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Early Childhood

The Research Begins — SPARK EC in Memphis:

The SPARK Early Childhood (EC) Program was initially developed for and during a study (1997-2000) involving over 100 Title 1 Early Childhood classes in Memphis City Schools. The project was conducted in collaboration with the University of Tennessee, Memphis and San Diego State University (SPARK). This was one of the first large-scale, scientific efforts to evaluate a comprehensive physical activity program for this age group.  Participating teachers in intevention sites received SPARK curriculum, staff development, and content-matched equipment. Their students were measured against those that continued to do their current physical activity programming (controls).

The project concluded in winter 2004, and showed the SPARK EC program was well received and highly rated by the Head Start teachers in the intervention setting, and they increased their students’ moderate to vigorous activity levels to over 50% of class time (Healthy People Goal 2010 objective achieved) and improved the number of minutes their children engaged in activity throughout the day. An effective preschool physical education program was born!


The Memphis study was followed up with another test of SPARK effectiveness in 3 impacted neighborhoods of NYC. This second effort was done in collaboration with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and occurred during the 2006-2007 school year. Results showed 91% of the teachers trained reported using the SPARK EC curriculum at their preschool sites. The amount of childrens’ physical activity time increased significantly after teachers participated in SPARK training. At centers offering full day programs, median time increased 22 minutes per week. In half day programs, activity time increased 18 minutes per week.

The SPARK EC program being disseminated today, applies the lessons learned from rigorous research and subsequent field-testing in the “real-world.” SPARK EC is designed to provide children ages 3-5 with high activity, academically integrated, enjoyable movement opportunities that foster social and motor development and enhance school readiness skills. Young children love SPARK EC activities because they are age-appropriate, engaging, rhythmical, and fun. Head Start, WIC, and public and private daycare teachers love SPARK EC because it provides them with the curriculum, training, equipment, and support they need to successfully implement effective preschool physical activities.

Click Here for more on SPARK Early Childhood research.

Program Components:

When an agency or organization chooses SPARK EC, they receive the four building blocks that lay the foundation for a successful physical activity program:


EC Manual:

  • New “Ready, Set, Go!” format on color-coded pages
  • Instructional units written in scope and sequence
  • Musical ASAP Activities for lesson warm-up and cool-down
  • More than 300 different, field-tested activities
  • Academic Integrations & Limited Space Adaptations throughout

The EC Curriculum sets also includes a music CD containing the music you need to teach all the activities in the SPARK EC manual, as well as a SPARKFolio that includes holds and organizes the teaching materials provided on SPARKfamily.org (skill cards, task cards, assessment tools).

NEW: SPARKfamily.org. SPARKfamily is a password-protected website where you can access a library of digital tools including SPARK videos, interactive alignment and assessment tools, Homeplay activities and other new SPARK resources.

For more information on the EC Curriculum Manual, Music CD, SPARK folio, or the SPARKfamily.org site Click Here.


Having the SPARK curriculum is a great start – but SPARK is not a book, it is a program. Over the years, SPARK has tested numerous instructional strategies that are best conveyed during face to face training opportunities. The “what to do” (the lesson plans) come alive when the “how to do it” is provided via SPARK training. SPARK workshops are fun and “hands-on.” Preschool teachers learn by doing and are motivated by SPARK’s dynamic and knowledgeable trainers. SPARK trainers go anywhere in the country to provide workshops on days and at times that are convenient for everyone. For more information on SPARK EC Workshops, Click Here.


A select team of SPARK EC program developers, curriculum writers, and workshop presenters meet annually to modify the equipment sets (a set includes every item needed to instruct everything in a SPARK manual) to align perfectly with SPARK EC activities. For more information on EC Equipment sets, Click Here.

4.Follow-up Support:

For a program to work and last, ongoing consultation must be provided. SPARK is committed to extensive follow-up via their unique “SPARK Stars” institutionalization model, and myriad FREE value adds including lifetime support via 800 number and e-mail consultation, a monthly webinar series, social networking opportunities, and a monthly eNewsletter that includes SPARK updates and teaching tips. For more information on SPARK support, Click Here.

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