The Power to Choose

Spark Session 7: Week 2

Our central theme for morning launches this session is making choices. Spark heroes are at that magical age where kids realize that they can choose to act in a certain way. Activities and thought exercises that remind them of this ability and allow them to practice it are particularly engaging. They love to imagine themselves in a situation and speculate about what they would do.

The first book we read as part of this unit was entitled “What Should Danny Do?” In this choose-your-own-adventure-style book, a little boy named Danny—a self-described “superhero in training”—encounters various problems throughout his day. For each one, the reader gets to choose between a good choice and a bad choice, then see what happens in the following pages.

On our first read, the heroes were opting for all the good, reasonable-sounding actions. Logically they knew these were the “right” things to do. They decided Danny would cooperate with his brother, play with him even after he teased Danny, and share his ice cream when his brother dropped his.

But before we made the final decision, one hero stopped us and said “I think we should make this more like a normal day, where bad things happen sometimes.” I asked what they meant. “Sometimes you feel a strong emotion that makes you want to [make a bad decision].” 

With this insight, they had beaten me to the punch. In very simple terms, this young hero explained that an entertaining book is not the same as real life. Reality is much messier, spotted with hurt feelings, selfishness, and knee-jerk reactions. In real life, Danny might have demanded his brother give up the coveted toy, stomped on his brother’s foot when teased, then slurped up his ice cream before his brother could ask for a taste.

So we did what they suggested and made the “bad” choice—we decided Danny would yell at the girl who fell, spilling his lemonade, rather than help her up. Not only did Danny make the girl feel bad, Mom wasn’t happy with him either. Danny resolved to make better choices the next day.

Becoming aware of our ability to make choices is eye opening and empowering for young children. Wow, that one decision changed the course of his whole day!? It’s a difficult concept to grasp, and even more difficult to exercise in real life. It’s a big ask to suggest that a child pause, think about their options, and thoughtfully choose their actions based on the best outcome. Heck, that’s hard for an adult.

But when kids realize that with a single decision they can turn a bad day around or make a friend feel better, they strengthen the agency they feel over their lives and empathy emerges.

Each hero in our studio has the “power to choose.” How will they use it today?

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