Philanthropy education and service-learning are two important pieces in the puzzle of life. Both add to the innate desire to find one's "spark" and build self-efficacy, empathy for others, and confidence in one's ability to do something to make a difference in the world.  

In this TED talk by Peter L. Benson, president and CEO of Minneapolis-based Search Institute and author and editor of more than a dozen books on child and adolescent development and social change, Benson shares the importance of conversations about kids' "spark". After watching this video, Learning to Give felt compelled to share the concept of "spark" and ideas for incorporating "spark" discussions in the classroom.

Learning to Give lessons are poised to help students identify and develop their spark. Your spark is what makes you thrive. But what is it? How do you find it? How do you help your students find theirs? What do you do to nurture it?  

Start by asking yourself, and your students, these three simple questions: 

  1. What gets you up in the morning eager to take on the day? 
  2. What gives you joy and energy?  
  3. What is that thing in your life that gives you hope and purpose?  

“You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.”  ― Oprah Winfrey 

The above questions may seem difficult to answer at first, but in time, with thought and self-reflection, the answers will come.  

Developing and nurturing one's spark is the result of a three-part formula. First, you have to know your spark. Second, you need three champions (family, school, community) who help you develop your spark. Third, you must have the opportunity and the freedom to develop your spark. When students follow this formula, they not only find their spark, they thrive with it and experience school success, engagement, compassion and a sense of purpose.   

The role of education is to develop well rounded, knowledgeable, community-oriented citizens. This is why finding and nurturing one's spark is key. A spark is good and useful to the individual and the world. The world is in need of individuals who find their spark and make a positive impact.  

In most cases, innovation comes from a spark; a lightbulb moment, an experience, or years of research and reflection. With innovation comes change. With change, our communities become more inclusive, accepting, tolerant, happy places.  

It isn't enough to simply know about one's spark, each of us should learn to understand it.  

At Learning to Give, developing and nurturing one's spark is built-in to the philanthropy themes of giving time, talent, or treasure for the common good. Lessons speak to philanthropy standards from defining philanthropy, to understand philanthropy's role in government and business, to the role of the civil sector, foundations, and nonprofit organizations. With this framework, students are able to connect the "what" with the "why" and infuse their own passions and skills (spark!) into service-learning projects that help meet needs in their communities.  

This TED talk shares the importance of conversations about kids' spark. This video is worth a watch as a whole class. After the video clip, ask your students to partner up and discuss their spark using the prompts above. Then, follow up another day later in their year with additional spark questions: What is your spark? Did it change? How do you express it? Who knows about it? What gets in the way of you sharing your spark? How can others help? As sharing and reflection are often vulnerable experiences, be prepared to share your spark with your students!  

An individual's spark illuminates their life and the lives of those they come into contact with day in and day out. Spark helps to define who we are and gives us the confidence to be givers and doers for the common good. Learning to Give is poised to help you as educators inspire and encourage your students to find - and live - their spark. 

Try this handout to lead discussion and help your students identify and nurture their own spark!