“Wait Really?”, he asked in disbelief. “You can eat a plant?”
I got asked this question in all seriousness at one of our first ever workshops with a school. It was at that moment I first realized, just how important it was to connect youth with where their food comes from. It also struck me just how disconnected we have become with our food.
Before starting my own aquaponics journey I must admit I was pretty naive myself about food. Now I definitely knew I could eat a plant, but I basically thought food came from the grocery store. What’s worse is that the majority of us grew up that way. My parent’s parents all grew their own food. That depression era minded folk knew that the safety net could go away in a second and you needed the skills to be self-reliant if you and your family were going to survive. In the course of a few generations, we have gone from that mindset to one that food comes in a box from the grocery store or the corner store.
What’s worse, is less than 1 in 100 of us actually have the knowledge to grow enough food for a family of four. I’m not one of those the end is near and we all need to prepare type people. That being said, over the last few years we’ve seen some crazy storms and have seen communities that get cut off from highways and quickly run out of food. I do think its valuable to have the tools and experience to be able to grow some food and know what it would take should you ever need to.
Which is the main reason I think that classroom gardening is so valuable? It connects our kids back with their food. It gives them knowledge not only to grow their own food but an appreciation for just how much time, effort and caring support it takes to grow
one plant, let alone enough to feed yourself. It reestablishes an appreciation for our food system, and just how far we’ve come that we as a race no longer have to all know how to and grow our own food.
By growing food in the classroom an entire generation will have the same experience my generation had with computers. By the time I was in fifth grade every classroom in my school had at least one computer. And every single one of us that graduated high school, and even the ones who didn’t, could use a computer better than 99% of people who didn’t grow up with them. That taught me the potential of a powerful classroom learning tool.
With its ability to aid in the teaching of every subject taught in school, and its ability to be approachable at a young age and grow as a learning tool as the student’s career advances, classroom gardening, and more specifically aquaponics can be as revolutionary to the classroom as the computer was for my generation.
“I didn’t know I needed math to grow plants”
One of the things that I love most about bringing aquaponics to the classroom is it gives kids a context for what they are learning. How many times did you sit in school, learning about the Pythagorean theorem or something, and wonder in your mind ‘when am I ever going to need this in my life?’. Aquaponics provides a real and engaging context for the subjects teachers are trying to educate students in the classroom on. Growing food is practical, and while we definitely all won’t go on to be farmers or work in the agtech industry, it’s fundamental to our being. Growing food is an undeniable need and any time a student goes down that path, the context provided by aquaponics can bring them back in and engage them.
Not only does aquaponics provide a great context, it also bridges the gap between classes and subjects. With a common tool being used to teach science subjects, math, engineering, technology, English, business, etc, kids gain insight into why we learn all these different subjects. When combined they give us a better understanding of the world around us, they allow us to do amazing things like grow food and provide for animals, and they give us the confidence to go out there and know you are capable of providing for others.
The image featured here was made by a student in a science class. She was realizing the importance of math in her science class, because of using aquaponics as a learning tool. That to me says it all. I never connected the dots at such a young age and always dreaded going from science to math class or from English to science. With a tool like aquaponics in the classroom, this girl made that connection and now understands the significance of taking the principles shes learning in every class and bringing that knowledge with her form class to class to help her understand each subject better.
“Wait this is ours? Are we going to take care of it? Can we name the fish?!?!”
Yes! Yes!! and Yes!!! This is always the best part of doing the workshops and introducing fish and plants into the system with the students. Instead of just plopping a system in there over the weekend we always like to get the class involved with the actual starting up of the aquaponics system cycle and the grand finale when you can add the fish and the plants to the system.
Not only does this provide some of the best opportunities for learning, it’s the point where you will get the highest engagement and excitement from the kids. When it starts to dawn on them that when we leave they are going to have this in their classes all the time it’s always meant with shock and then instant excitement. Naming the fish is always the most fun for us too because that’s when the glorious imagination and humor from the kids comes out on full display.
And yet that’s not even the best part. The best is when that transitions to a sense of purpose and determination. It transitions to teamwork and collaboration. As they collectively shoulder the responsibility for taking care of all their new friends and realize they will have to rely on each other and work collectively towards this because no one person can take care if it all. That’s what makes a lasting impact and that’s why aquaponics in the classroom is unparallelled as a classroom learning tool.
Want To Learn How You Can Bring Aquaponics To Your Classroom?
Fantastic! We’re hosting a FREE workshop for educators and administrators to learn all about classroom aquaponics as a learning tool, showcase the systems we’ve designed for schools, learn about case studies in the classroom and much more. It’s a crash course on everything you need to make the case for aquaponics in your school or classroom. Click this link to learn more and sign up for our FREE educator’s workshop.