Teachers are continually looking for innovative ways to reach and engage their students. Many are turning to in-class projects, such as aquaponics. The process of doing aquaponics in the classroom can be easier than one might think and it provides students with information and hands-on experience that is hard to beat.
“Teachers who engage their students in the world of aquaponics are teaching them so much,” explains Sylvia Bernstein, president of The Aquaponic Source, and author of the book “Aquaponics Gardening: A Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Vegetables and Fish Together” (New Society Publishers, October 2011). “The students are learning about a sustainable way to grow food, as well as how food production works.”
Aquaponics is a sustainable way to grow food that combines raising fish and plants symbiotically. Students who are exposed to aquaponics in the classroom will learn scientific and agricultural principals that can be applied for the rest of their lives. Here are some tips for teachers who may want to get started teaching the system in their classroom:
• Find funding. Cash-strapped schools and teachers may feel it is difficult to start up a new project like aquaponics. Get creative in order to secure funds for the necessary equipment. Speak with the Parent Teacher Association, apply for a grant, or create an online fundraising effort. Once you explain to people the benefits of having students involved, raising the funds should be simple.
• Purchase the equipment. Once funds are secured, the next step will be to purchase the necessary equipment, which includes fish, plants, aquarium, and worms. Be sure to speak with an expert for advice on this, so that each purchase can be tailored to your plans.
• Get students on board. Talk about the program with them and get them excited about what will be taking place. The more they are involved in the process, the more likely they will be to enjoy it and get more out of the whole experience.
• Monitor the progress. Once you have the system up and running, keep track of the progress and tout its success. Let others at the school, as well as the parents, know about it. The more people you can expose to this sustainable form of gardening, the better.
• Eat the food. Give students the ultimate lesson by letting them eat the food that they helped grow. Plan a day where the food will be prepared and everyone can participate, in order to get the full experience.
“We work with numerous teachers to help them with classroom aquaponics,” added Bernstein. “We always get great feedback in return, and we know the many benefits that the students are receiving. This is a winning curriculum for everyone!”
The Aquaponic Source offers a teacher’s curriculum guide, which features lessons to be taught sequentially. A teacher section and a student section are also included. The teacher section includes lessons, a materials list, background information, and an answer key. The student section includes a vocabulary list, lecture, activities, conclusion, and assessment. The information in the curriculum covers all aspects of aquaponics, including its history, sustainability, benefits, and more.
In addition to Bernstein’s book, she is owner of The Aquaponic Source center, located in Longmont, Colo., 15 minutes NE of Boulder. The center focuses on all things Aquaponics, and features a retail store, education center, and research and development lab. They offer free tours every Saturday at 1:00 and on-site classes, which teaches people how to be successful with aquaponics. The retail store sells all of the necessary supplies, including aquaponics systems and aquaponics plumbing kits. For more information, visit the site at: www.theaquaponicsource.com.