Aquaponics in the Classroom

October 14, 2017

In August, before school started, Mr. Risinger, Ms. Cotter, and Mrs. Jobman were busily prepping the aquaponics units for their classrooms.  Thankfully, Mr. Risinger did most of the hard work in setting things up! Teachers will attend workshops in the fall and spring to learn more about the aquaponics units.  All 7th graders and 6th graders on the National Team are working with UNK and a graduate student in learning about aquaponics.  

Aquaponics is an agricultural technique that combines aquaculture [raising fish] and hydroponics [growing plants in water].  The top area contains gravel and plants.  The lower area is the aquarium.  Water is pumped from the aquarium to the planter and back down to the aquarium.  Fish waste provides an organic food source for the plants, and the plants filter wastes from the water before it returns to the aquarium.  UNK selected Tilapia as the fish since it is fast growing and tolerates brackish water.

In early September, 12 tiny Tilapia were delivered to each aquaponics unit in Ms. Cotter’s and Mr. Risinger’s rooms.   Mr. Risinger has two aquaponics units, so he received 24 Tilapia.  Mrs. Jobman’s unit is the largest of all, using a stock tank to house 24 Tilapia. More than a month later, the fish are growing and swimming happily in their new homes.  Fish are fed daily.  

Additionally, duckweed (a floating aquatic plant) has been placed in the tanks for additional nutrients for the Tilapia.  Currently, the planter has sweet pea, tomato and strawberry plants growing.  Floating containers to grow lettuce will be incorporated in the next week.  

Students have become more interested in the aquaponics unit.  Throughout the school year, students will be participating in online surveys through UNK, and activities that incorporate the Nebraska State Science Standards into this unique method of agriculture.  It is planned that students will be able to taste food products grown in the aquaponics units.  Meanwhile, I best be finding some tasty Tilapia recipes!