Terry Sanford Students’ Introduction to Aquaponics
Published by Laurie Pender on June 6, 2018
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female student in red tshirt holds plantStudents at Terry Sanford High School in Mr. Brian Thompson’s environmental science classes were introduced to Aquaponics this year for research and classroom lessons. Aquaponics combines fish culture with raising crops by placing the two together in a single ecosystem. Through a trial-and-error design process, Mr. Thompson’s students designed a replicable system with a small footprint that would be a simple addition to any classroom. The goldfish live in a tub on the bottom level, water is pumped up to the top level where seeds are germinating and then cascades down to the lower levels where stronger plants flourish under active lighting.

Aquaponics is one expression of the sustainability efforts happening at Terry Sanford high school. The agricultural method uses over 90% less water than conventional growing in soil, utilizes a much smaller footprint while expanding vertically, requires no pesticides and does not use artificial fertilizers. Different fish species can be selected for harvest in larger operations. The final system designed at Terry Sanford is small, inexpensive and reusable.

Students constructed their own peat pods from fabric pouches and peat mulch. They also made their own plant pots from recycled fast food drinking cups to hold rock media and their peat pods in large tubs that the nutrient-rich water flows through. Students had a selection of six distinct species of leafy greens to choose from, including kale, spinach, and lettuce. From January through May, the Aquaponics for Learning Gardens at Terry Sanford was as a working, living laboratory. The tower system provided context for lessons in environmental sciences, life science, physics, and chemistry. The foliage experienced explosive growth once the first main leaves on the greens matured. Plants were grown under a combination of white broad-spectrum lighting and red/blue grow lighting. After testing the different light forms in various setups, the students determined that a combination of both broad spectrum and red/blue grow lights to be most beneficial for their plants. Upon project completion, the produce from the aquaponics tower was prepared into a delicious salad by the culinary department under the direction of Mrs. Denise Ewart.

If you are interested in building your own aquaponics tower in your classroom, contact Mr. Thompson at Terry Sanford high school for more information.

        

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