We spend a lot of time talking about “sparks” in Patchwork’s Arts & Smarts Children’s Program, but are the kids really paying attention?
In short, sparks are the things that excite and engage someone. Research from the Search Institute shows that when children know what their sparks are and when they have adults in their lives who know about and support the their sparks, those children are more likely to succeed in school and in life.
A few weeks ago, a girl made her way into the main office at the end of the afternoon. The main office is always the cool but forbidden place to hang out at the end of the day when everyone is supposed to stay with the group for the closing activities. But, it seems that one kid or another will always gravitate to the office for a moment by themselves with whichever adults happen to be working there.
On this particular day, Dee and I were were the ones sitting in the main office when the girl sat down. Dee asked the girl what her favorite color was, noting that the girl was wearing a hot pink shirt and that hot pink is Dee’s favorite color.
The girl said that hot pink is, in fact, one of her favorites. Then the girl surprised me. Seemingly out of the blue and very seriously, she asked Dee and me, “What are your sparks?”
I told her my sparks were gardening and art.
Dee said one of her sparks was also gardening.
Then the girl asked us to guess her sparks.
Dee and I couldn’t begin to guess, so she told us she has 100 sparks and was going to list them all: Basketball, track, singing, painting…Then she threw in “annoying my brother.”
“That’s not a spark!” I said, laughing.
She smiled and continued happily with her list of actual sparks: drawing, taking care of my puppy…
This particular girl is one of the young artists who contributed a painting for the live auction at last week’s Soup, Salad, & Style fundraiser for Patchwork. It was created through a painting technique called acrylic paint pouring. Jean, who led the project, also dubbed it “paint explosions.” It involved a lot of paint but also a lot of fun. Each child began by selecting three colors of paint. Some mixed colors together to get the right shade. Some could have spent the entire afternoon just choosing colors.
Once the colors were selected, Jean added special flow acrylic medium to help the paint spread and demonstrated several techniques for creating swirls of color on canvases. Then she turned the kids loose to create masterpieces. Each child found their own way to mix colors, giving each canvas individual character. It was a new process for the kids, so it took them at least one painting to catch on to the possibilities. By their second painting, they were pros.
Their paintings were featured on the notecards we gave each guest at the luncheon. We also asked the kids if they would like to contribute one of their paintings to the auction at the event. We paid our artists, of course, but even with the incentive of payment most of the kids did not want to part with their artwork. The girl in the main office, for instance, had one painting that she particularly liked and that she really wanted to take to school to show her teacher. While we make lots of great art in the Arts & Smarts Program, it’s not often that someone makes a point of taking their art to school to show to their teacher. That’s how you know a painting is really special.
At the luncheon, only three guests got to take home an original painting by one of the kids, but several other guests said they would like to purchase a painting. Our Junior Leaders in grades 6-8 will be working on some new paintings, and they’ll have them available for sale at Patchwork’s Pancake Extravaganza on April 18. Mark your calendars now!