Keeping the SPARC Lit

Since 2020, groups of Grade 10 students have participated in the Student Participatory Action Research Collaborative (SPARC), a research consortium that mobilizes student insights and voices to improve school culture, policy and practice. Students work throughout the year to establish a research focus, field a research study, and put forward recommendations to address an issue. The SPARC group then travels to the University of Philadelphia each year to share their research findings through peer presentations and roundtable discussions. 

For the past two years, the work started by the Grade 10 students hasn’t ended with the school year. “These students are really connected to the projects that they develop, and they become invested in making the school better,” says Lisa Weldon, who is taking on the role of Teacher Librarian in September. 

Now in Grade 11, last year’s SPARC contingent is building on their work with the help of Challenge Success, an organization that helps schools and families create a more balanced and academically fulfilling life for their children. Arya Farhangdoost ’25 and his research group wanted to address brotherhood during the 2022/2023 school year. Today, he and his team are researching ways to reconnect the boys across Home Forms and grades with the guidance of a new research advisor. “He helped us to see how we could implement our ideas specifically at our school,” he says.

One cohort ahead of Farhangdoost, Hong Duc Cheng ’24 researched loneliness and belonging with his group in 2021/2022. They spent time developing and pitching ideas and now, in their final year at Crescent, they’ve created Grad Wisdom, a drop-in program where younger students can spend time with older students during their lunch period to share a snack and engage in conversation. “We invited younger students to talk about any problems they have,” he says. “Maybe you're struggling in math. Maybe you're frustrated at another student. It's very open.” Cheng says he was able to connect with many more students than he would have if the program had not existed. 

“It's good to have a student pilot project to see if we can actually tease something out and create the change that the students are seeking,” says Trish Cislak, Head of Libraries and Director of Research for the Crescent Centre for Boys' Education. “There is value to this kind of student engagement, to the boys seeing the lived experiences of their peers and knowing their voice is powerful. They learn that they can make changes not only for themselves but for the younger students as well. That gives them purpose and, for some kids, that’s a game changer.” Cislak’s long-term goal is to build a School Improvement Plan from the projects that come out of SPARC and Challenge Success that will evolve year after year to best fit the needs of the student body.