At Sweet Water Foundation (SWF), we engage with a host of institutions and organizations supporting the development of holistic curriculum. We work to catalyze and cultivate innovative spaces that emphasize the relationship between inspiration, education, action and innovation by supporting STE[A+]M (Science, Technology, Engineering Arts&Design/Architecture/
Our model includes a growing network of the following:
- Aquaponics Innovation Centers
- Urban Agriculture STE[A+]M Hubs
- Hyper-Local partnerships (locally, regionally, nationally/internationally) via small-scale aquaponics installations and lesson plan development
Aquaponics Innovation Center
Since 2011, SWF has partnered with Chicago State University and, most recently 4240 Architecture , and Milhouse Engineering & Construction Inc. in the transformation of a formerly vacant 20th century shoe warehouse space in the Southside of Chicago into a dynamic 21st century hands-on Aquaponics Innovation Center over the past three years. The project has attracted an intergenerational audience of thousands of area grade school and high school students, college students, veterans, and residents across the greater Chicagoland area interested in urban agricultural and ecologically inspired research projects. Our team offers tours that include an introduction to the benefits and values of urban agriculture, healthy eating, urban revitalization, and environmental care. To reach participants who learn best by action, the tour also includes hands-on lessons in gardening, composting, and aquaponics. We regularly host educational and cultural events known as HARVEST CELEBRATIONS including lectures, book readings, film screenings and discussions, and community agricultural forums. Through these programs and events, we can successfully engage and celebrate our partner community groups, membership associations, nonprofit organizations, school systems, government entities, and private businesses, moving together towards our shared goals.
Urban Agriculture STE[A+]M Hubs via Small Scale Aquaponics
SWF broadens its work through the creation of Aquaponics STE[A+]M Hubs, which act as “satellites” for learning and activity in urban agriculture and aquaponics. These Hubs include schools, colleges and universities, community centers, churches, and neighborhoods – anywhere that people gather for learning and growing food together. Aquaponics STE[A+]M Hubs are established we create a series of small-scale installations in partnership with a group or institution committed to the same values and principles. These hubs are small-scale entrepreneurial urban farms serving as open-sourced platforms for emergent research, design, and the advancement of new models for urban agricultural practitioners.
The MYCELIA Project
The MYCELIA Project cultivates new connections through a series of informal and formal art and cultural events infused with science and technology whereby we invite people across our ever-growing network to share in celebration of the various collaborative projects. The significance and aim of these events is to awaken all of the 5 senses (see, touch, taste, hear, & smell) of those who attend via cooking demonstrations, live art, live music, and more. The MYCELIA Project resultant spaces and events present an opportunity for students to showcase their innovative work, and schools to showcase their initiative. Ultimately, our intent is not only to highlight the value of food, but also to celebrate the education and innovation of our students along with all of those who supported the programs and made them successful.
The MYCELIA Project has been highlighted at The Hyde Park Arts Center, Chicago Ideas Week ( https://www.chicagoideas.com/
Seed to Table Project
Supported by Newman’s Own Foundation, the Seed to Table Project engages students in the production and distribution of food from seed to table. Students are tasked with germinating seeds, constructing an aquaponics system, growing fish and plants, and producing a culturally-oriented meal with their produce. These projects reclaim and revitalize school greenhouses and classrooms that lie vacant or are used for storage.
Neighborhood Development Initiatives
Across both Chicago and Milwaukee, Sweet Water Foundation operates the ~2 acre Perry Ave Community Farm + Think-Do House, and has partnered with the Heart Haus, as a series of connected collaboration/ecopreneur consortium project experiments. Each site supports a range of individual yet interconnected range of STE(A+)M based initiatives emphasizing the interrelationship between inspiration, education, commerce, art, action and health & wellness.
For example, in Chicago SWF has become a member of the Chatham MMRP Advisory Committee and is now in conversation with their Housing Sub Committee about the integration of our emerging model at the Perry Ave site for ‘regenerative placemaking‘ into their future development projects. Each of the Chicago projects intersect with the objectives as outlined by the Goto2040 Plan, the Food Plan for Chicago, and the Chicago Cultural Plan.
In Milwaukee, SWF partners with ACTS Housing to incorporate indoor and outdoor gardens into the restoration of foreclosed homes in the Washington Park Neighborhood Renewal Project (WPNRP). WPNRP is a collaboration between Wells Fargo Bank, ACTS, the Urban Ecology Center, Sweet Water Foundation, and Milwaukee Bicycle Works.
Sweet Water AQUAPONS is a learning platform for practitioners of aquaponics of all backgrounds and levels of experience. This open-source platform allows learners to accrue a series of digital “badges” that correspond with aquaponics achievements, skills, and proficiencies. AQUAPONS was developed through a grant from the Digital Media and Learning Competition IV, with funding from the MacArthur Foundation and technical support from Mozilla Foundation as part of the the HIVE Learning network.The beauty of small-scale aquaponics systems are that they are completely adaptable and can be made to fit the budget and personality of the individuals creating them. Below are just of few of the miniature systems SWF has guided its partners in creating.
Students engaged in constructing a system are provided basic training in Construction, System Engineering, Plumbing, Electrical etc. but are given the freedom to transform the system via their interests and inspirations. Through such flexibility, Sweet Water Foundation seeks to empower the next generation of innovators and leaders.
SWF utilizes AQUAPONS to support all of its programming, and especially its membership in HIVE Chicago and the Chicago City of Learning initiatives. Via these memberships, SWF was selected to be featured in both the World’s Maker Faire in NYC and the MozFest in London this past year.