The Spark Lemonade & Bake sale is an annual component of our Spark Social Skills Program, organized and run with the help of our Spark youngsters and their mentors. The sale provides Spark participants with a fun opportunity to develop their social skills sets, including practicing how to think about finances, working with money, baking, selling, and relating to others. Participants feel proud when they see the buyers enjoy the products of their hard work! After the sale is over, participants enjoy the reward of using the funds earned from the sale to purchase new games for the Spark group. This year, the bake sale garnered $213!
Preparing for the bake sale is an important component of the Spark program. Different aspects of the preparation allow children to practice building various social skills, and to shine in areas in which they are gifted. For example, some children are talented artists and enjoy creating colorful signs to hang over the sale stands. Others may be learning to cook, and they are excited to practice by baking cookies and squeezing lemons for lemonade. Those who are more mathematically oriented are keen to participate in the group negotiation of bake sale item prices or to practice buying, selling, and making change.
The sale itself presents opportunities for participants to put into practice the skills they have been building during the preparation phase. Importantly, we always account for the expectations and capabilities of each child when assigning roles at the sale. This year, for example, we divided into two groups. One group set up shop in front of the The Sherkow Center on 93rd street. The wall of the building there provided a sense of a secure base, and there were fewer passersby and cars to contend with. The second group was comprised of children who felt more comfortable interacting with a larger public, and who were practicing becoming more independent; they walked over to Madison Avenue and set up a stand on the street corner.
The Sherkow Center’s method does not overly structure participants’ activities in this social skills group. Thus, despite our preparations and rehearsals, there are always some factors that cannot be predicted or controlled in advance, causing anxiety or distress for some of the children. We work to help participants increase their awareness of their emotional and behavioral responses to the external world. This may mean, for example, allowing a child to have a “melt-down” because he is disappointed at the number of people who purchased a cookie from him; in this case, we would help the child to put words to his feelings, and to de-escalate the situation by expressing our understanding of his internal experience. Thus, while the bake sale is meant to be a fun and enjoyable activity for Spark participants, all aspects of the sale — those that elicit positive as well as negative emotions — are opportunities for growth and learning.