What are Sparks?

“A Spark is more than just a passing interest or talent. It’s what you’re passionate about. It’s what unleashes your energy and joy, gives your life purpose and focus, and allows you to make your own unique contribution to the world”

Sparks research was pioneered by Dr. Peter Benson and the Search Institute. Sparks are the hidden strengths, passions and interest discoverable in all youth. A spark is something that motivates the individual to participate in activities that lead to contributions and positive outcomes for the individual and for society.

Why are Sparks Important?

“When youth can identify a spark, they can begin to develop goals, giving them a sense of purpose or direction with which they can begin to articulate the skills, strengths, and drive that will help them Thrive.”

Sparks can provide a positive direction or purpose of youth, and they bring joy to the young person’s life – they are the “fuel” of thriving. Participation in one’s spark can provide young people with the opportunity for skill development in one or more areas, a future orientation, and energy to develop a in a positive direction. Click here for examples of youth Sparks list!

Research by Dr. Peter Benson at the Search Institute shows that 100% of youth can understand the idea of sparks, and that 62% of teenagers can name their spark. These sparks can be in creative arts, love of learning, athletics or a commitment to service or volunteering.

How to Use & Integrate Sparks

“Sparks come from inside the individual, rather than from labels imposed upon them, and once identified they are a source of motivation, self –direction, and purpose.”

The spectrum of Sparks exploration ranges from exposure to and choice of activities through ongoing, independent of youth Spark.  Camp Fire professionals create opportunities to convey the concept of Sparks, opportunities to explore and share areas of interest and, in some cases, allow for progression of youth Sparks within programs!

Spark Champions

“The influence of Spark Champions during adolescence can be deeply transformative for youth. champions give the message that there is something good and beautiful within the youth which is useful to the world. Exploring Sparks can be a process of revelation that is highly relevant to the youth’s self-identity, shaped during this time of life.”

A Spark alone is not enough; youth need supportive adults, spark champions, who recognize sparks and encourage youth to invest their time and effort in developing the skills and strengths associated with their spark.

The Search Institute’s research found that when youth had both a spark and one or more Spark Champions they were less likely to experience depression or engage in violence against others and more likely to succeed academically, and were more likely to be socially competent, physically and emotionally healthy, ready to volunteer, prepared to be good stewards of the environment, and confident knowing they have a sense of purpose.