Evidence Based Practices

From Search Institute:

One key reason why some young people thrive and others do not can be described as “Sparks.” Sparks refers to the intrinsic interests, talents, and passions that young people have that motivate them to learn and contribute. Young people who know and nurture their sparks are more fully engaged in school and have other positive life outcomes. Adults who support the identification and development of personal sparks are also important since research shows that too many kids don’t get what they need to help them identify and nurture their sparks.* One national study shows that 15 year olds with high sparks are significantly more motivated to master what they study in school, work up their ability in school, have a sense of purpose and hope for their future. 

Sparks are applicable to promoting healthy development and academic success in grades 5-12



Scales, P.C., Finding the Student Spark: Missed Opportunities in School Engagement. Search Institute Insights & Evidence 5 (1). December  2010.

Teen Voice 2010: Relationships that Matter to America’s 15-Year-Olds, Peter C. Scales, Eugene C. Roehlkerpartain, and Peter L. Benson

Teen Voice 2009: The Untapped Strengths of 15-Year-Olds, Peter C. Scales, Eugene C. Roehlkeparain, and Peter L. Benson

Sparks: How Parents Can Help Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenageers, Peter L. Benson.

Search Institute website

Prevention matrix


State partners

Nebraska Children and Families Foundation

Nebraska Children grantee communities

Panhandle Partnership for Health and Human Services

Four middle schools in the Panhandle implemented Sparks with approximately 500 youth in the 2012-1013 fiscal year. Training was provided for 128 teachers, guidance counselors, mentors out-of school time staff and parents. 

Related strategies

Search Institute’s Developmental Assets

This is a framework of strengths and supports that is widely recognized for positive youth development. Other critical areas in the Search Institute’s framework are Developmental Relationships and Developmental Communities.

Center for the Study of Social Policy Youth Thrive framework. Five Factors in young people ages 11-26 that help mitigate or eliminate risk and promote healthy development and well-being. 

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