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PostPosted: Sep 18th, '06, 12:59 
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If you have ever owned, or observed, an aquarium you would know that there is a fair amount of work involved in keeping the water clear and the fish healthy. This is not surprising when you consider that all the uneaten food and fish waste have nowhere to go and as a result build up within the aquarium. In an attempt to remove the build up of material and poisons in the water complicated, and often expensive, filtration systems are fitted to the aquarium, and a rigerious cleaning programme is followed. All this is done in order to compensate for that which would have happened in nature, where the 'waste' materials are used up by other organisms and plants, and in doing so they purify the water.

Simply put, aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics. The mineral rich water from the tank (aquarium) is pumped through a hydroponic 'grow bed' where, through biological action, ammonia is turned into nitrate and then absorbed by the plants. By the time the water leaves the grow bed and returns to the fish tank it has had almost all the minerals and nitrates removed and is once again clean.

The extent to which a school will make use of an aquaponics system will depend on a number of factors. For example I could have made extensive use of an outdoor, large aquaponics system in South Africa when I taught in a rural school. There I would have used it demonstrate various principals taught in technology, the life cycle of plants, the structure of plants, how to make effective use of recycled materials, low tech/high yield gardening, ecological issues, and sustainable farming, amongst others. The main drive would have been in educating the students to be self sufficient and in so doing also grow healthy vegetables and fish.
However, here in Australia the driving force behind having an aquaponics system on the school grounds (or in the classroom) might be a lot different as the need to feed large numbers of third world people is not as pressing within our boarders. Instead, it could be used to demonstrate in real time how the nitrate cycle works (for the high school), Parts of the seed, germination of seed (under various conditions when exploring fair tests) and growth rate of seedlings(once again when exploring fair tests).
Various plants from the 12 phyla in the plant kingdom could be grown in the aquaponics system as well, which would make studying the plant kingdom a lot easier. Now, if you plant 'useful' plants (herbs, vegetables, fruit bearing plants, medicinal plants etc.) you further extend the usefulness of such a system.

There have been numerous news articles about healthy schools in the past 2 years or so. Aquaponic systems lend themselves to this too as any herbs, vegetables or fruit you grow in such a system would be purely organic, and fresh! I know that many people don't understand how it is possible to discourage insects from your crop without using pesticides, which means that students and parents could both be educated in the use of companion planting to discourage insects or to attract butterflies and bees. I have had numerous students ask me to explain how just planting some sorts of plants together will result in insects being discouraged from visiting a particular garden... This vary question could be used to stimulate an investigation by students – which would mean looking up information on the net, in libraries, talking to farmers, ecological groups etc... As you can see the skills students would put into practice keeps growing, allowing for numerous opportunities for skill development and assessment of their development in those areas.

There are also definite links to being a Reef Guardian School in the (responsible) way you can run an aquaponics system. There is a reduction in the amount of water you would use, the water you use is continuously being recycled, no fertilisers are used (which often land up being washed into local streams) and you are able to use less land to grow more vegetables than with conventional gardening too. The fish you stock could be a local species, so you could even do a rear and release programme to try help combat issues such as Tilapia infestations in our local waterways and give our local fish species a fighting chance.

Manual arts (Metalwork and woodwork) students could be involved as well when it comes to helping to design and build the actual aquaponic system. It would give students an opportunity to use CAD software, then to realise their designs and evaluate them for themselves.

As you can see for yourself there are numerous uses for an aquaponic system within a school, and I have only just scratched the surface so far. The main limiting factors as to how much use would be made of an aquaponics system would be budget constraints (which could be overcome by community grants etc.) curriculum demands and just how involved teachers are prepared to be. The teacher's involvement is often more of a limiting factor than anything else as students pick up on a teacher's attitude easily, and if they are not interested, the students wont be either. Using an aquaponics system to its full potential would perhaps mean rewriting some work programmes, but once done the kids would benefit from real time, hand on learning.

So come on, give it a go. Aquaponics is definitely a system where the more you put in, the more you get out!

Dave Downing
Peace Lutheran College

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PostPosted: Sep 18th, '06, 14:43 
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Great post Joel. It's great to see some schools getting behind aquaponics!

earthbound wrote:
However, here in Australia the driving force behind having an aquaponics system on the school grounds (or in the classroom) might be a lot different as the need to feed large numbers of third world people is not as pressing within our boarders.


This is my only problem with the article. What about the rising price of fuel due to peak oil and world conflicts (on average your food travels 1500kms to get to your local Woolies or Coles)? What about the need to feed ourselves and our kids pesticide and chemical free foods? What about giving our kids the skills (if not the actual systems) to produce food for themselves?

There's my rant over :lol: back to the thread :D

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PostPosted: Sep 18th, '06, 15:07 
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The article was written by our very own AM - aka Dave Downing. Well done AM.


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PostPosted: Sep 18th, '06, 17:50 
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*crowd cheers*
Yay, thanks mate...

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This is my only problem with the article. What about the rising price of fuel due to peak oil and world conflicts (on average your food travels 1500kms to get to your local Woolies or Coles)? What about the need to feed ourselves and our kids pesticide and chemical free foods? What about giving our kids the skills (if not the actual systems) to produce food for themselves?


Hmm, valid points there Donarto... but please understand that I was writing a 'quick' article on aquaponics in schools' - and when I did this I did indeed leave out a number facts and areas which could be included in aqua in a school setting. My son comes with me when I work on my system not onoly to get him out of his mother's hair, but in the hope that this will become an every day thing for him (so that he will do the same in the future.

Input as to updates or follow on articles are MORE than welcome!

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PostPosted: Sep 18th, '06, 19:03 
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Hey AM, wasn't trying to burn you :violent3: :lol: As I said I think it's great that schools are getting into it. But I think having those things at the back of ones mind (and you obviously do with your son, great idea btw) is important. So a big hip-hip-horray! for a great paper and for AM for getting in and doing it for the future :D

Cheers,

Duncan.

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PostPosted: Sep 24th, '06, 12:51 
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Having worked in rural third world schools and then comming here it is so very obvious to me that we have not only lost focus on items such as food production and sustainability, but that the once simple task of supplying some basics for your own family is just 'too much work'... I will be gradually mixing food plants into my ornamental garden to counter that in my home....

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PostPosted: Sep 24th, '06, 13:08 
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And what about our water "crisis" ?

i do much work in schools, so have a chance to "snoop" around. Its a BIG theme now in schools.

Its ironic how many hydro set ups i've seen in primary schools.............with a gold fish tank sitting in the next room.....if only you knew, my mind crys :)

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PostPosted: Sep 24th, '06, 18:38 
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yep, seen a lot of that too... Even if they set up a small system as a club - it would raise the awareness of aquaponics and all associated problems... it boils down to way too many teachers doing only just enough to get from january to December (there are a lot of us out there who do a lot of other stuff and just dont have the time, but there are even MORE who do nothing outside of teaching the curriculum)

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PostPosted: Sep 24th, '06, 19:07 
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I'm currently trying to convert a friend of mine, who is the tech officer (?) at a local school. I keep sending him notices of postings. He's asking deep and meaningful questions about systems and fish... here comes another one!

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PostPosted: Sep 24th, '06, 19:10 
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Good on ya_not only is it fun but involved aspects from numerious subject areas!

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PostPosted: Sep 24th, '06, 20:58 
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I'm going to go out on a limb here, but it saddens me that the one quality that ALL teachers should have is lateral thinking. not many do. they teach what they have been taught, right or wrong.

All the great pioneers in ANY field, be it maths or science or whatever, gave us the theory BECAUSE they thought, not regurgitated. I see little of this today. Moreso, (and this is a BIG pet hate), it is sometime stifled! Don't question, just accept. WTF???? I made some of my teacher have to think, i guess it annoyed them. An theory should stand up to scrutiny, if you (figuratively :)) don't have the answers, at the very least offer to find out.
Pride is a bad bad thing.

Jamie, deep and meaningful questions indicate active thought on the matter. Good stuff :) we need more teachers like your tech bloke, Mr mad, and J7au.

That my 20 cents for today :)

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PostPosted: Sep 24th, '06, 21:03 
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here, I have change for you!
;)

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PostPosted: Oct 14th, '06, 17:23 
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Took some pics of my classroom system today - plants are all doing well, as are the fish


Attachments:
File comment: a view of the whole system - been running since last term without a hint of trouble! :)
ap_in_action_360 copy.jpg
ap_in_action_360 copy.jpg [ 60.98 KiB | Viewed 9040 times ]
File comment: a closer look at the tank with its happy fish
ap_in_action_tank_156 copy.jpg
ap_in_action_tank_156 copy.jpg [ 47.11 KiB | Viewed 9043 times ]
File comment: a shot of the plants - the only light they get is from the fluro's
ap_plants_1_212 copy.jpg
ap_plants_1_212 copy.jpg [ 61.03 KiB | Viewed 9039 times ]

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PostPosted: Oct 14th, '06, 17:32 
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some more pics

The second pic of the aquarium is of the aquarium on the opposite side of the class - since thinning out the rapidly growing plants (and sending some off to friends) we can once again see the fish!


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File comment: our first classroom aquarium - powering along - just a matter of time before I attatch a growbed to it ;)
aquarium_747 copy.jpg
aquarium_747 copy.jpg [ 56.23 KiB | Viewed 9038 times ]
File comment: another view of the plants growing in my classroom system :)
ap_plants_2_376 copy.jpg
ap_plants_2_376 copy.jpg [ 60.43 KiB | Viewed 9036 times ]

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PostPosted: Oct 14th, '06, 18:33 
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Seriously, this cant be healthy.
Seriously, this cant be healthy.
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AM - you are shaming us all - keep it going :thumbleft:

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