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School Aquaponic Systems

posted Dec 1, 2011, 2:23 PM by Tawnya Sawyer
Over the past year Colorado Aquaponics has installed half a dozen small scale aquaponic systems, thanks in part to a 
a microgrant from Slow Food Denver and generous donors in the C.A.F.E. series event back in September. The schools received complete 20 gallon aquarium setups or built their systems using components donated by parents and facility. We provided delivery and setup as well as worked with teachers and students to get the systems up and running. 
Kids learn so much from hands on activities. They are excited to select fish and learn how to take care of them. They learn the potential of a tiny seed as it germinates and grows under their watchful eyes. Students and teachers experience first hand the developing ecosystem through the process of feeding the fish, the nutrient rich water being pumped to the growbed, the bacteria converting the ammonia into nitrogen for the plants, and the plants cleaning the water begin returned to the fish. The complete cycle teaches everyone the importance of a balanced ecosystem while mimicking the beneficial aspects of nature. It also explains the cycle of life and what can go wrong when things are out of balance, cleaning agents are used near the system or fish are not properly cared for. 
There are so many learning opportunities that reach across a multitude of disciplines including: science, biology, ecology, botany, aquaculture, water dynamics, water quality, environmental factors, sustainability, math, reading, food production, marketing, business, art and so much more. As a bonus, students get the chance to reap what they sow, snacking on veggies like lettuce, chard, kale, beans, and strawberries, or enjoy a variety of lovely flowers in the classroom. Kids are much more likely to eat foods that they helped grow or prepare, especially when they tend to them everyday, throughout the entire school year. 

Repeating History in a New Way
Thirty+ years ago, schools began slowly purchasing computers for classrooms. Now schools have entire labs dedicated to PCs and the majority of students work on them everyday. Computers were (and still are today) considered important learning tools to prepare children for future job opportunities, gain valuable skills, communication capabilities and create innovators that will change the world via the internet, sophisticated software applications and a wide variety of automated technologies. 
Again, the world is changing, and the need for different methods of food production are going to be critical for an abundant future. Knowing that children today will be leading the advancements of the future, it is imperative to begin the same trend as the early days of computers and place the tools and concepts of food production innovation into the hands of students. Aquaponics in the classroom is like computers were years ago. Although we may be installing 20 gallon systems in the corner of a room now, someday the school roof tops will be greenhouses, the students will have courseware focused on researching advanced growing methods, the cafeterias will sell high quality, fresh foods grown on-site by students and school farmer's market will create new income opportunities. 

As a teacher, parent, facility or staff member, it is time to start investigating the potential that aquaponics has to offer for experiential learning. Please call or email to get your student or school involved with aquaponics. 

Chicago High School of Agricultural Sciences