San Diego State University

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The Birthplace of SPARK


grandfathers of SPARK

Thom McKenzie and Jim Sallis – Grandfathers of SPARK

SPARK (Sports, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids) was co-founded by Dr. Jim Sallis (Professor Emeritus, SDSU Psychology; website and Dr. Thom McKenzie (Professor Emeritus, ENS; website in 1989.

SPARK elementary and middle school physical education and physical activity programs were originally developed through a series of grants to San Diego State University by the Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health ($4.3 million [direct] plus $2.2 million [indirect] over 12 years). Since then SPARK has grown to be an internationally recognized brand that represents a collection of exemplary, research-based, physical education and physical activity programs that emphasize a highly active curriculum, on-site staff development, and follow-up support. As one of the most-ever studied school-based physical activity programs, SPARK serves both as a curriculum and instruction model and as a model for research dissemination.

Paul Rosengard

Paul Rosengard

In 1993, an enterprise was established within the SDSU Research Foundation to disseminate SPARK on a non-profit basis. Paul Rosengard, a 1977 SDSU Physical Education (now ENS) graduate, joined SPARK in 1990 and served in various key roles including Lead Teacher, Intervention Director, and lead writer of many of the SPARK books. He was also primarily responsible for the successful development of the dissemination program and was the SPARK Executive Director from 1993-2015.

SPARK now disseminates evidence-based PE programs for K-12 as well as after-school, early childhood, classroom and recess physical activity, and coordinated school programs. Royalties from the dissemination continue to generate funds for SDSU programs.

For additional information on SPARK, see the SPARK website ( and read The SPARK Programs: A Public Health Model of Physical Education Research and Dissemination” (McKenzie, Sallis, Rosengard, & Ballard, 2016. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 35, 381-389.