If you’ve been around Camp Fire for half a minute, you’ve heard about sparks. And you know we’re not just talking about fire-building skills. We’re talking about life-building passions that put kids on the path to truly thriving.

Sparks are talents, interests, commitments and qualities that give kids—and adults—energy and purpose.

Simply put, sparks are things you both love do to and want to do.

Sparks play a big role in the positive youth development movement. In the past decade, researchers with the Thrive Foundation for Youth, Search Institute and others have studied how kids discover, nurture and grow their sparks.

Kids at Camp Fire Heart of Oklahoma
Kids at Camp Fire Heart of Oklahoma

Let’s get a little technical. Sparks guru Dr. Peter L. Benson and Peter C. Scales write in the Encyclopedia of Adolescence (2011) that sparks can:
So what do American kids say their sparks are? The Search Institute has catalogued 200+ sparks reported by thousands of American teens. The most common categories of sparks are the arts (54 percent of kids name a creative spark), learning, reading, athletics and volunteering.

  • Be an inner passion, interest or talent that is central to a person’s identity.
  • Originate from inside a person, rather than being imposed from the outside.
  • Be a source of intrinsic motivation, meaning and self-directed action that can help drive young people forth in other areas.

But the full list is long, varied and always expanding. From telling jokes to creating business plans to peacemaking to studying sacred books…anything can be a spark. If it gives a kid big-time joy and drives them forward in life, it’s a spark.

Although 100 percent of teenagers want to have a life-changing spark (or two!), only 62 percent have identified that purposeful passion.

Camp Fire exists to help kids find their sparks—and help adults become Spark Champions for the kids we serve. It’s the very first step in our Thrive{ology} framework, developed with our fellow spark-advocates, the Thrive Foundation for Youth.

Do you know a kid who needs to find a spark? A kid whose spark needs a little fuel to grow? A kid who needs a few more Spark Champions in her life? Camp Fire has programs to help kids discover and develop their sparks all year long. Find one by you! #FindYourSpark