UGI Supports S.P.A.R.K.S. Foundation Efforts in Hands-On Science Education
Imagine if children were excited about science instead of bored by the same old “experiment”—or worse, the dreaded worksheet. This curiosity and enthusiasm would improve literacy across subjects, could lead to a career in the sciences, and even benefit society at large. The proof is in the professors and engineers. Ask almost any scientist about their career and you’ll hear a tale about how a childhood investigation planted the seed of a life in science. With financial support from UGI, the S.P.A.R.K.S. Foundation is determined to germinate more of those seeds in our community.
“My fourth grade class had the pleasure of participating in the science assembly and hands-on classroom instruction. It was my first time seeing the science “magic” happen and watch my students’ reactions while they learned. Thank you for providing such a high quality, fast paced, child friendly program. UGI can feel proud to have sponsored this day!”
– Judy Martin, Teacher, Washington Elementary School
S.P.A.R.K.S. (“Science Projects are Really Kids’ Stuff”) adheres to the philosophy that science works best when students are engaged and stimulated with hands-on investigation. S.P.A.R.K.S.’s mission—“To provide quality, inquiry-based science programming to all children regardless of socio-economic status”—has attracted nationwide support in the form of donations and partnerships. The program has also contributed to a lift in student achievement levels. Due to the great success of S.P.A.R.K.S. in 2017 the Lancaster School District expanded the program into all 13 of its elementary schools!
UGI Utilities continues to provide financial support and employee volunteer time for S.P.A.R.K.S. Foundation programs. Specifically designed to create interest in science in class, throughout a child’s matriculation, and, eventually, in the development of a career. The support is one part of UGI‘s greater investment in STEM Education Programs throughout its 45 Pennsylvania county service area, and accounts in part for the more than $1 million UGI donates annually toward local education initiatives.
“S.P.A.R.K.S. is an innovative, hands-on science program that provides opportunities for children ages 4 to11 to become engaged in the wonders of science,” writes UGI’s Joseph Swope.
UGI‘s commitment goes well beyond financial support as employees at the utility company volunteer their personal time to spend the day in the classroom with the students. This opportunity often includes students learning about application of STEM-based application – another invaluable benefit of the program. Volunteers have already appeared in Price, Lafayette, Buchannan, Carter & Macrae and Ross Elementary Schools this year!
“My students had a tremendous learning experience when The SPARKS science staff came to my building (West Hazleton Elementary/Middle School). Thank you for funding this program and I can only hope it will continue for many years to come. Thank you for your support in allowing our students to achieve while sparking their interests in the sciences at the same time.”
– Daniel Corrado M.Ed, WHEMS 4th Science
The S.P.A.R.K.S. Foundation understands the challenges in creating interactive science curriculum for a large body of students. Most programs begin with a grade-level science assembly, where instructors introduce some of the magic behind science with larger-scale experiments. Captivated by the spectacle, volunteers then take smaller hands-on opportunities into the classroom.
The successful model works very well, according to Judy Martin, a teacher at Lancaster’s Washington Elementary School, who writes: “My fourth grade class had the pleasure of participating in the science assembly and hands-on classroom instruction. It was my first time seeing the science ‘magic’ happen and watching my students’ reactions while they learned. Thank you for providing such a high-quality, fast-paced, child-friendly program. UGI can feel proud to have sponsored this day!”
“On behalf of my fourth grade class from Carter & MacRae Elementary, a HUGE thank you for sponsoring the S.P.A.R.K.S. program visit to our school. What an awesome experience my students had today. From the ‘Tooling Around with Science’ assembly to the science workshop on “Matter Monsters” my students were actively engaged in the learning process. Both their interest in science and learning new scientific information was obvious. I wonder how many future scientists may have bloomed from the experience today!”
– Kristin Greenawalt, 4th grade teacher, Carter & MacRae
“Toying Around with Science” shows kids how applied physics and chemistry has led directly to the production of common toys like boomerangs, yo-yos, and kaleidoscopes. Far from filling out a survey, kids make their own toys, perfecting them through trial and error like young da Vincis.
“Because of you, now I think science is AMAZING!” writes Brian, a 4th grader. “Now I have so many questions like what chemicals are in the air, and can two chemicals turn into food, but the best question is ‘WHY IS SCIENCE SO AWESOME?!’ I loved the experiments you did with our class and loved energy assembly. Who knew you could take a leaf blower and turn it into a hoverboard?”
“Let’s Get Electrified” builds still more gadgets, harnessing electromagnetic energy to drive a motor or creating a signal buzzer for playing board games. “Loose in the Chem Lab” creates a zany environment where kids discover the colors that make candy so appealing or concoct a solution that shares both liquid and solid properties. These are just some of the classes that show science is cool, demystify subject matter and, ultimately, inspire curiosity and critical thinking in our kids.
Science literacy enhances literacy across academic subjects, allowing teachers to spiral Science Explorer curricula outward to increase imagination and learning, as demonstrated by 4th Grade teacher Marissa Lewis.
“On behalf of the faculty, staff and students of the Panther Valley Intermediate School, please accept our thanks and appreciation for the phenomenal science experience that was brought to our school on March 29, 2017. We are grateful to UGI Utilities for providing the finances to make this amazing program available to our students.”
– Lisa A. Mace, Principal, Panther Valley Intermediate School
“This year we decided to use our finished ‘Matter Monsters’ in a new way. Students took them home to add any other decorations and accessories and brought them back to school so we could write narratives with them. We decided to have students write about an adventure that they went on with their Matter Monsters. Students loved it and it was an awesome way to tie science and writing together! We appreciate all you do, and look forward to seeing you again next year!”
For a fifth year, Reading-based UGI is supporting S.P.A.R.K.S. Foundation science programs, an opportunity for kids to get excited about science at assemblies, in the classroom, in after-school classes, and during summer camp. After launching rockets and making slime, building motors and crafting kaleidoscopes, don’t be surprised if your children see a lab coat in their future.