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Our AQUAPONS beta-testers sat down this week to talk with the AQUAPONS site developers about why they got involved with aquaponics. Here’s some of what they had to say:
“For so long, I was in the business of death. Now, I’m interested in the truth, in life, which is nature, which is growing your own food. It is therapeutic to grow from seed and to feed my family.”
“The light bulb just went off in my head as to how awesome it would be for me to grow our food at home.”
“The drought last year emphasized the effects of climate change and food security. You need to be able to produce what you need–for life, for survival. I’m all in.”
“One of the most important skills you can have is to know how to document your progress and show your work in anything you do. If we all know how to do that, we can stand on the shoulders of giants. We can collaboratively work off of each other.”
In other news, Sweet Water Foundation staff visited the aquaponics lab at CCA to work with our student beta testers there. A group from Haiti also toured our Chicago site this week.
Sweet Water Foundation has begun their fall professional development course for educators in the Milwaukee area who aim to introduce aquaponics in their classrooms this year. Five weekly training sessions, will walk participants through the process of designing, building, and maintaining an aquaponics system, and will be a forum to discuss curriculum connections as well. Sweet Water plans to offer similar courses in the future in both Milwaukee and Chicago. Please let us know if you would like to be on a list to receive information about future trainings.
Sweet Water Foundation plans to expand on successful involvement with teachers and schools in both Milwaukee and Chicago. In the past, Sweet Water has been involved in numerous initiatives to equip teachers with the skills and knowledge to implement successful aquaponics lessons to support STEM curriculum and engage students through hands-on experimentation. Sweet Water is collaborating with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) on their Professional Learning Community (PLC) supporting instruction of various STEM disciplines through urban agriculture and aquaponics. The Urban School Aquaponics PLC is funded by MPS and is an extension of the Urban School Aquaponics (USA) initiative, funded from 2009-2012 by a grant sponsored by NEA Foundation and AT&T Foundation. It will also build on work done by the Milwaukee Teacher Education Center (MTEC) and Sweet Water Foundation conducting teacher training and coaching teachers as part of the Midwest Aquaponics Expertise Development Initiative (MAEDI), funded by USDA. Teachers from a variety of content areas were trained in aquaponics and designed lessons which were delivered to students during the 2011-2012 school year.
This past summer, with a grant from the NEA Foundation, Education Coordinator Jill Frey and Milwaukee City Director, Jesse Blom, compiled a book of lesson plans written by teachers participating in both MAEDI and USA training initiatives. This booklet will serve as a guide to potential curriculum connections for teachers starting up with aquaponics in their classrooms.
In the future, Sweet Water’s digital platform AQUAPONS, currently in development, will serve to extend and connect these local initiatives to a wider scope. AQUAPONS will connect teachers, students, and independent learners to a growing international network. Sharing information about best practices in the field of aquaponics will strengthen and extend the initial work of educators, Sweet Water, and their partners in Milwaukee and Chicago.