SPARK Talks Help Students Find Their Voice

 SPARK Do you have ideas on how to re-design cars to make them safer in crashes? Have you created a non-profit organization that’s been commended by the President of the United States? Do you know what it’s like to spend the first eleven years of your life blind, then receive technology that allows you to see?

These are a few of the topics discussed in the gifted and talented (GT) SPARK (Speaking Passionately About Real World Knowledge) Talks, a district-wide initiative to help students enhance their public speaking and research abilities.

Fifth-graders are asked to become an expert in a subject by researching and developing a TED-Talk inspired presentation. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading ideas in the form of short powerful speeches. Students at Cannon Elementary School presented their talks to each other in the classroom, on a small stage their teacher helped build for them.

Cannon Elementary student Emily Anderson was the first in her class to present her SPARK Talk. She spoke in-depth about her life experience: being blind, and the new technology that is allowing her to see clearly for the first time.

Emily and her mother found out about the eSight, a virtual reality headset that magnifies and clarifies vision, while doing research for her SPARK talk. Now that Emily is using eSight, she ended her talk saying the best part of her technology was being able to really see her family and friends clearly.  

“I want to be able to educate people about the eSight technology, and how it has impacted my life,” Emily said. “I feel like the SPARK talks helped prepare me to teach others about this invention.”

SPARK2 Another student, Arianna Ali, presented a SPARK talk about her non-profit organization, Anna’s Promise, which provides care packages to families in the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) at hospitals. Ali had the idea for her organization after her two youngest siblings had to spend time in the NICU.

“The NICU is a scary place for families,” Ali said. “I wanted to help the people who had to stay there.”

Ali sent in a letter to the White House to let the President and his administration know about the work she was doing, and received a letter back from the President congratulating  her on her accomplishments, and encouraging her to keep improving her community.

The SPARK talks have provided opportunities for students to fine tune their research skills, to learn how to put together a speech, and to perfect their public speaking, while being active members of their community.

Melanie Gable, a GT teacher at Cannon, appreciated the opportunity to see what topics her students were passionate about, and to observe how their project affected her students.

“Our SPARK talks have helped our students find and share their own voice,” Gable said. “With becoming an expert on a subject, they are learning how to be valuable contributors to society. Being a positive participant in their communities and being a global citizen is what LEAD 2021 is all about.”