School Profile: Lakewood High School | Lakewood, CO
Aquaponics in the classroom
- What is the name of your school and where is it located? Lakewood High School, Lakewood, Colorado
- What subject do you teach? Engineering, Sustainability and Renewable Energy
- What inspired you to incorporate aquaponics into your classroom? My students were designing a plant growth chamber for the International Space Station and we started to do research on soilless growing options. Aquaponics became the preferred system due to the natural delivery of nutrients to plants. From there the program grew into a 22’x30’ greenhouse with two CHOP II aquaponics systems, one modified with a raft bed and a breeder tank for breeding tilapia.
- How do the students initially react to the aquaponics system you have in the classroom? At first they are a little taken aback, but after the initial exposure they seem to be drawn to it and want to touch it.
- What unique activities do you incorporate with aquaponics in the classroom? The most unique activity is the research we are doing for our NASA project. Students are testing aquaponics for use in a microgravity environment to provide astronauts with fresh food in space. We are also collaborating with the math, science and special education departments in our school. They bring their own classes into the greenhouse to do research as well.
- What is the students’ favorite part of learning aquaponics? I think that varies from student to student, but it seems to me that most students like planting and caring for the plants. Seeing something that they planted spring from the ground can change their whole outlook. Kids can come in grumpy, but they immediately cheer up when they interact with the fish and plants.
- Do you sense that students feel closer to nature with aquaponics? Absolutely! You can see that they care about the fish and the plants. They look forward to coming to class and they don’t want to leave at the end. Caring for something that is living gives many of them a sense of purpose away from the consumerism of modern life.
- Do you think aquaponics should be incorporated into more classrooms? I think every school should have one starting in Pre-K all the way up to senior year. I see these systems as textbooks and everyone uses the same resource. Students will become familiar with it at an early age and see different aspects of the system throughout their school experience.
- Do you have future goals to expand your school aquaponics system? Right now we are limited by space and can’t expand the system itself. I do, however, want to expand the usage of the system by a great number of teachers from diverse academic areas in more of a Problem Based Learning environment.
- What do you hope for schools worldwide to gain from aquaponics? A better understanding of the benefits of natural systems. I also hope they gain a greater appreciation for growing your own food and the benefits of buying from your local farmers versus the industrial agriculture complex.
We want to thank Matthew Brown for sharing his classroom aquaponics adventure with us!