Background/Purpose There has been wide recognition in the important role that school physical education can and should play in addressing public health goals. Research on the development of SPARK (Sports, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids) was initiated in 1989 in response to a public health need for a model evidence-based physical education program.
Method Initial research consisted of a 7-year NIH grant for an elementary school program and a 5-year NIH grant for a middle school program. Other studies followed. Primary intervention components include an active PE curriculum, staff development, and follow-up support. These were led by multidisciplinary teams of individuals particularly familiar with research, the physical education profession, the preparation of teachers, and how schools operate. Thus, rather than an after-thought, SPARK was intentionally developed for generalizability and dissemination.
Analysis/Results SPARK research has resulted in over 40 peer-reviewed publications. Outcome variables have included student physical fitness, motor skills, physical activity, self-management tactics, academic achievement, and liking for the curriculum. Additional study variables included teacher attitudes and behavior, lesson length and frequency, lesson context, and program maintenance. SPARK studies provide the much needed evidence that physical education programs can contribute meaningfully to public health goals without increasing instructional time. SPARK is disseminated nationally and internationally, and currently offers summer Institutes and provides over 500 staff development sessions per year.
Conclusions SPARK has been disseminating programs and affecting school, district, and state policies since 1994. It provides a successful model of collaboration among university, public school, and private sector personnel.
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