Aquaponics and STEM Education


Aquaponics and STEM education together make the perfect symbiosis.

If you didn’t know – aquaponics and STEM education is all the rage in schools right now. And it’s likely to stay that way. Yet, as an educator pondering the idea, you may be wondering what exactly the experience might be like. Maybe you have young and energetic students.What should you expect and what type of success is actually possible?

Well we already have teachers who are successfully using aquaponics as a STEM education tool in their classrooms year after year. They are finding that aquaponics provides students with an engaging way to learn. It simplifies complicated topics and due to the hands on learning the students are mastering their subjects better than ever.

But what does this actually look like? It’s one thing to hear that teachers are using this great STEM teaching tool. It is another to see first hand how are they actually using it to teach the various subjects. Well let’s take a closer look at each subject and see how some teachers are utilizing their systems for success in the classroom.

Science

For this example we are going to take a look at a 6th grade classroom in New Britain being taught by Jane Callery.

In class workshop on water testing the aquaponics system.
In class workshop on water testing the aquaponics system.

Jane has a two media bed classroom aquaponics system and uses it to teach her kids about many different subjects. One subject she utilizes the system to great effect for is Chemistry.

Jane teaches her students about pH and general water chemistry. All the while, through aquaponics, she’s giving them real experience to put with these concepts. In the picture here we see a student from her classroom learning how to do various tests to check the water chemistry of the system. Later they will gain insights into the health of their ecosystem based on the results.

The students are all responsible for testing their system. Every day someone else will test the system, so they are all gaining knowledge and experience in these areas. So much is happening by having a living ecosystem in your classroom. There’s no limit to how many ways you can use aquaponics to teach your science lessons!

Technology

For our technology example, we take a look at how a Windsor, CT grammar school is using aquaponics as part of their school system. This is a really cool example. In this case, the aquaponics system is being used in a STEM classroom where there is a hybrid mix of students from third through fifth grade. In this hybrid class the students are given a scenario to investigate all year.

Spencer teaching students about aquaponics at Windsor Elementary.
Spencer teaching students about aquaponics at Windsor Elementary.

This year, they are sending a human mission to mars for a very long stay. So they are researching advanced technologies like 3D printing, aquaponics, and LED lighting to create a way that they can feed and shelter their astronauts on their mission.

The students are learning how to grow their own food anywhere in the universe! They are using a vertical aquaponics system lit with high-tech LED lights. By the end of the year they will decide if they think aquaponics could provide astronauts with a source of food on a planet void of water and soil to grow in!

Sometimes it seems like I’m walking into the future when I’m in that classroom. It’s a joy to see the kids experiment with their system and learn how they could use aquaponics to set up a Mars Colony! Who knows one of these kids may actually go to Mars and bring an aquaponics system along for the ride!

 

Engineering

One of our favorite parts about teaching STEM education via aquaponics is engaging their imaginations and critical thinking skills  through this technology. Once students have a fundamental understanding of aquaponics we like to get them really thinking about what it takes to create an aquaponics system and then actually have them design their own. Some of the ideas we see come out of these activities are truly mind-blowing!

3D Model of Potential Aquaponics System.
3D Model of Potential Aquaponics System.

This can be done with elementary school kids all the way to high school kids. In elementary school we may have the students draw where they would put a system in their home, based on what they know about aquaponics. By the time they reach high school they have advanced to using 3D models to render advanced systems that could be put on rooftops, in warehouses, or be part of a living building!

Engineering a self-contained ecosystem is no small feat. It requires students to take principles from many cross-cutting disciplines and synthesize all that knowledge in order to design a workable system. It’s a great way to ensure that everyone has a foundational understanding of aquaponics.

Math

“Am I ever going to use this in real life?”

Unfortunately, I was that student in math class. I asked that question multiple times throughout my educational career. Whether graphing data points or using graphs to analyze the data, or learning geometry; I never could see the point.  I could never conceptualize a future where I needed to know more than a few basic arithmetic skills.

Student Observations On Plant Growth Using Math
Student Observations On Using Math

Wouldn’t you know it, now I’m using math everyday! Sometimes it’s figuring out a successive planting schedule, analyzing past yields for trends and averages, or determining a formula to anticipate water loss at various times throughout the season. As a result, I am constantly putting my basic skills to test.

It’s these same exercises that we bring to the classroom and have kids run on their own  systems. There’s no denying that you will use math in real life. Especially when you have the real life example sitting in front of you that you engage with daily!

 

These examples are just a few of the different ways FRESH Farm Aquaponics is helping educators utilize a classroom aquaponics and STEM education for classroom success year after year. These are real examples from schools we working with. Aquaponics is a natural and practical way to teach all the STEM fields in schools. If you are interested in learning more about our programming and how you can bring this experience to a classroom near you, click here or call me at 860-531-2782.

To our future generations!

If you like this post check out some of our other posts about using aquaponics as an educational teaching tool.

Aquaponics: A Truly Cost Effective Teacher Tool

7 Reasons Your School Needs Classroom Aquaponics

Education Evolved: Aquaponics in the Classroom

Science Standards: The Next Generation

Finally, if you haven’t already, please join our education email list. Here we share our latest content on using aquaponics in schools and more case studies on teachers are using aquaponics and STEM education.


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