HISTORY OF SPARK
SPARK began in 1998 with 25 families of preschool-age children in rural Accomack County on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Today, SPARK is a multifaceted program enrolling over 100 families each year in three program tracks: SPARK (families with students in elementary school), Creekwatchers (families with children in middle school), and Living Shoreline Team (families with students in high school). In 2014, SPARK joined Chincoteague Bay Field Station's family of programs.
Who Created SPARK?
SPARK’s success is due to the input and hard work of many dedicated individuals, as well as to support from many different organizations. Here are just a few:
Grace Cormons started SPARK because she wanted to make it easy for busy parents to do constructive and interesting things with their children that would help bring families closer together and make learning fun while teaching about the environment. She hoped the end result would be to stimulate positive attitudes about education, especially science, and a respect for and understanding of, the environment. Grace and her husband Matt Cormons have worked together on SPARK since its inception. Both are trained and currently active scientists as well as experienced educators. Grace is a published authority on the endangered Roseate Tern; she has been studying these sea birds for many years on America’s East Coast and the coasts of South America and the Azores. Matt, an artist with a Master’s degree in animal behavior, is also involved with tern research. He also serves as naturalist, photographer, illustrator and writer for SPARK and is the creator of SPARK’s mascot, Sparky the crab.
Maureen Dooley helped made SPARK possible with her input, encouragement and grant writing. She is co-author of most of the SPARK books, and has given presentations about SPARK around the U.S. as well as in Cuba, China, Argentina and Germany.
Donna Satterlee, Lecturer at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, has helped with SPARK almost from the beginning, lending her expertise on child development, brainstorming about new directions for SPARK, and coming up with creative and thought provoking activities for many of our FLFF events. Her doctoral dissertation documents the positive impact of SPARK on many of the families who participated in the early years.
Jacqueline Craft’s expertise with layout enabled us to do the books and put together the activity packets. The program could not work at all without our wonderful SPARK coordinators, whose enthusiasm and dedication is so important as they recruit and distribute packets at the schools and assist with FLFF events. Countless other people and organizations help with SPARK. We are very grateful to everyone for their assistance.
A comprehensive article on SPARK, written by Donna Satterlee and Grace Cormons, appeared in the special nature issue of YC young children (January 2008), the peer-reviewed Journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The article was reprinted in the NAEYC book: Spotlight on Young Children and Nature.
In 2014 Chincoteague Bay Field Station formally took SPARK under its umbrella of family-based programming.