Bridging the Bay – Fall 2017!

Come join us on Saturday, November 4 for the 9th Annual Bridging the Bay conference at Chabot College. To register, click here.

Eva will be hosting: “You Can’t Teach the Head if You Haven’t Captured the Heart.”
A large part of SEL centers on a young person’s ability to identify their own strengths and areas for growth. Allowing youth (and the staff who work with them) space and time to explore how they can expand their SEL skill set is an essential form of Youth Voice and Leadership – the two go directly hand-in-hand. Participants will use Spark Decks’ “Building Social and Emotional Skills” deck to develop ideas for encouraging staff and youth skill development in areas such as Growth Mindset, Interpersonal Skills, Social Awareness, Self-Management, and Self-Awareness, and will create a plan for bringing what they have learned back to their programs.

Oscar will be hosting:  “Creating a Space where Deep Conversations Thrive.”
In this workshop we will share and model a variety of strategies and practices that staff can use to encourage deep and meaningful thought and reflection and promote conversations in all youth, not just those that are more extroverted or have a stronger command of the English language. Using the Spark Deck philosophy of ongoing reflection and modification, we encourage staff to explore their own creativity and leadership, a prerequisite for bringing these qualities into the classroom.


2017-2018 Spark Decks Workshop Schedule!

Spark Decks is thrilled to announce that we are offering a dozen workshops through San Francisco’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families’ (DCYF) Technical Assistance and Professional Development initiative.  Here is what we are offering along with links to register!  (For a complete list of DCYF workshops, click here).

Self Care for Youth Serving Professionals
Is stress getting you down, making you sick, affecting your sleep? In this workshop, participants will learn and share techniques for self-care, including strategies for alleviating stress, handling tense situations, and creating a work-life environment that is balanced and sustainable.

As with all Spark Decks workshops, this session will focus on the process of innovating new ideas from a “spark” and reflecting and modifying activities each time they are implemented. In this way, learning-on-the job and the continuous quality improvement cycle are embedded into the workshop.

October 5 (click here to register)
November 2 (click here to register)
January 18 (registration link will be available a month before the workshop)

Spark Decks Math Cohort: Creating a Math-ful Environment
Yes, math can be a >blast< and in this hands-on series of workshops, we’re going to prove it! Staff will learn how to put the latest theories in math instruction to use in creating and facilitating quick, fun, daily math activities. In addition, participants will learn how to support staff and parents/caregivers in thinking more math-fully and will create an action plan for making math happen all the time.

We’ll explore and practice games that help young people build skills in:  Counting and Cardinality; Operations and Algebraic Thinking; Measurement and Data; and Geometry.  And we’ll teach a simple process that will enable staff to improve and evolve math activities so they never get stale.

As with all Spark Decks workshops, this series will focus on the process of innovating new ideas from a “spark” and reflecting and modifying activities each time they are implemented.  In this way, learning-on-the job and the continuous quality improvement cycle are embedded into the workshop.

To apply, click here.

When:  (registration links for individual workshops will be available a month before each workshop)
October 19 (postponed)
November 9
January 11
February 8

Spark Decks SEL Workshop Series: Creating Environments that Nurture Social and Emotional Learning
Come to explore activities that build Social and Emotional Learning skills in yourself – then transfer them to your programs!  We’ll cover Growth Mindset, Interpersonal Skills, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Self-Awareness/Efficacy, which are closely aligned to SFUSD’s four core SEL skill areas.  Although these are offered as stand-alone workshops, participants are encouraged to attend all three in the series.

As with all Spark Decks workshops, this series will focus on the process of innovating new ideas from a “spark” and reflecting and modifying activities each time they are implemented.  In this way, learning-on-the job and the continuous quality improvement cycle are embedded into the workshop.

When:  (registration links will be available a month before each workshop)
January 25 – Workshop 1:  Creating Welcoming Environments that Support Social and Emotional Skill Development
In this workshop, participants will explore how to create a welcoming environment to help their youth build strong social awareness skills that result in community building, belonging and inclusivity.  

February 15 – Workshop 2:  Designing and Facilitating Activities that Build Social and Emotional Skills
In this workshop, participants will learn how to develop activities that emphasize goal setting, problem solving and teamwork, so that youth learn and practice SEL skills while improving their academic skills.

March 15 – Workshop 3:  Using Reflection to Grow Social and Emotional Skills
In this workshop, participants will explore how integrating reflection activities helps youth deepen their self-awareness and their ability to learn from mistakes, and fosters a growth mindset that allows them to take risks and move past their frustration point.

Facilitation 101 – An Introduction to Adult Learning and Facilitating Engaging Experiences
In this training we’ll explore how to facilitate meetings and trainings that engage their audience and help learners retain and integrate what is covered into their daily practice.

Adult learning theory has come a long way in helping us to understand how adults (and youth) learn. In this hands-on workshop participants will have a chance to practice how to open and end a meeting or activity, and ways to scaffold and support participants in the “meat” of the training to activate their own knowledge and integrate new ideas into their existing mental framework.

These concepts and practices have a deep impact on adult learning, but they also have relevance in how we facilitate lessons and activities for children and youth.

This workshop is for anyone who wants to improve their skills at facilitating meetings, trainings, lessons, and activities.

November 16 (click here to register)
February 14

It’s Time to Take Care of YOU!

Working with youth is not always easy.  When the the day is over – even the super fun days – we often feel worried, grumpy, or just plain exhausted.

The problem is, staff who are perpetually tired and stressed are more likely to get sick, be absent, or experience burnout.  We have all been there.

It is for this reason that we announce the release of our newest deck, “Self Care for Youth-Serving Professionals.”  It is time to take care of ourselves.  First of all because we deserve to be taken care of, and secondly, because it is only once WE are taken care of that we can truly be our best for the youth we work with.

So take the time for YOU.  Visit to learn more.

A Letter from Eva

As many of you know, last August I moved with my husband and two small boys (they were only 2 and 5 when we left!) to the middle of China.  We had accepted teaching positions at Yangtze Normal University, on the outskirts of a small suburb in Chongqing, where we taught English and American Culture courses to classes almost exclusively consisting of first-generation college students.

We had the most incredible time getting to know the students and professors, exploring the food and popular landmarks, and generally immersing ourselves in a place that was so far from home.  We had a fantastic year.

While we were busy teaching, our two boys attended the local public “kindergarten.”  In China, this is analogous to what we call “preschool” for children ages 3-6 in the U.S.  It is not mandatory, but it is popular.

The thing is, because of where we were, our children were the first foreign students to ever attend the school.  And, for many of the people at the school, the first foreign children anyone had had contact with.

I received my teaching credential here in California.  For those of you who hold a credential, you know that you are required to take a class on working with English Language Learners in order to become a teacher in this state.

How I had taken that for granted!

While my boys’ teachers clearly loved them, they had no training in how to help them.  After a few rocky weeks, on his own, my older son, who is especially outgoing, began to make friends in his class, eventually picking up basic communication skills, and, by the end of the year, becoming proficient in Mandarin. When it was time to return to the U.S., he didn’t want to leave his classmates and teachers behind.

Our younger son, however, did not thrive.  Without any language support at school, he became more and more withdrawn.  He fought us about going to school each morning, cried when we left him there, and participated less and less in classroom activities.  He insisted he couldn’t understand or speak Mandarin, and, frankly, I’m not sure if he could because he almost never did in my presence.  It was heartbreaking to experience.

As for me, I was always a little panicked.  I neglected to pick the children up on time on early release days because I hadn’t understood the notice.  I sat, not understanding a single thing, through many parent meetings.  I watched the other parents chat and laugh at pick-up while I hung back and smiled mutely.  Basically, it was awful.  I was perpetually lost and confused and felt like I was failing.

Teaching English in China this past year was not the first time I had taught English abroad.  But it was the first time I had done so while also being a parent.  And that was eye-opening.  And humbling.  There are many systems in place in our schools in the U.S. to help students and caregivers who cannot speak English, but suddenly I was keenly aware at how much more of an effort I could have been making all these years.

And so we put together our Supporting English Language Learners deck; because I want to make it my business to offer support to students and families in ways that were helpful to me, not only in the classroom as a teacher, but also as a parent.  I need to pay it forward to all of the people who invited us over for play dates, sat next to me to take notes during meetings, and made an effort to speak to me in slow, simple Chinese, or shy English, so that my family felt welcomed at school.

Oscar and I truly believe this is our most important deck yet.  It combines activities with strategies, creating a springboard for transforming your program so that language is not a barrier, but an opportunity.

We hope you will check the deck out and consider bringing us in for a workshop with your staff.  We also plan to hold several training-of-trainers sessions on this, and some of our other decks, this year.  We will let you know more details as soon as they are finalized.

If you’ve read this far, THANK YOU!  I have no doubt many of you have your own stories to share along these lines, and I look forward to hearing from you.

As always, we thank you for your business and support!

If you’d like to read more about our trip to China, you can read our blog:

Hello from China!

Did you know that Spark Decks co-founder Eva Jo Meyers is spending this year teaching at Yangtze Normal University in China? We caught up with Eva during her lunch break.

Spark Decks:  What are you teaching?

Eva:  I’m teaching three sections of “American Culture” to English Education majors.  These are students who will go on to become English teachers when they graduate.  The class is about schools and teaching in the US and is a lot of fun.  For one of our projects we have become pen pals with a group of high school students in San Francisco to help us learn more about what schools are really like in America.  I am also teaching two sections of  “Speaking and Listening” to non-English majors who want to improve their ability to converse in English.  We have covered several themes thus far this semester including weird American Festivals (do you know about Frozen Dead Guy Days?), regional cuisines (Gumbo!  New England Clam Chowder!  Cheese Steak!) and sports (lots of NBA fans here).

Spark Decks:  What is your favorite part of living in China?

Eva:  The food! YZNU is located in Chongqing municipality, which was formally part of Sichuan province.  The specialty here is hotpot, and it is hot hot hot.  Actually, everything is really spicy here.  The area is also famous for its pickled mustard tuber, which is delicious and crunchy.  I’m a big fan of pickled vegetables, and they put them into many of the dishes, so I’m very happy about that.  They also eat a lot of (spicy) noodle soups.  In fact, that’s what I had for breakfast!

Spark Decks:  What has been the most challenging part of living in China?

Eva:  The language.  I only understand about 5% of what is going on around me at any given moment.  I feel like I am walking in a bubble.  I am learning Mandarin, but most people here speak the local dialect, which is hard for even Mandarin speakers to understand.  I have a textbook and a tutor, so hopefully in a few more months I will be better able to communicate.  For now, it is all about the dictionary app on my phone, which I use any time I am trying to find something at the grocery store, order at a restaurant, or figure out how to get someplace.  It’s pretty hilarious actually.  I’ve had full conversations with people just showing each other translated sentences on our phones!

Spark Decks:  Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Eva:  My children are attending the local public school here, and it has given me a taste for what it must be like for so many of our students in the US who have recently arrived from other countries.  The other day, school ended early, but we didn’t know because we can’t read Chinese, so when we went to pick them up, they were sitting there by themselves waiting for us.  They don’t really like the food at school because it so different from what they are used to.  And in the beginning they were having trouble making friends because they can barely speak Chinese.  Of course, we can’t even start to help them with their homework.  I think this move has been far more difficult for them than it has been for me.  I’m thinking it might be useful to create a Spark Deck with activities designed to help recent immigrants adjust to school in a new country.  If you have ideas, please let me know!

Fall 2015 Promotion!

We are excited to announce that we have released two new decks:  Building Social and Emotional Skills and Reflection Prompts for Youth!

Once again, you spoke and we listened!

“Building Social and Emotional Skills” cards offer a variety of techniques and activities to build and support those personal qualities that lead to goal setting, planning, perseverance and teamwork.

The “Reflection Prompts for Youth” deck offers a variety of questions to encourage youth to reflect and share.  There are many ways to use this deck, including quick writes, circle time, or partner talks.

And, right now, if you buy both decks, you will receive a 20% discount!  Buy both for just $40 by clicking here.

Start the School Year off with a Deal!

From now until September 30, 2015, receive a free hour of in-person introductory training from a Spark Decks trainer when you order 10 Spark Decks!

What can we do in an hour?
We will tailor the workshop to cover the topic of a specific deck, or do a general overview training on how to use Spark Decks as a professional development tool.

Workshop topics include:
–       Sparks for Common Core Language Arts
–       Sparks for Common Core Math
–       Sparks for Positive Behavior Guidance
–       Sparks for Staff Development

That means that for $250, you get 10 decks AND an hour of professional development at your site! Plus, additional decks will be offered to you at a discounted rate.

Send us an email and we can talk about options for your FREE workshop. and

Happy End of School!

Thank you to everyone who made this year’s launch of Spark Decks such a success!  In June alone we sold almost 300 decks and did a ton of trainings for sites across the Bay Area.  We couldn’t be happier to be helping support all of the great work you are doing with youth.

We are excited to announce that we have two new decks in the works, and will be making these available for the start of the school year.  Stay tuned for more details and have a great summer!

Bridging the Bay

Oscar and Eva will be presenting on Saturday, January 31st at the Bridging the Bay conference in Oakland, CA.  Come check out our workshops on Common Core, Math, Supporting Staff, and many other useful topics.  For more information or to register, click here.


New Year’s Promotion!

To celebrate the New Year and to introduce Spark Decks to as many programs as possible, we are offering a special combination package for programs in the San Francisco Bay Area: When you buy 10 Spark Decks (mix and match!) we’ll throw in a one-hour training for you or your staff at no extra cost!

For example, buy five each of our Common Core Math and Literacy Decks, and you’ll have over 100 easy-to-implement activities that support the Common Core, and we can visit your program to provide an introduction to the Common Core and practice fun ways to use the decks.

Learn more about this special opportunity by checking out our promotional flyer.
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