Spark-Y and Edison High School Green Campus: Local Sustainability Impacts Winner

  • May 29, 2020
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  • Christina Vang

Ever wondered what it takes to be a green campus? Well, Thomas Edison High School in Northeast Minneapolis is the first high school in Minnesota to be recognized as a one. Through collaboration with Spark-Y, a 501c(3) non-profit based in Minneapolis with a mission to empower youth with hands-on education rooted in sustainability and entrepreneurship, Edison High School has implemented innovative environmental systems and equipment to their building and recreational fields that allow students to learn, through hands-on curriculum, about sustainability. Together, Spark-Y & Edison High School Green Campus is helping to reinvent education with an environmental and entrepreneurial edge to create a better, more prepared workforce and inspiring next-generation leaders who will be more cognizant of the necessity to live and work in a more sustainable world.

Local Sustainability Impacts – Spark-Y and Edison High School Green Campus

Presented by Barr Engineering

Spark-Y has partnered with Edison High School for the last five years to develop a graduation pathway that provides dynamic, hands-on sustainability learning opportunities for the students and allows students to take inter-disciplinary actions to prepare for after high school. This partnership began when Spark-Y created the Edible Agriculture School Yard Professionals (EASYPRO) course where students designed and built a project, like a business, that they then utilized to grow and sell food in the school cafeteria or use as an elective science credit. Since this initial course, Spark-Y and Edison High School have also developed the Edison Entrepreneurship Academy and the LEEF Pathway (Leaders in Environmental and Entrepreneurial Futures) where students are able to receive class credits while gaining innovative and experiential knowledge necessary for their journey towards graduation. This partnership highlights taking student-led real-world sustainable projects across energy, water, air, and food lead to transform their education. Through these program classes, students earn credits and are paid while receiving industry recognized credentials that can lead towards a job after graduation. This approach helps to addresses both local and national achievement gaps and workforce shortages by engaging students in dynamic education while equipping them with skills for a career. Not only are Edison High School students receiving hands-on learning, but they are also measuring the school’s environmental impact in these classes. When we spoke with Zach Robinson, the Executive Director of Spark-Y, he said, “This demonstrates, within the systemic sphere, the power of their education to completely align with the creation of the leaders of tomorrow.”

Scaling Across Schools and Communities

Edison High School has become a leader and highly recognized for their innovate and sustainable classes. Spark-Y is partnering with the City of Minneapolis Public Schools to advocate for schools across the Twin Cities to take dynamic hands-on real-world education and make it accessible to students and teachers. Since the start of this partnership, Spark-Y has expanded this hands-on approach to learning to 16 other schools in the Twin Cities. Spark-Y not only replicates their programs, but also tailor and develop their approach to fit each school’s student body and needs. Integrating these innovative academic experiences for youth can be challenging and requires clear communication when collaborating with partners. When asked about how Spark-Y has collaborated with partners, Zach Robinson said, “We’ve learned the hard way that the best way to push forward on collaborative projects is to communicate, communicate, communicate, and over-communicate…to make things really clear and make sure to champion and get support from all the collaborators, and to make sure there’s shared knowledge, passion, and motivation to make these projects happen because there’s all sorts of concerns.” We believe the work to create a clean and self-sustaining environment will allow future generations to be able to thrive – by providing youth the skills and knowledge to combat environmental issues, Spark-Y and Edison High School’s partnership is making that future possible.

Learn More About This Partnership

Celebrating the 2020 Environmental Initiative Awards

The wait is over – it’s finally time for the 2020 Environmental Initiative Awards! We are excited to celebrate the 2020 Environmental Initiative Awards online with you. While this is the first time in the 26-year history that the Awards event will not convene in person, we remain committed to highlighting innovative, impactful and collaborative people and projects working in partnership at the nexus of a healthy environment, a prosperous economy and an equitable society.

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