Tier Three Winner

Shore People Advancing Readiness For Knowledge

Chincoteague Bay Field Station

SPARK is an innovative family learning program that seeks to introduce children and their families to nature and environmental issues, encourages learning outside of the classroom, and fosters positive learning interactions between parents and children through an intergenerational and scaffolded approach to E-STEM learning.

Judges Comment

“The judging panel was extremely impressed with SPARK’s commitment to family engagement with nature learning experiences. The program, the panel pointed out, successfully supports intergenerational learning by encouraging parents to act as mentors to the children, equipping them with the skills to facilitate inquiry and exploration. Judges also appreciated that SPARK scaffolds participants’ experiences as they progress from early learning experiences starting at 5 years old, through middle school when they feel like skilled problem-solvers. Judges highlighted the program’s clear commitment to reaching audiences with limited access to environmental learning experiences. They agreed that SPARK’s ability to provide rides and do direct outreach in a community where many people do not have email or Internet access is a critical skill in resourcefully achieving the program mission. Finally, judges were inspired by how SPARK programming is driven by community need. The program, they pointed out, encourages and supports participants in seeking higher education and helps them build career skills in Accomack County, VA, an area with high unemployment and school dropout rates. Importantly, judges were excited that the SPARK programs focus on citizen science in the local environment and has identified important environmental concerns in that area, directing engagement toward addressing those challenges.”