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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.
In less than three years, interest in our education programming has expanded exponentially. Through all of the various forms, we have reached approximately 100 schools at every level of the education pipeline. A crucial component of our process has been connecting teachers and students from different schools practicing aquaponics, facilitating information exchange and generating new ideas. Last May, Sweet Water in Milwaukee coordinated an Aquaponics in the Classroom showcase event, or “harvest celebration,” where students and teachers presented their aquaponic designs and models, spoke of challenges and successes, and ate salads harvested from aquaponic systems. The feedback from this showcase encourages us to repeat this event annually or even biannually with our growing list of schools and partners.
We were really inspired by the enthusiasm and creativity of these students in design, construction, and presentation of their systems. As we kick off another year working with inspiration young people in Milwaukee and Chicago, we are excited to uncover what the new school year will bring!
Sweet Water has been involved in many types of projects; however, the cornerstone of our programming has been working with teachers to engage students in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) disciplines, and extending this impact to their lives outside of the classroom. This programming involves, tours, workshops on composting and aquaponics, classroom visits, and construction of aquaponics systems, which may be small displays or occupy an entire greenhouse. Sweet Water seeks to provide this programming to all students, working to lower costs by incorporating in-kind donations and seeking additional funding when necessary.
In 2011, Sweet Water successfully piloted the Seed to Table program, funded by a $5000 donation from Newman’s Own Foundation, at Loyola Academy, a small school on the South Side of Milwaukee serving at-risk urban youth. The program involved construction of an aquaponic system inside a greenhouse on school property, and engaged 20 students through the process of growing healthy food from seed to harvest, including tilapia and a variety of vegetables both in garden beds and aquaponic systems. The program was enormously successful as a summer school program, followed by a class during the fall semester, and has been the basis for many school projects since.
We were thrilled when the Newman’s Own Foundation granted us additional funding this month to fully support 3 additional schools into the Seed to Table Program throughout the 2012-2013 school year. Sweet Water Foundation will use the funding to support Bradley Tech High School and South Division High School in Milwaukee, as well as Lindblom Math and Science Academy in Chicago. The full range of programming includes tours, workshops, materials, labor and coaching throughout the process of aquaponic system construction. Some funds will be used to cover further outreach in Milwaukee and Chicago and Newman’s Own has already indicated that they will be following up with identical support throughout the 2012-2013 school year.
We are tremendously grateful to Newman’s Own for funding Sweet Water to work with these schools. As we continue to build on past successes and scale up our operation to provide additional programming, both face-to-face and digitally, we hope to gain the financial assistance necessary to provide scholarships to all schools requesting support to pursue aquaponics projects in the future.
Milwaukee-based foundation offers urban agriculture and aquaculture education to nearby communities.
By Aleigh Acerni
August 13, 2012
Sweet Water Organics, an urban fish and vegetable farm in Milwaukee, Wis., uses aquaponics systems to grow vegetables,herbs, tilapia and perch in what was formerly an abandoned warehouse in the heart of Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood. While the farm supports its community by supplying local restaurants and farmers markets with its fresh, local produce, a partnership with its resident nonprofit organization, Sweet Water Foundation, is building a much larger legacy.
Sweet Water Foundation was originally created with one purpose: to accept donations of local grocery stores’ food waste, which would then be kept out of local landfills and turned into compost for Sweet Water Organics. But since its creation in 2009, the nonprofit has expanded its services and revised its mission; it now focuses on the development of educational programming for sustainability, specifically urban agriculture and aquaculture.
Sweet Water Foundation’s ultimate goal is to contribute to the solution of food security, employment, health, and environmental issues in its community and beyond. “We are really striving to create what we call ‘21st century neighborhoods,’” says Jesse Blom, city director of Sweet Water Foundation Milwaukee. “It’s essentially embracing the evolution of society and incorporating new technologies to create healthier communities.”
The foundation’s educational programs focus on sustainability and project-based, hands-on training. “Education is really at the heart of our mission,” Blom says. Activities include working with students to create miniature versions of the farm’s aquaponics set-ups, helping to maintain the farm’s vermicomposting, and more.
But not all of the organization’s programs happen on-site; Sweet Water also partners with local schools to set up demonstration projects, including aquaponics systems, raised bed gardens and composting, that are maintained by students. “We help them set up and integrate the practice and operation into their curriculum,” Blom says.
One the biggest challenges has been successfully creating educational programming that fits in with local schools’ varying curricula. “If we want to engage these community members, we are forced to provide a really broad spectrum and approach to what we’re doing,” Blom says. “We’re not getting all science teachers. We’ve had to be really open.”
To achieve this challenging level of flexibility, the organization partnered with the Milwaukee Education Center and several local teachers to create programs that focus on the STEAM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, agriculture and mathematics), incorporating for an interdisciplinary approach. “Whatever you’re teaching, in some way you can connect it to these,” Blom says.
It’s working. Fifty schools came to visit and tour Sweet Water Organics last year, and at present, there are about 15 schools (a mixture of public, private and charter schools) with aquaponics programs in Milwaukee. In addition, there are about five or six more schools in Chicago that offer aquaponics and urban farming programs. (The organization’s Chicago branch opened last year and is a partnership with Chicago State University.) Plus, the programming also works for college students, graduate students, adult learners and non-traditional students like veterans groups.
“We’ve had such a flood of interest and traffic,” Blom says. “We’re meeting a very clear need.”
There’s much more to come. One of the foundation’s newest projects is a global outreach program called Growing Networks, which provides networking opportunities between people of different nations who work on aquaponics programs. The foundation’s pilot project was created last year through a collaboration between Sweet Water, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, global consulting firm Mahattil International, and St. Albert’s College in Cochin, India. Word has spread, and the foundation has received inquiries from groups in several other countries, including Mexico, Serbia, and Ghana, with requests to recreate the program.
Finally, Sweet Water Foundation recently won a grant through the Digital Media & Learning Competition, a competition sponsored by Hastac, MacArthur Foundation, Mozilla, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will allow the foundation to create a free digital version of its urban agriculture training programs, which are expected to be online and available by this time next year.
But even with this multi-faceted approach, for Blom it all comes down to creating excitement about aquaponics — and the problems it can help solve — in urban environments anywhere in the world. “The look on a kid’s face when they pick up a worm, and they don’t know whether to throw up or scream with excitement — that sort of thing for me is absolutely priceless,” Blom says. “We like to get video testimonials from students. The concepts that some of these students are talking to us about … like, ‘You know this is the first time that learning has been fun for me,’ or ‘I have a much larger attention span when I’m using a tool to build a compost bin.’ They’re real measures of progress we get through testimonials. People get really excited.”
Three CPS students from the Calumet Is My Back Yard environmental stewardship service-learning program were funded by the Summer Youth Employment program of Chicago Public Schools and were hosted by Emmanuel Pratt, Executive director of Sweet Water and Head of Aquaponics at Chicago State University (CSU), along with members of the Aquaponics club at CSU and Sweet Water associates. Students worked for 20 hours per week from July 2nd through August 10th. Interns learned the principles behind aquaponics and were trained in various aspects of system design and maintenance, for both aquaponic systems and traditional garden beds. Their journals and final Powerpoint presentation document their process of mixing soil, seeding, reflection, journaling, cleaning pots, caring for plants, watering, transplanting, cleaning grow beds, and building a small-scale aquaponic system.
This was one of many programs run this summer, allowing students and youth from different programs to work together along with staff and mentors of varying experience and backgrounds. We hope to accommodate a larger group of interns in future summers.
Sweet Water’s Growing Networks project developed through a collaboration between Sweet Water Foundation, UW-Madison, and Mahattil International LLC. In June, 8 students from UWM were trained by Sweet Water staff and traveled to Kerela, India to partner with students and staff from St. Alberts College to establish an Aquaponics Demonstrations Center.
The system constructed at St Alberts College will be integrated into the Aquaculture curriculum and aims to increase awareness and knowledge of aquaponics locally, nationally in India, and globally. We believe that the water conserving benefits of aquaponics lend it as an innovative form of agriculture for 21st century communities throughout the world.
For more information and photos from the project, visit the Growing Networks website.
Growing Networks was principally organized by Shajan John, Director of Mahattil LLC. and adjunct associate professor of Global Marketing at the Rader School of Business at Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). Sweet Water Foundation direction of the project was led by Chaya Nayak and Jason Axt, who both began as interns with Sweet Water. Jason works with Sweet Water in Chicago, specializing in building and other educational capacities. Chaya continues to study the impact of the Growing Network partnership while working on her Masters of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at University of California- Berkeley and also serves on the Sweet Water Foundation Board of Directors.
This project has been a historic first for Sweet Water Foundation as an extensive and involved international partnership. We hope to continue this project next summer and pursue similar projects in India and other countries in response to shared issues affecting communities around the globe.
By Express News Service – KOCHI – New Indian Express
12th June 2012 09:38 AM
Eight students from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, USA, are in the city on a mission – to promote the concept of aquaponics. These students are part of an internship team who intend to set up a demonstration unit of aquaponics at St Albert’s College here during this month.
“They are trying to introduce a new concept called aquaponics,” said Ajith Thomas John, associate professor, Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries at St Albert’s College. “It combines aquaculture, which is raising aquatic animals in tanks, with hydroponics, which is growing plants in water,” he said.
Apart from the visiting students, the team includes two representatives of the Milwaukee-based Sweet Water Foundation, which engages in interdisciplinary programmes like aquaponics to teach students of science, technology, engineering and maths. “The beauty of aquaponics lies in the fact that it is so versatile and you can really innovate according to whatever is available locally,” said Chaya Nayak, who is on the board of directors at Sweet Water.
Both Nayak and her colleague Jason Axt insist that aquaponics is a highly sustainable and cost-effective way of food production. “From what we have done in the US, not only did we receive the gains from the fish production but also got higher returns on the vegetables,” said Nayak, explaining that vegetables grown by aquaponics were in demand because of the strong organic food movement in the US.
Aquaponic systems can be of any size – large ones for commercial purposes, medium-sized ones for NGOs or schools or a small aquarium-like in homes or classrooms. Maintenance of the system could take a maximum of two hours a day, according to Axt who is a technical consultant at Sweet Water. “Time taken would depend on how big and complex the system is,” he said.
Nayak agreed there were hurdles to clear such as the need for electricity and maintenance of the system, but felt that renewable sources such as solar panels can be a possible solution. “As of now, we are trying to find ways to adopt this model in Kerala and to garner the local community’s interest and involvement in it,” she said.
Another team member Shajan John from Mahattil International LLC, which is into educational consulting, was responsible for introducing the concept to Ajith Thomas John of St Albert’s College.
“Since Kerala imports nearly all of its vegetables from other states, I think the concept of ‘grow your own food’ should be popularised here,” he said. “That is precisely what we are trying to do here,” he added.
The team hopes to set up a fully-functional aquaponics system at the Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries at St Albert’s by the end of the month and plan to hold a one-day workshop on it to introduce it to the local community.
The Sweet Water Foundation, in conjunction with Smartwave, and Snowfall Creative, has just won the MacArthur Digital Media Learning Competition. In winning the competition, they will be funded to create a digital platform and badge based educational curriculum to train individuals in becoming “Aquapons.”
With the funding Sweet Water Foundation aims to expand and deepen the impact of aquaponics and urban agriculture as a learning method by creating a replicable model for urban agriculture education. The enhanced curriculum and digital learning platform, developed with the funding, will support the requirements of Common Core Learning, Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM), IMS Interoperability Standards, and Open Standards. This model will meet the growing needs of lifelong learners to help improve their professional, academic and personal endeavors. Ultimately, this system to encourage learning that will help current and future generations address the growing concerns/implications of food sourcing and healthy food availability around the world.
Sweet Water Foundation strives to educate students through the integration of aquaponics into school curriculum. Sweet Water Foundation’s programs guide students not only through the construction of an aquaponics system, but also through capturing their experience via art, video, writing, and community engagement.
Students at Rufus King High School, in Milwaukee, WI, over the last year has worked with Sweet Water Foundation to build a fully functioning green house. Students documented their experiences, and have uploaded them onto youtube in order to engage the greater Milwaukee community.
Sweet Water Foundation has recently been selected as a finalist in the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media Learning competition- Badges for Lifelong Learning. With the competition Sweet Water Foundation ventures to create a badge based learning program that will engage individuals in becoming aquapons. Through the program, students of all ages will learn the basics on aquaponics through the use of a Learning Management System (LMS), a Social Collaboration Platform, and a Public Web Site that will be developed via the grant funds. Sweet Water Foundation representatives will travel to San Francisco, CA to present the full project proposal at the end of February.
Navigate to the links below to view Sweet Water Foundation’s technology and design proposals.