Tates Creek High School Pilots Aquaponics

TTC Aqua1he growth of all organisms on our planet depends on the availability of mineral nutrients in the environment.  Nutrient cycling is a fundamental concept in ecology, biology and environmental science, but many students have a tough time visualizing how individual nutrients--especially nitrogen--cycle through complex natural ecosystems.  Diana Mullins, science teacher at Tates Creek High School, wanted to bring nutrient cycling and sustainable agriculture to life in her classroom.  To do that, Ms Mullins and her students partnered with Beeca Self of Foodchain to build a comprehensive classroom aquaponics system to use as a teaching tool.  Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants in media other than soil).  The large mouth bass that Ms Mullins has in her system produce large volumes of ammonia-rich waste that nitrogen-fixing bacteria quickly convert to nitrite and nitrate that the plants need.  The plants in turn filter the water by removing nitrates which is then returned to the fish tanks.  Ms Mullins' aquaponics system is an example of a symbiotic relationship-- nature's way of providing plants with the nutrients they need and fish with the clean water they require--when left undisturbed by humans.  This system--monitored, maintained and eventually harvested by students--is used to demonstrate plant life cycles and structure, nutrient cycling, high-yield gardening, ecological issues, biodiveresity, and sustainable farming.  To read more, click here.

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