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Sparking Wonderment: A Summer of Hands-On Workshops

Sparking Wonderment: A Summer of Hands-On Workshops

The following blog post was written by Sydney Burrell, Amal Ismail, Cole Frazier, and Dhairya Gupta - the 2019 Summer Internship Library Workshops Team.

We are the Spark-Y Library Workshop Internship Team. Our task over the seven weeks of our summer internship was to prepare materials and presentations for workshops that we would then teach at various library locations around the Twin Cities. The workshops were designed to educate youth about science and sustainability through hands on experiences.


“Hello, I’m Rose, I’m the team lead for the Library Workshop Team. I’m a Junior at the University of Minnesota with a Food Systems major with minors in Horticulture and Sustainability. I’m also blind. I have a lot of experience working with blind youth and other youth. My studies in college are what brought me to Spark-Y because of its leadership in the community for education in sustainability. As team lead, I create short- and long-term objectives for the team, keep all team members focused and productive, make sure deadlines are met, and ensure that we are all prepared for presenting our workshops.”

“Hey! I’m Dhairya, I’m the operations manager for the Library Workshop Team. I’m currently on my way to become a freshman at Wayzata High School. I applied as an intern for Spark-Y because my school at the time, Wayzata Central Middle School, had an Aquaponics club that got me interested in sustainability. When the club had a field trip to Spark-Y, I was astounded by the impact they had on communities and the environment. So, I wanted to be a part of their continued effort in making our communities more sustainable and less non-renewable resource dependent. As operations manager, my job is to organize materials, help with creating and editing our curriculum, and assist with creating and following our budget.”

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“Hi, I’m Cole, I’m the head of communications for the Library Workshop team. I’m on my way to becoming a freshman at Wayzata High School. I applied to become an intern at Spark-Y after I learned about Spark-Y while I was on a field trip with my school aquaponics club. This coupled with my interest in science, technology, math, and trying to grow a sustainable future drew me to Spark-Y. I enjoyed the hands-on experience that Spark-Y introduced me to and the positive impact that Spark-Y has on the community around it. Being head of communications, I have various tasks. These tasks include outreach to local libraries and other teams here at Spark-Y.”

“I’m Cece, the staff who gets to hang out with this awesome team! I’m really excited that we’ve got interns leading these hands-on workshops in our community’s libraries, reaching a much broader audience than we’re able to access through our school year programs.”


Our first workshop was held at Franklin Library in Minneapolis on July 10th. We presented the “Hydraulic Tentacle” workshop. Using cardboard, a tube, two plastic syringes, and the power of pressurized water, we taught around 25 youth how to create their very own hydraulic machines. Some of the kids crafted awesome replicas of our models such as the basic tentacle, the wagging tail, and the claw. Others, however, crafted their own wonderful creations. There were bobbing dino heads, flapping wings, and snapping shark jaws. Each tube was filled with colored water that lent their creations the power of movement. There was so much creativity and excitement vibrating around the room during the whole hour of the workshop, and everyone got to bring home their living sculptures.

“As soon as the presentation was over and everyone began building, the room became a whirlwind of activity. There was never a lull in the action,” Rose remarked.

“I’m a man of few words,” said Cole, “Energizing is all I have to say about that workshop.”

“Beautiful madness,” Cece described dreamily.

Dhairya was at a loss of words, “I don’t know… Chaotic maybe? But also, enjoyable.”

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Our second workshop was at Columbia Heights Public Library on July 18th. Our workshop that day was all about aquaponics. The participants were older this time, high school age students, and it was a little difficult to get them excited and involved at first. However, after we set them up with the PVC to construct their own aquaponic structures, they all started opening up. In groups of five, the teens crafted their frames, placed their grow beds and tanks inside it, and attached the pumps. After some critical thinking and problem solving, both teams got everything put together with their pumps cycling water. To finish it off, we had everyone taste some Spark-Y grown pea microgreens. By the end, everyone was talking, laughing, and asking questions.

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“They were some really bright kids. They were finishing faster than we had expected,” Rose said in wonderment.

Dhairya knew exactly how he felt this time, “It was really fun working with teens. It was so exciting watching them succeed.”

Cole had many more words to say this time too, “At first, I was nervous, but got more comfortable as the teenagers attending became more comfortable. I feel like they really enjoyed it.”

“The kids were shy at first,” Cece explained, “but became excited once they were faced with a challenge.”

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The final workshop project was actually 6 workshops performed over a 3-day STEAM camp at the Columbia Heights Public Library. The kids that attended were from grades 3 to 6. We used the hydraulic tentacle and aquaponic workshops again since they were such big hits before. These kids ended up building their aquaponics system faster than the teenagers from the last workshop did! The other workshops were a strawberry DNA extraction workshop, a Mycology workshop learning about growing mushrooms, a spectrometer workshop focused on light, and an LED origami workshop making some beautiful origami flowers. Every workshop had something for the kids to take home. With 2 workshops a day, each kid had at least 2 mementos to take with them from the camp. Some kids came more than one day, some came all three, but we always had new faces too.

Dhairya said that, “It was great to see so many kids return every day, excited to learn… They really seemed to enjoy themselves, and I’m proud of that.”

“It was a really different experience working with some of the same kids every day. We played a game each day to learn everyone’s names and get everyone comfortable with one another,” Rose explained.

“I learned more from the kids than I did from Cece!” Cole remarked, chuckling, “Just kidding, though the kids did have some crazy ideas.” Luckily, crazy ideas are exactly what we need to create a more sustainable future.”