Bright Spot: SPARK

Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash

This bright spot was originally published in the 100 Million Healthier Lives Change Library and is brought to you through partnership with 100 Million Healthier Lives and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.


Detailed Description

SPARK is a collection of Evidence-based programs designed to prevent childhood obesity and encourage healthier lifestyles. The five main content areas of programming are: Physical Education (K-12) Early Childhood (ages 3-5), Classroom Activity & Recess (K-6), and Coordinated School Health. SPARK was identified by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as a national model for programs designed to increase physical activity and combat childhood obesity.

Expected Outcomes

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:

Physical activity:

  • SPARK has increased moderate to vigorous physical activity to over 50% of class-time whether instructed by PE specialists or classroom teachers. SPARK Middle School PE has shown significant gains in moderate to vigorous physical activity among middle-schoolers.
  • Physical fitness scores improved: SPARK program has data to show students statistically significantly increased their Fitnessgram scores. Fitnessgram is a youth physical fitness assessment, education and reporting tool.
  • Academic achievement scores: SPARK students did as well or better on standardized achievement tests than non-SPARK P.E. kids that spent almost 300% more time in the classroom.
  • Motor skill development: improved in throwing, catching, kicking Student enjoyment of the program
  • Long term effects/institutionalization: schools were using SPARK after 4 years of initial implementation

Key Steps for Implementation

Each SPARK Program provides a coordinated package that includes:

  1. Project Coordination: Schools work with a SPARK Project Coordinator. The Project Coordinator manages all the day to day concerns related to the project, e.g., staffing trainers, workshop site logistics, delivery of manuals, materials and equipment, etc.
  2. Curriculum (the "what to teach"): The curriculum set includes the online materials, curriculum binder (lesson plans), music cd, and a SPARK folio with assessments.
  3. On-Site Teacher Training (the "how to teach it"): SPARK workshops are "hands-on," and designed to meet the needs of the host school, district, or agency. The SPARK Project Coordinator works with the school personnel to arrange the training.
  4.  Content-Matched Equipment (the "tools you need to teach"): Sportime catalog has options for equipment. You are able to order a complete set or single items, and school system personnel should do an inventory and cross-walk to determine what to purchase.
  5.  Assessment/Evaluation: SPARK has needs assessments, in-service evaluations, program evaluations, and teacher assessment tools already designed for use.

Required Staffing (FTEs)

Variable depending upon the organization.

Special Funding

SPARK offers a FREE grant finder tool to help find special funding.

Special Infrastructure

SPARK can be conducted in classroom settings (via the SPARKabc: classroom activity & recess program) and/or gym or outside playground/open area (via the Physical Education, Early Childhood, After School programs).

The curriculum and gym equipment are included in the program and tailored to the needs of the school.


SPARK offers a wide selection of on-site, off-site and online teacher training programs and topics to meet the professional development needs of your school, district, or agency.

Types of Staff

Physical Education Educator, Classroom Teachers, School Administrator, Early Childhood Teacher, Before/After School Leader

Return on Investment Details

Below is a list of organizations that SPARK is currently partnering with to reduce childhood obesity in the United States.

Please click here to view our partner page for the full list:

  • Arkansas Tobacco Commission and Healthy Schools
  • Alliance for a Healthier Generation
  • American Cancer Society California Department of Health Services - Network for a Healthy California California Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Center for Research in Disease Prevention
  • Stanford University School of Medicine Centers for Disease Control Department of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences
  • San Diego State University Department of Preventive Medicine
  • University of Tennessee, Memphis Department of Psychology
  • San Diego State University Education Studies Program
  • University of California|San Diego Graduate School of Public Health
  • San Diego State University Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
  • National Institutes of Health National Diffusion Network
  • U.S. Department of Education Research Tested Intervention Programs
  • National Cancer Institute (RTIPS) San Diego State University Research Foundation The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sport SHAPE
  • America Let's Move! Active Schools American Camp Association ANNIKA Foundation
  • CAHPERD: The California Association for Health|Physical Education
  • Recreation and Dance GAHPERD (Georgia Alliance for Health|Physical Education, Recreation and Dance)
  • Healthy Kids Out of School Drink Right: Choose water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Move More: Boost movement and physical activity in all programs
  • Healthy Weight Commitment Highmark Foundation ICAN Foundation MEND SHAPE America Corporate Council
  • National After School Association NCAAHPERD: North Carolina Alliance for Athletics, Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance
  • President's Challenge RMC Health Safe Routes to School National Partnership

Evaluation Strategies and Data Collection Tools

SPARK Assessment Tools include program assessments, supplemental evaluation tools, and student assessments.

Program Assessments:

  1. Formative/Needs Assessment
  2. Workshop Evaluation
  3. Program Evaluation
  4. Lesson Quality Assessments (LQA)
    1. Supplemental Evaluation Tools (Measure Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity) SOFIT and SOPLAY
    2. Students Assessments by Program

Outcome Measures

  • Physical activity: improved levels over 50% of class time
  • Physical fitness scores improved
  • Lesson context and teacher behavior
  • Academic achievement scores (did as well or better even though SPARK PE class time increased)
  • Motor skill development: improved in throwing, catching, kicking
  • Student enjoyment of the program
  • Adiposity
  • Long term effects/institutionalization: schools were using SPARK after 4 years of initial implementation
  • Process measures (parent behavior, teacher acceptance of the program)

Process Measures

  • Formative/Needs Assessment
  • Workshop Evaluation, Program Evaluation, Lesson Quality Assessments (LQA).

 Related Topics

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Physical Activity

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Children and Youth

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Childhood Obesity