In 2015, Jane Callery, a recent winner of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching by President Obama, was contacted by the CREC Health and Wellness Central Office to see if she was interesting in having an aquaponics system in her classroom. She instantly fell in love with the idea “Absolutely! I know students love having animals in the classroom. [Students] love taking care of a garden. I love gardening…I just thought it was a great idea”.
After some administrative red tape, Trifecta Ecosystems was delivering its bespoke aquaponics system to Jane’s classroom at the CREC ASI. At Trifecta Ecosystem, we like to joke that this system was the inspiration for creating the modular light-weight systems we use today, because trekking that solid wood system up two flights of stairs was not an easy task. But Jane was elated to receive her new, one of a kind tool: a two (3’x4’) media bed system with a 220 gallon fish tank.
From there, Jane and her students were introduced to the wonders of aquaponics through a series of educational workshops from Trifecta Ecosystems, educating them on the care and maintenance of the system. She was introduced to the Aquaponics TrifectaTM and the delicate balance between plants, fish and microbes. Jane would go on to use this system as an experiential tool to teach her 6th grade students. In a small interview later that school year, she remarked at how well it fit into the ecosystem and chemistry curriculums.
“Looking at the inputs and outputs and how it works. How [the plants and the fish] rely on each other. [Using the system] in chemistry when we got to matter and talking about testing the water.” It was amazing to see her use this system for just about every class subject she had throughout the year. Not only that, but the students were “ instantly curious. ‘What are these rocks?’ Even thinking about growing things in what they see as rocks helps expand their conception of biology and agriculture. Now they understand that you don’t need to have soil to grow plants. To see it growing in the rock beds was great.”
Then in 2016 Trifecta Ecosystems was again contacted by Jane Callery and CREC ASI. They loved the system so much, they wanted to expand their program! With the help of a Carol M White Physical Education Program (PEP) grant, CREC ASI upgraded their system with state-of-the-art LED lighting and expanded it with a new vertical aquaponics system with eight (8) five foot ZipGrow™ towers as well as a smart sensor and controller system from Trifecta Ecosystem. Now Jane and her students can track the water quality every second of the day even from home! They can check the pH, temperature, D.O., and nitrates with a single finger.
Jane and her students have always been a pleasure to work with, and, Trifecta Ecosystems is proud to be a fixture in her education. As resident scientist Andy put it “She is actively molding the next generation of botanists, hydrologists, chemists, and engineers. Jane has removed the idea of “cookie-cutter labs” from her classroom and instead encourages the students to question, to make mistakes, and to truly get excited about the world around them.” Heck she even planted carrots in these towers! Something we have yet to experiment with ourselves. We can’t wait to see how they turn out.
She is one of our most active and loyal clients to date. We hope she enjoys the new vertical system and the amazing teaching experiences that come with it!