development to increase IST and OST educators’ STEM content knowledge and use of effective practices for motivating and supporting under-represented urban youth in STEM activities.

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Copyright 2008, Spark. All Rights Reserved.