The Grove School DIY Aquaponics

Grove School DIY Aquaponics Project

Last week the Trifecta Team visited The Grove School in Madison, CT. The Team worked with Kara Gabriel, a High School science teacher at the Grove who discovered aquaponics and knew she had to have it in her classroom. After introducing the idea to the students she reached out to the Trifecta Team for ideas on how to implement her idea despite a shoestring budget.

Here at Trifecta, we never let a little thing like money stop an educator from utilizing aquaponics in the classroom. We worked with Kara and decided that we would use this as an opportunity to test the kids engineering skills by having them design their own DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Aquaponics system.

So last Monday Eric and Kieran visited the class and gave them an introductory lesson on aquaponics using the Aquaponics Trifecta. The trifecta is our favorite way to teach aquaponics because it gives newcomers quick insights into the all the components of an aquaponics system. On the hardware side, you need a fish tank, a grow bed of some sort and plumbing to connect the two together. On the software side or the living components, you need fish, plants, and microbes. With this foundation in hand, the students were ready to start designing.

The Only Bad Idea is not Sharing an Idea

We took an assessment of what the students had to work with. At the onset, they already had a fish tank giving them one of the three hardware components. We provided them with some vertical growing towers, and a water pump with tubing to get them the other two. Now they had everything they needed to make an aquaponics system but they still had to figure out how the components would integrate and what would go where in their system.

We gave the reigns and let them at the drawing board. It seemed almost every student had a great idea and way to use the aquaponics system. After settling down to three proposed designs by the students, we went through the pros and cons of each system design. Ultimately they decide that they would build a frame around the fish tank that would support the vertical grow towers which would be right above the fish tank. This allowed them to minimize plumbing and the footprint the system would take up. They are in a classroom after all. Turns out they designed the exact system we would have if we were given the same materials. This on their first day of learning what aquaponics is!

Experiment Experiment Experiment

The next steps for these students is now to take their design and turn it into a reality. They are going to build their system based on their own design. They choose the materials for the frame and decide on all the measurements and cuts themselves. Then they build their frame, connect the components and we’ll come back to approve the build and introduce the plants and fish with them. From there its all about experimentation for these kids.

In science class, you generally learn about a concept or theory and then will break out into a lab to test that new concept or theory and try and prove it right. For example, when you learned about gravity as a kid, you might break out and experiment with dropping different things off your desk to learn that all items fall to the ground at -9.8m/s2. 

These students will be experimenting constantly using their aquaponics system. First, they are going to test locations around the room to see where the plants will grow best. Then they will be experimenting with different plant varieties to see what they can grow using the vertical towers. They want to sell their produce to the coffee truck on campus and hope to be able to grow teas and herbs for that.

It’s always great when we see the students take to experimenting because that shows they are engaged in the subject and really understand the science behind aquaponics. We’ll be following these aquapioneers along on their journey and update with a new blog post once we see their system and introduce the fish and plants. We expect these aquapioneers will knock it out of the park with their build based on their enthusiasm to get started!


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