Insights from Research: The Power of Sparks

Support Sparks: Ask a young person what he or she is passionate about.

Sparks are the interests, passions, or skills that "light fires" in people’s lives. They engage and motivate us, fueling a sense of purpose and direction in life.

It is particularly important for young people to identify and grow their sparks. Students who experience being "good" at something—such as music, sports, math, or computers—gain an authentic sense of accomplishment. They become more confident that they have what it takes to succeed at school, work, and other areas of life—especially if those sparks are acknowledged and celebrated by adults and peers. And that is vitally important because, as researcher Deborah Stipek and educator Kathy Seal have written in Motivated Minds: Raising Children to Love Learning, "Nothing motivates youth more than a feeling of competence."

Do Youth Know Their Sparks?

Depending how you ask the question, between half to two-thirds of American teenagers can name at least one spark. And though all students may not be able to name at least one spark, each and every student has at least the ember of sparks within them. But it may take the "oxygen" of conversations and relationships that explore their interests to help those embers grow into sparks and then into true flames.

Visit our research archive to find out more about youth and sparks >>

Three Keys to Lighting Up Sparks

Sparks are most powerful when three things come together:

  1. Young people know their sparks.
  2. They intentionally work on or practice their sparks.
  3. They have adults who help them with their sparks.

Why Sparks Matter

When those three things happen, young people are more likely to . . .

  • Attend school regularly;
  • Get higher grades;
  • Develop better friendship skills;
  • Avoid negative behaviors, such as substance use or violence;
  • Take better care of their health; and
  • Have a greater sense of hope and purpose in life.

Sparks Resources
Are you ready to affirm and support young people's sparks? Then head over to the Search Institute Store where all of our Sparks resources are available for 15% off until September 30. The discount is automatically applied to orders at checkout. Visit the Search Institute Store now >>

Publish Date: 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

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