Aquaponics greenhouse at Baldwin High a nod to the future
Greenthumbs are about to get greener at the Baldwin County School District.
A new greenhouse with an aquaponics lab will be the new addition to the food and service learning project, thanks to a grant and partnership between BCSD and Fort Valley State University, a major agricultural college.
“Aquaponics is a means of growing food using fish. The waste that the fish produce is used as the fertilizer for the vegetation,” said Aketi Mayweather, School Wellness Coordinator.
The aquaponics lab, located on the Baldwin County High campus, will teach students about alternative and sustainable gardening options.
“It helps with the environment because you don’t need as much water as we’re using without overhead sprinklers or irrigation systems for our traditional gardens," Mayweather explained.
All seven schools in BCSD have traditional gardens, some already equipped with hydroponics (a system with water enriched by minerals rather than fish waste).
“The goal is that all of our schools will eventually have their own mini hydroponic and aquaponics labs that can be used as a part of their STEM classes,” said Mayweather.
Not only will STEM classes be supplemented by the aquaponics lab but also core curriculum standards.
“There’s math in the garden by using square footage, reading practice with recipes and planting instructions,” said Mayweather, “All of these things can be in the garden and reinforcing the curriculum standards.”
Fresh tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers are the first foods expected to grow thanks to the new aquaponics system. Along with the traditional garden foods already grown in Baldwin County schools, the aquaponics foods will be part of the ‘agribusiness model.’ A model intended to show students the entire farming process, from planting the seed until selling produce to consumers.
A model and lesson being taught at a convenient time, according to Mayweather.
“We are excited to introduce our students to this new principal of growing food with everything that’s going on with COVID-19 and food distribution being a major issue," he said. "We are going to have to find ways to be more self reliant and what better way to that than gardening.”
The new greenhouse and aquaponics system is expected to be up and running for students to use by the second week of next month.