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Code Savvy Connections

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

Our newsletters highlight a variety of people, organizations, and resources that are doing work to broaden participation and expand equitable and engaging computer science and STEM opportunities. We are honored to work in this space along with so many talented and passionate individuals and want to help bring attention to their work.  

This Week’s Spotlight and Project-Inspiration Theme: Earth Day

This week’s focus is Spark-Y

April 22nd is Earth Day! To celebrate, we want to shine a spotlight on a local non-profit that is doing great work to empower students through sustainability, and connect agriculture to STEM. Spark-Y helps schools build and maintain aquaponics labs and other similar projects to help students experience growing and eating from sustainable food sources while learning about tools and strategies to take care of living things and the circle of life.

We were able to connect with Tatiana from Spark-Y, a non-profit based in Minneapolis. Read on to find out more about the great work Tatiana and the team at Spark-Y is doing with students around the state! You can also learn more on their website:

Tell us about yourself:

My name is Tatiana Hakanson. I grew up near Stillwater, MN and developed a love for nature from the very beginning. My parents weren’t always too pleased when I would bring home snakes, birds, turtles, and toads when the critters “needed my help,” but they never stifled my enthusiasm. I studied environmental science with minors in sustainability and ecological engineering at the University of Minnesota. I have dedicated much of my life to social justice, education, and sustainability, so I am grateful to have a job that brings together all of my passions for youth leadership development, community building, and environmental stewardship. As the executive project manager, I help turn the executive team’s big ideas into reality.

What is the Mission of Spark-Y?

Spark-Y is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and our mission is to empower youth with hands-on education rooted in sustainability and entrepreneurship. Spark-Y serves its mission of youth empowerment through three branches: hands-on learning, urban agriculture lab, and youth pathways. These initiatives work together systemically, creating multiple touch points for youth engagement in Minneapolis and other Twin Cities communities.

How is Spark-Y working to interrupt and counteract gender and/or racial gaps that exist in STEM?

Of our current staff members, 75% are women who have a background in STEM who make great role models for both girls and boys. Our programs and internships generally host the same amount of male and female students. Spark-Y partners with schools and communities where a majority of the youth we serve are students of color and attend schools that are often under-resourced. We understand that there are very real and systemic barriers that come between students and access to hands-on education opportunities, especially in STEM. Our goal is to provide pathways to help students on their journey. Spark-Y's innovative approach to youth empowerment and education addresses the achievement gap, workforce shortages, and environmental challenges while engaging youth in fulfilling, hands-on experiences as they construct and maintain real-world sustainable systems such as aquaponic systems, community gardens, and water catchment systems.

How can people get involved or support your work?

There are three main ways to support what we do:

  • Donate - help support our programs and mission

  • Volunteer - we have many volunteer opportunities to help out. For example: getting your hands dirty in the gardens we manage, organizing plants for our plant sale, or helping out in a classroom

  • Connect - connect us to your local school or an organization working on sustainable projects. And sign up for our newsletter.

Go to to learn more! You can follow us @sparkyorg on Instagram and @sparkyouthactionlabs on Facebook too.

This week as you are creating with code, try a project that honors Earth Day! Could you create a Scratch program that helps others learn ways to take care of the environment? Or for a challenge you could build a simulation of an aquaponics lab or ecosystem. For more ideas, check out these Earth Day project ideas from Tynker. Be sure to share your creations!

Share Your CS to Go Projects!

How to Share: We invite CS to Go with Code Savvy participants to consider sharing your projects publicly with the Code Savvy and greater #MNCodes community via video with Flipgrid. We can’t wait to see what you create! Please be sure to follow online safety guidelines and get adult permission before sharing. You can find our Privacy Policy here.

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