FireFish Arts
SPARKS! STEAM Youth Program

SPARKS! STEAM Youth Program

Transformational Power of the Arts!

Empowering youth to explore and transform their world through art and maker skill development, the SPARKS! program provides out-of-school arts and STEAM enrichment, encourages creativity, and offers leadership opportunities for youth in the City of Lorain.  Providing arts exposure and enrichment to Lorain’s youth, SPARKS! positively enhances everything from participant’s educational success to their development of 21st-century career skills.

Programs for youth in grades 3 – 8 focus on our city and the broader world around us, the cosmos, and dreams for the future. Our teen apprentice program incorporates those elements and emphasizes the development of leadership and entrepreneurship skills and 21st-century career skills including creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking.  The teens also have opportunities to create community public art for our downtown neighborhood and serve as mentors to younger youth.


SPARKS! Teen Apprentice Program

As they work on SPARKS! projects and in SPARKS! Programs a cohort of teens learn how to use design thinking and both traditional and maker space tools to bring their own art and designs to fruition. The teens also work as entrepreneurs as they create art and products that are available for sale at FireFish events to raise funds for SPARKS!

Projects include “memorial lanterns” and luminaries for the solar eclipse, 1924 Tornado Centennial Commemoration, and the FireFish Festival Parade. Teen apprentices also serve as mentors during summer Cosmic STEAM camps.


Equity & Access in SPARKS! STEAM Programs

The need in Lorain for arts and STEAM programs is great.

Recent economic data and the 2020 Census reveal the following:

  • More than 25% of the population lives below the poverty line.
  • The Lorain Latin community represents 26% of the city’s population and has a per capita income level of $19,500, $10,000 below their demographic’s national average.
  • Over 90% of youth enrolled in the Lorain City Schools live in households below the poverty line.

Importantly, SPARKS! offers informal and OOST art and arts educational experiences are critical for advancing lifelong engagement with the arts and STEAM. The recent After School Program Research Report finds that access to these very important informal learning opportunities varies widely across family income levels, just as school-based opportunities do. By the time they reach 6th grade, middle-class students have spent 6,000 more hours in learning activities outside school than students born into poverty – the youth this program targets. There are few if any STEAM out-of-school and informal learning opportunities available for this population.

Early access and exposure to STEAM and digital fabrication tools can also open doors to career awareness and readiness for 21st-century careers in advanced manufacturing.

SPARKS! programming works to address these gaps. Supported by research by the National Research Council (2015) states that Informal and OOST program design and activities are most effective when they intentionally connect with students’ formal arts/STEAM learning and are implemented within a broad community ecology and specific community context. SPARKS! programs and activities offer extended opportunities for important learning experiences for at-risk youth and their families in trusted neighborhood settings of project partners.