SparkShop is a nonprofit that builds free engineering curriculum for Chicago elementary schools that serve low-income and minority students. Their goal is to introduce students to the dynamic opportunities in STEM and equip them with the confidence and knowledge they need to succeed. SparkShop’s activities are aligned to educational standards (NGSS, CCSS & SEL), making high-quality STEM easy for teachers to incorporate. This school year, 1,034 students at 16 schools are receiving a full year of engineering curriculum!

In October 2020, a principal from an elementary school in Bridgeport emailed SparkShop and asked if they could teach at her school. On the phone, she told them that SparkShop was their only option to teach science to their remote learners. Many of SparkShop’s partner schools struggle to afford formal science curricula. Even from schools with purchased curricula, teachers reported feeling unsupported, especially with remote learning. This inaccessibility creates massive inequality in STEM opportunities for youth.

Equity and access are SparkShop’s priorities. Their in-school programming includes all students, and the school supply kits ensure that students have everything they need to participate. When students study engineering, they learn technical topics like math and science along with social-emotional skills like resilience, empathy building, clear communication, and teamwork. Designed as a supplement to core curriculum, SparkShop’s lessons are hands-on enrichment that gets students off of their computer screens and away from workbooks. Their curriculum is interdisciplinary, integrating literacy, arts, and history into engineering design challenges that create deep experiential learning.

Since partnering with PCA Chicago in 2019, SparkShop has grown significantly! Their program includes 7x more content for kids, with deeper support for schools and teachers. Their team has grown from the two co-founders, Shonali Ditz and Tiernan Murrell, to include 3 more full-time staff members. Throughout this year’s partnership, SparkShop will work with the PCA to engage members and fundraise for a brand new program: a youth leadership program for high-school aged SparkShop alumni. Students will participate in a paid fellowship where they will work for Sparkshop, apply design thinking to community engagement, and develop leadership skills. 

To make a donation to SparkShop, click here.

If you would like to participate in Sparkshop volunteer events and activities, click here to complete their volunteer form and you will be put on their mailing list to be sent information about upcoming events.