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Urban Sustainability Hub

Updated: Jul 14, 2020

ExHS Partners with Spark-Y to create Urban Sustainability Hub in NE

Thanks to a partnership with Spark-Y, Exploration High School students have an opportunity to study urban sustainable development in the heart of Minneapolis . Students will engage in established curriculum around aquaponics, composting, vermiculture, urban & communal gardening, renewable energy, and other standard-aligned projects that get kids excited about sustainable living. The Urban Sustainability Hub at Exploration will include building of the initial aquaponics system, purchasing renewable energy equipment such as solar panels, and procuring other desirable materials to create a robust hub of impactful learning and sustainable living.


A statement from Spark-Y:

For the last ten years we at Spark-Y have been lighting fires in our community; we have now grown to serve 2,000 students, have been featured in an HBO news series, and NPR recently mentioned us in their Food for Thought piece: "How Hydroponic School Gardens Can Cultivate Food Justice, Year-Round." Yet much of our work fails to deeply inspire transformational change within the students we work with or spark widespread community impact. We are doing good work, but we are striving for greatness.

Exploration High School will bring a transformational reimagined educational paradigm to Minnesota (building on the models of other exceptional schools such as Iowa Big, One Stone, and High Tech High). The framework for Exploration is built around flexible time and space and a mission to empower youth to solve community problems. Exploration will bring youth into the design by building and maintaining facilities as well co-designing a sustainability plan to be implemented at Exploration High School. Along this whole process, youth actively learn about how STEM can support sustainable systems and, importantly, this process will create ownership over the sustainability plan that will grow, evolve, adapt, and inspire once the school is operational (fall 2021). A critical outcome is students co-building a sustainability hub to be open for community use; a centerpiece of this will be an urban aquaponics lab that Spark-Y is renowned for developing. This proposal demonstrates the activities that youth will experience during the program to develop STEM literacy while driving community impact around sustainability.

Starting with an end in mind: One of the primary deliverables of this project is youth designing and building a community sustainability space to be open for public use at Exploration High School. The Urban Sustainability Hub, developed by investing in this program, will be modeled after Spark-Y’s Kirk. K. Marschel Urban Agriculture Lab. Housed at Spark-Y headquarters at the Casket Arts Building in Northeast Minneapolis, the Urban Agriculture Lab (UAL) is home to a two ton, timber-frame microgreen system, designed and

built as an internship project in 2018. Youth cultivate and maintain the system, and the produce grown is sold to local co-ops, restaurants, and CSAs.

The UAL is a place for young people to gain on-the-job training, a testing ground for new scientific ideas and sustainable innovations, as well as a destination for students and the community to experience agriculture in an urban setting.

The UAL lab features a full-scale microgreens operation and produce job path. Other features include: Bio Safety Level 1 Lab, DIY "bio-hacking" open lab nights, Vermicomposting / vermiculture, mushroom cultivation, and spirulina systems, and many community and business tours and workshops.

The Exploration Urban Sustainability Hub will be scaled in half and thus be a one ton, timber-frame microgreen system. The Exploration Urban Agriculture Lab will follow Spark Y’s track record and model to empower youth with hands-on education rooted in sustainability and entrepreneurship. More importantly, this hub and partnership has the potential to be even more impactful as Exploration has the framework to truly transform learning and community and be a beacon of innovation and sustainability for the 21st century.

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