SPARK Academy for STEM Education is an innovative program and product of Athens City Schools.

SPARK (Scientific, Project-based, Academic Research by Kids) puts science first in the curriculum. Building on a foundation of non-fiction reading and literature, students spend the day exploring science, technology, engineering, and mathematical (STEM) skills while using the latest technologies.

spark-kids-outsideSTEM is an acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Students have experiences in each of these disciplines in the classroom and in the SPARK Lab and Maker Space.

SPARK Academy opened in fall 2016. The program currently serves Kindergarten through second grade. SPARK is housed within Cowart Elementary.

James L. Cowart Elementary, home of SPARK Academy

Due to significantly increased interest in the program, SPARK Academy is expanding in 2017-2018 school year. Beginning in the fall of 2017, SPARK will include Kindergarten through fourth grade classes. The program location will remain at Cowart for the 2017-2018 school year.

Jennifer Kennedy

Jennifer Kennedy is the program director for SPARK Academy. Kennedy is a former gifted teacher with Athens City Schools.

“The goal of SPARK is to ignite a passion for discovery. The SPARK Academy vision is to develop students who are excited and confident about entering advanced STEM courses as they grow in our school system.” – Jennifer Kennedy, SPARK Academy program director

A typical elementary classroom across the State of Alabama is primarily focused on reading and mathematics. On average, students receive 30 minutes of science instruction 2-3 times per week. At SPARK, the curriculum is presented differently.406

SPARK Academy is different by design. While teaching students the important skills required in every elementary classroom in our school system, teachers at SPARK do so through the lens of science. Science drives the curriculum. When students write, they write about science.  When reading, they read about science. Students spend their days exploring science, math, and engineering by engaging in hands-on activities and experiments. Classrooms at SPARK are active, collaborative and engaging. They require students to work in teams, to design, to question, to create and to problem solve.

spark-kidsThe ultimate goal of SPARK is no different than any other school in Athens – to teach students the basic skills they need at each grade level so they can be successful throughout school and in life. The difference is the way in which the curriculum is taught.  This difference is what is celebrated at SPARK Academy.

Given the changing climate in public education, Athens City Schools is taking the initiative and meeting the challenge of providing school choice within the existing public education framework through programs like SPARK Academy. The school system believes that parents and students are well served  by the choices made available through both the traditional classroom and the innovative programs in the district. ACS believes in the merits of choice and the subsequent strengthening of our schools through the embrace of progressive options offered to our students and community.

SPARK Academy will begin accepting applications for the 2017-2018 school year beginning February 6, 2017. Enrollment is open to all students in Athens City Schools entering Kindergarten through fourth grade. Selections will be made by weighted lottery. Students will be notified in late spring of acceptance. Applications are available at the Board of Education central office on Highway 31 North or online at:



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