Bring research-based STEM programming to your students—for free—by participating in the Michael W. Neden Emerging Engineers Program

19 amazing elementary schools in San Diego County have already joined the Emerging Engineers Program and, thanks to The Thomas C. Ackerman Foundation and Cox Charities, Kid Spark Education is able to invite an additional 4 schools to participate in the program this Spring (valued at $13,000 per school).

Read on to learn more about Kid Spark and how you can participate, or skip down to the application.

About the Kid Spark Elementary Program

Help your preK-5 students build critical 21st century skills with research-based, hands-on STEM learning.

Elementary school educators tell us over and over again that what they really need is TIME, especially for planning and professional development. They also tell us that that while they'd love to bring more STEM into their classrooms, they don't always know where to start or how to make the learning meaningful.

We get it! That's why we've spent the past decade researching and developing our applied STEM education program—and made sure that you have everything you need to get started right away, no specialized STEM background required.

Our program includes:

  • a progressive, applied-learning preK-8 curriculum with teacher lesson plans, student workbooks, design challenges, and an evaluation rubric
  • robust and reusable engineering and building materials (Mobile STEM Labs)
  • professional learning opportunities that meet your specific needs, from self-paced online learning to on-site trainings
  • no annual participation fees

The Kid Spark Elementary Program impacts students and teachers in the following ways:

  • Elementary-school-aged children, especially girls, report a dramatic increase in how much they like or love engineering after they go through a Kid Spark program.
  • Teachers using Kid Spark programs report their students substantially increase their understanding of STEM concepts and show increases in curiosity and creativity.
  • Teachers report significant increases in their own comfort with teaching STEM, including physics and engineering concepts.










2018 Website Icons-45

Kid Spark


2018 Website Icons-45



2018 Website Icons-52



2018 Website Icons-50

Mobile STEM

“I’m in my second year of teaching engineering concepts with Kid Spark to kindergartners. I am amazed at how easily the students learn and start applying math, science and engineering concepts with Kid Spark. Since the concepts are taught in the context of designing, building and improving various types of structures, students are motivated to apply these concepts immediately in order to improve their creations. Everyone is engaged and everyone improves his/her knowledge about designing strong and useful structures.”

-Lisa Schifrin
Teacher at Chollas Mead Elementary School, San Diego, CA

Kid Spark STEM Elementary Program Curriculum

The elementary program covers the first two phases of our preK-8th grade curriculum. As your students progress through the STEM lessons, they engage in key engineering practices that include gathering information, explaining how things work, problem-solving, and critical thinking.



Foundational Fluencies

Educators mentor students to develop foundational capacities prerequisite to all STEM learning, like spatial reasoning, problem-solving, and symbolization. While many students learn these fluencies at home, this phase helps fill in critical gaps that may exist, especially for underserved students.


Foundational Fluencies

Units of Instruction

  • It's All About the Blocks
  • I Am an Engineer
  • Is it Strong?
  • Does it Move?


STEM Fundamentals

Students begin exploring important STEM topics such as applied mathematics, mechanical engineering, and robotics. Students focus on intuitive STEM concepts like how to make things strong and how to make things move. As a result, kids gain confidence in their ability to use technology to design solutions to problems. 

STEM Fundamentals

Units of Instruction

  • Engineering Basics
  • Mechanisms & Movement
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Robotics - 101
  • Robotics - Exploring Sensors
View Elementary Curriculum

Kid Spark STEM programs teach the practices and cross-cutting concepts used for all scientific learning as prescribed in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).


Meet the Mobile STEM Labs

Goodbye, popsicle sticks! Kid Spark's robust and reusable labs are organized and unintimidating; the larger scale elements allow for collaborative learning. The entire preK-8 curriculum can be taught using the same two labs (one per 4 students) year after year, across grade levels and topics. Labs can be stacked on top of one another and simply rolled from one classroom to another.


ROK Blocks - Hero Vert Edit (KSE Edit) v.2.1 SQ Crop

Supports the preK-5th grade curriculum.

Early lessons focus on foundational STEM literacies that include reading step-by-step instructions, symbolization, measuring, patterns, and symmetry. Students then transition into more challenging concepts like how to make things move, how to make things strong, and the design and engineering cycle.


Prog. Robotics - Hero (KSE Edit) [Square]

Supports the 3-8th grade curriculum.

Students build upon what they've learned to explore more technical, less intuitive concepts. Later lessons focus on mechanisms and movement, applied mathematics (including common core standards), programmable robotics, simple and compound machines, and rapid prototyping and 3D printing. 










Any caring educator can teach elementary STEM

We'll help you get there with training and support 

Many general education teachers have some hesitations about teaching STEM, especially if they don't have specialized training. But with Kid Spark, any teacher can master what it takes to become a STEM mentor.

When you participate in the Emerging Engineers Program, Kid Spark will help you develop your capacities as a STEM mentor in the following ways:

  • A one-day, seven hour hands-on training (including planning time!) led by Kid Spark staff
  • 24/7 access to self-paced, online learning modules
  • Check-ins with Kid Spark staff throughout the year
  • Professional development resources sent to your email address for continued learning

We'll give you what you need to be successful

  • 8 ROK Blocks and 8 Engineering Pathways Mobile STEM labs (6 sets stacked on rolling bases) to serve up to 32 students at one time
  • 7 hours of hands-on training by Kid Spark staff
  • A sample lesson plan schedule
  • 24/7 access to Kid Spark’s online curriculum and professional learning library
  • Regular support from the Kid Spark staff
  • A stipend for teachers who help to evaluate the program (including completing occasional surveys and an end-of-project focus group)
180919_KS-Shot-4_13v2-Final (Original)

Thanks to generous philanthropic partners, these resources are available at no cost to participating schools (valued at $13,000 per school).

The Emerging Engineers Project Timeline

Fall 2019 Cohort

  • July 15 – Applications due  
  • August/September – Teacher trainings
  • September – Teachers begin using the program in their classrooms

Spring 2020 Cohort

  • March 1 – Applications due
  • April/May – Teacher trainings and planning time
  • September – Refresher trainings; teachers begin using the program in their classrooms

Teacher buy-in is critical to the success of the project. We're happy to attend a school staff meeting to give a 20-minute hands-on demo and answer any questions teachers might have—please contact Clarissa Dieck at to arrange a demonstration date/time. Once your school decides you want to participate and you meet the qualifications listed below, your school can submit a brief application, located at the bottom of this page. 

Below are the Emerging Engineers Program eligibility requirements:

  • Be publicly funded and located in San Diego County.
  • Provide a space to store the Mobile STEM labs (6 lab sets, each with an 18”x18” footprint).
  • Identify at least one teacher in three consecutive grade levels (e.g. K-2 or 3-5) or multiple teachers in multiple grade levels (e.g. all 2nd grade and 3rd grade teachers) who are committed to implementing the program. Teacher buy-in is critical for your school's success with this program. Please don't list teacher names without getting buy-in from them first.
  • Ensure all participating teachers go through 7 hours of on-site training led by Kid Spark trainers. Depending on location and timing, this training would occur at the school or in conjunction with another local school.
  • Cover the cost of substitute teachers during teacher training. (We have a small amount of funding set aside for substitute teachers; if you have concerns over your ability to participate due to the cost of substitutes, please contact Jena Olson at
  • Allow a small team of Kid Spark researchers to conduct occasional teacher surveys and interviews, as well as do at least one classroom observation during the year. Teachers who participate in the evaluation process will receive a small stipend.
  • Submit an application by March 1 to participate in the project.

Preference will be given to schools receiving Title 1 funds but all schools are encouraged to apply.

Still have questions? Please contact Jena Olson at

Ready to apply?

Fill out the Emerging Engineers Application Form below and we'll be in touch shortly!