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US (LA): Aquaponics lab start in five schools

In the heart of Kenilworth Science and Technology Academy lies a program that not only cultivates plants but also nurtures the minds of its students, propelling them toward a future filled with scientific discovery and innovation. Kenilworth is one of only five schools in the state of Louisiana with an aquaponics lab, and it is here that hands-on learning meets cutting edge STEM education, and students' curiosity blossoms into solutions for tomorrow's challenges.

In an aquaponics system, fish waste provides nutrients for the plants, which absorb them for growth. The plants then purify the water, making it safe for the fish. This creates a self-sustaining ecosystem.

Kenilworth's aquaponics program, which just concluded its third year, was developed through a collaboration between school administrators, the LSU STEM Pathways program, and local experts. It provides students with hands-on learning experiences integrating the various branches of science, including life science, biology, chemistry, environmental science, and more, says aquaponics teacher Merve Yildiz.

An expert helps set up the fish tanks, growing beds, and the connections between them. Once initial setup is complete, students take over, measuring the fish mass and adding them to the system. They keep a careful eye on the fish weight, observing whether they are growing or having any challenges.

The students also meticulously clean the tank and observe strict rules, including wearing masks and using hand sanitizer, to maintain the biosecurity of their lab. They keep a close eye on the water's pH level and work to rid the lab of any stressors that could affect the fish.

"It is so hands-on," Yildiz says. "Students come into the classroom with no idea about pH but when they start to test the water quality, they learn what pH is and how it works."

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