Igniting Sparks: Turning Young People’s Interests and Talents into Improved Life Outcomes (Out of School Time)

This guidebook provides learning sessions and activities for helping young people in grades 3-12 discover and explore their “sparks”—their unique interests and talents—which in turn leads to greater personal and academic success.

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How do you spark young people’s interests and passions?

Some young people love playing soccer, while some love painting. Other young people are most engaged while quietly reading—or solving math problems. As a youth leader, you know how motivating it can be for young people to discover their “sparks,” those activities and interests that truly engage them to be their best. Discovering these sparks can help students express their personalities and make unique contributions to the world.

This guide will help your work with students to explore their sparks, find adult support for developing their interests, and ultimately create a vision of who they want to be in the future. As a result of this spark work, research shows that young people:

  • Have better school attendance and higher grades
  • Are more socially competent and physically healthy
  • Have a greater sense of purpose and are more likely to help others

This guide includes the following information:

  • Fifteen sessions that are easily adaptable for young people from grade 3 through grade 12
  • Each session includes a variety of activities intended to be easily adaptable for the format of your program
  • Ten bonus activities and handouts if you wish to further expand your sparks work
  • Reproducible materials, available as downloads, so students can explore their interests
  • Numerous resources including recommendations for best practices, a video discussion guide, and sample letters to send home with students
  • Research articles related to sparks and the Developmental Assets®

Igniting Sparks was developed by a team of researchers and writers at Search Institute and based on the work of the late Dr. Peter L. Benson. Dr. Benson, former president and CEO of Minneapolis-based Search Institute, was one of the world’s leading authorities on positive human development. He was the author or editor of more than a dozen books on child and adolescent development and social change.

Additional information

Weight .81 lbs
Dimensions 8.5 × 11 × .3 in







Youth Leader Guide.
Out of School Time, Grades 3 through 12.
Includes reproducibles.