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New Research on SPARK Middle School PE program Published!

By: Paul Rosengard, SPARK Godfather

Did you know today’s SPARK’s Middle School Physical Education curriculum and teacher training program evolved from the three largest studies of MS PE ever conducted? It’s true. The three National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research projects, M-SPAN (Middle School Physical Education and Nutrition), TAAG (Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls), and The Healthy Study contributed to the exemplary and award-winning program being disseminated today.

While the last of these studies concluded in 2010, middle schools across the country have partnered with local universities to conduct ongoing tests of the SPARK program and better understand its effects on students and teachers.

One such effort titled, “Effect of the SPARK Program on Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Endurance, and Motivation in Middle School Students” was recently published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health*. Several significant takeaways from this paper:

Background: This study examined the effect of a 9-week SPARK Middle School Physical Education program on physical activity levels, cardio-fitness, and motivation of 174 sixth through eighth grade students from two urban, private schools in Salt Lake City, Utah. This intervention group (using SPARK MS PE) was compared to other students in the same grades and schools who continued with their usual physical education program (Controls – referred to in the paper as Traditional group).

Measures: To ascertain student activity levels, students wore high-quality, research-validated pedometers. To determine their levels of cardio-fitness, students were administered the PACER test. To assess students’ motivation and enjoyment of the SPARK activities, they completed questionnaires (Sport Enjoyment Scale).

Results: Despite the very short intervention timeline, students participating in SPARK Middle School PE were more active, increased their cardio-fitness scores, and showed they were more motivated by the SPARK lessons and enjoyed them more than their “usual/traditional” PE program.

Here’s one interesting quote from the paper:

“The results from this study indicate that there were increases in-class PA for both the SPARK and Traditional groups from pre-test to post-test. However, the SPARK group had statistically greater increases on in-class PA compared with the Traditional group in younger children. These results support that SPARK, as an established health-related PE program, was significantly more effective in increasing middle school students’ in-class PA levels than the Traditional program in younger children.”

SPARK wishes to thank the authors, the University of Utah, and the participating schools and teachers for their time and subsequent contribution to the scientific knowledge base.

If your school is conducting research using any components of any SPARK program, please let us know via email, spark@sparkpe.org.

Ready to bring SPARK Middle School Physical Education to your school?

  • Click here to download free sample SPARK Middle School PE Lesson Plans
  • Click here to shop for SPARK Middle School PE curriculum sets
  • Click here to request a proposal for the full SPARK Middle School PE program (professional development training, curriculum, and content-alighted equipment)

*Article citation:

Fu, Y., Gao, Z., Hannon, J.C., Burns, R.D., Brusseau, T.A. (2016). Effect of the SPARK Program on Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Endurance, and Motivation in Middle-School Students. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 13, 534-542.

Click here to access the research article.

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