Guam: Nurturing interest in aquaponics among students

Try to picture tomatoes growing on vines that are living off water where tilapia are swimming. That is what teachers like Arlene Pama Castro of Untalan Middle School and Bonifacio Urbano of Jose Rios Middle School are hoping students will think when they see aquaponics systems at schools.

"The goal is to get students interested in ways of growing food for the local - and global - community in a way that is environmentally friendly and sustainable," said Castro, a pre-advanced placement science teacher.

Part of achieving that goal is inviting students to participate in this educational activity and gain hands-on experience with the engineering, construction, and maintenance of aquaponics systems. "The teachers came up with the design and materials, but the students had to create blueprints of proposed designs, making models for the engineering behind their proposals," Castro said.

"The students learn to compare the pros and cons of each design. They quickly learn that ecosystems are self-sustaining and can survive on their own, and aquaponics is a simulation of an ecosystem which they have to constantly maintain, turning their responsibilities into a multitude of simple experiments."

Additionally, the team is creating an urban community garden. Students and teachers are collaborating on the project's maintenance and expansion.

Open to the community and other schools, the established aquaponics program also serves as a demonstration for the school's Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Expos, when students present their research and designs to others.

The students' accumulated research allows for regular reinvention, as students from year to year build on the project, Castro said.

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