Aquaponics: It’s All About the Food

BY Nancy Flasher

Provincetown Public Schools

Project Description

What better way to a student’s mind then through the belly? The goal of “It’s All About the Food” is to immerse 5th and 6th grade students in learning about their place in – and their role in protecting – each food web component of an ecosystem. This proposal is focused on researching, designing and constructing a model aquaponics unit for our school community. Students will explore tidal flats and salt marshes to research natural and constructed models of food webs, then bring this knowledge back to school where they may improve upon, what they have observed. Funds being requested will support the construction of an aquaponics demonstration model.

  • Objective #1 Students will investigate details of terrestrial and marine food webs to then create models that demonstrate how producers, consumers and decomposers are necessary components of any ecosystem.
  • Objective #2 Students will research how habitat protection plays an essential role in food production and distribution. We are an International Baccalaureate School and aim to learn about social and economical issues of sustainability and globalization.
  • Objective #3 Students will engage in design of innovative food production models. Researching, designing and constructing an active aquaponics demonstration model will help students develop an understanding of innovative ways in which communities are responding to issues of food shortages and security. Students will study the works of community food activist, Will Allen.

How will the project be evaluated (e.g. how will you gauge its success)

Our project success will be evaluated first and foremost by how successfully we are able to maintain a living aquaponics system that supports fish and plant growth over a period of months. The project success will also be determined by requiring a food web pre-test and post-test in order to measure student learning about what it takes for ecosystems to function. Project success will also be determined by reflective writing and speaking by students in order to elaborate and connect the aquaponics demonstration model to global issues of food security and habitat care. Lastly, students will have an opportunity to present their work to the school community, as well as to local food security groups such as the Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen in Provincetown. This project is part of a much larger project being planned with scientists at the Center for Coastal Studies. It is our hope to share this model with these scientists, as well as with members of our local government, (including our shellfish warden and community garden advocates) in order to raise greater awareness of municipal aquaponics projects in our country and around the world.

Listed below are two links to online videos about aquaponics. An introduction to Will Allen An introduction to indoors aquaponics system.

Benefit to the students and the school

The next Generation Science Standards used in Massachusetts require that students not only understand how food webs work, but they require that students learn to build models that demonstrate their knowledge in action. Students will experiment with food web models and designs that show how production, consumption and decomposition all work. These science class activities are closely connected to related lessons in their STEAM and Community Projects Service Learning Classes. The results of this project will be visible to the entire school community. It will add a living exhibit inside our school building for families, staff and students of all ages (Pre-K-8) to visit and delve into inquiries about the workings of food webs. For students of all ages it will also provide an example of how people around the world can work to use scientific knowledge to make innovative solutions to problems facing a planet with a burgeoning human population. For the community looking in on learning in our schools, there will be a terrific opportunity to see our students as problem-solvers in our world. Special interest groups such as local government officials, non-profits working towards food security and scientists from the Center for Coastal Studies will all have an opportunity to learn about this project through student presentations. Lastly, the construction and maintaining of this aquapoincs model will provide learners who best demonstrate what they know through model making an opportunity to be recognized.

Timeline of Project (when will you do the project, if applicable)

December 2015 – During their science classes, students will conduct background research on aquaponics as part of a life science unit about food webs, and ecosystems. During the Community Projects classes, students will conduct research and report out on aquaponics community service projects around the world, especially in places of great food insecurity.

January-April 2016 – During their science classes students will work with a local naturalist and consummate tinkerer to design, construct and maintain a live aquaponics set-up in our school. The project may need to end before April vacation, but will first be entered in the International Appearances, Green Arts Festival in Provincetown.

May-June 2016 – Reflection on this project will take place in the way of students meeting with our local food pantry and soup kitchen officials which may lead to student participation in a meeting with our State Representative, Sarah Peake, and State Senator, Dan Wolfe to discuss regional issues of food insecurity. 6th grade students participation in this project will take their aquaponics experience with them while attending Heifer International’s Overlook Farm where issues of world food sustainability and security are the focus.