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The introduction of aquaponics into schools may be an aspiration, but in many countries, primary and secondary schools have rigid curricula with learning objectives that must be met by the end of each school year. Commonly, these objectives, called attainment terms or outcome competencies, are course-specific and defined by the education authorities. Thus, this calls for a well-thought-out strategy to successfully introduce an aquaponics in school classes. In comparison, colleges and universities have more freedom to map out their own curricula.
Fig. 22.1 An aquaponics can address various goals or stakeholders by offering to develop key competences in appropriate educational and training processes. (Modified after Graber et al. 2014)
There are, as stated above, many aquaponics described and illustrated on the web. It is also possible to purchase a kit, or have a complete system delivered and installed. However, building an aquaponics is in itself a valuable educational experience, and the fact that it is not delivered to the classroom ready-made adds to its instructional value.
An aquaponics can address various goals or stakeholders (Fig. 22.1). To attain all of these, the components of a system have to fulfill various requirements (Table 22.1). The choice of what kind of aquaponics is suitable for a particular institution should result from a realistic assessment of its facilities and the educational objectives.
Maucieri et al. (2018) proposed a general classification of aquaponics according to different design principles. While a system can simultaneously fulfill several objectives, including greening and decoration, social interaction, and food production, here we assume that the main objective is education. If we follow the classification of Maucieri et al. (2018), which categorizes the aquaponics according to several categories (stakeholder, size), several distinct options for choosing a suitable aquaponics emerge (Table 22.2). Any decision has to be made within the limits of the available budget, though it is possible to construct a system at very low cost.
Table 22.1 General requirements for three types of educational aquaponics
table thead tr class="header" thAspect/th th pResearch (basic and applied) /th th pTertiary education p(BSc, MSc, PhD) /th th pSocietal added value: Education (primary and secondary), vocational training, communication, health benefits /th /tr /thead tbody tr class="odd" tdAccess/td td pGood access for daily work and monitoring, /td td pGood access for daily work and monitoring; Good access for groups /td td pGood access for groups /td /tr tr class="even" tdSize/td td pReasonable size for scaling-up for potential commercial farms (depending on the crop) /td td pReasonable size for a good overview of different cultivation options /td td pReasonable size for a good overview /td /tr tr class="odd" tdConstruction/td td pEasy remodelingsupa/sup /td td pEasy remodeling /td td pMostly commercial offthe-shelf elements /td /tr tr class="even" tdClimate control/td td pAdvanced /td td pBasic /td td pBasic /td /tr tr class="odd" tdDiversity of production methods/td td pVariable according to current research projectssupb/sup /td td pVariable to high: from basic (demonstration of system) to cutting edge p(research) /td td pHigh: from basic (demonstration of system) to cutting edge (demonstration of potential) /td /tr tr class="even" tdRecycling, closed-loop systems/td td pQuantitative importance: improving the ecological footprint and thus reducing costs /td td pQuantitative and qualitative importance /td td pQualitative importance: demonstration of ecological principles /td /tr tr class="odd" tdProvision of energy from renewable sources/td td pQuantitative importance: improving the ecological footprint and thus reducing costs /td td pQuantitative and qualitative importance /td td pQualitative importance: demonstration of ecological principles /td /tr tr class="even" tdRainwater harvesting, treatment, and use/td td pQuantitative importance: improving the ecological footprint and thus reducing costs /td td pQuantitative and qualitative importance /td td pQualitative importance: demonstration of ecological principles /td /tr /tbody /table
Modified after Graber et al. (2014)
supa/sup allows testing of different set-ups
supb/sup from state of the art (aligned with current practices of professional vegetable growers and fish farmers) to cutting edge (testing innovative production methods)
Additional questions to be asked before installing an aquaponics are
What size of system to choose? The size of the system will most probably increase in relation to the age of the students: smaller systems in kindergarten and larger systems in high school.
Where is the system to be placed? Micro-systems (Table 22.2) can be placed in a classroom. However, very small and small systems (Table 22.2) require more space and perhaps a greenhouse will need to be constructed to house these.
Is the system going to be a temporary or a permanent feature? If it is going to be a permanent feature, who will take care of the system during the holidays? If it is going to be a temporary feature, the institution might consider borrowing an aquarium from an aquarist among the staff or the students, who would also be able to give advice on fish care.
Table 22.2 Suitability of different design options for an educational aquaponics. The green color denotes the most suitable options, yellow options are less suitable, while red options are not suitable for the majority of cases
supa/supExtensive (fish density is mostly under 10 kg/msup3/sup and allows for integrated sludge usage in grow beds).
supb/supIntensive (fish density requires additional sludge separation; however, the sludge has to be treated separately).
supc/supClosed loop ("coupled" systems): after the hydroponic component, the water is recycled to the aquaculture component.
supd/supOpen loop or end-of pipe ("decoupled" systems): after the hydroponic component, the water is either not or only partially recycled to the aquaculture component.
Are the fish going to be harvested? Animal welfare should always be observed and killing the fish should be done according to animal protection laws (Council of the European Union 1998). Children might have problems in killing and eating a living animal, which resembles Dory (from the movie finding Nemo). If the fish are not going to be harvested, then goldfish or Koi are a good option.
Are the plants going to be harvested and eaten? If yes, then suggestions for using the produce need to be prepared. If not, then consider using ornamental plants instead.
## 22.2.2 How to Embed Aquaponics as a Didactic Tool?
An aquaponics with living fish and plants obviously provides the potential for longterm engagement compared to conventional single discipline scientific experiments. While this is a manifest asset for progressive and continuous experiential learning, it has been indicated that safeguarding the teacher's interest in the long run and the provision of learning material are key challenges to successfully incorporating aquaponics in school classes (Hart et al. 2013; Clayborn et al. 2017).
Ideally, the model aquaponics should be embedded in different classes in a way that it facilitates attaining course-specific educational goals. Subjects, which promote an understanding of natural cycles, waste recycling, and environmental protection, are the most obvious. However, aquaponics can also be used in other subjects, such as art, social sciences, and economics. The examples discussed in Examples 22.1, 22.2, 22.3, 22.4, 22.5, 22.6 and 22.7 below provide an insight into the versatility of aquaponics in education.
Active aquaponics can be used for teaching over different time periods, and accordingly there are distinct scenarios:
(a) Over one term, 1—2 classes per week (8—12 weeks) (see Examples 22.1 and 22.3)
(b) As a half- to one-day educational activity (see Example 22.4)
(c) As a Science Week or Project Week on 2—5 consecutive days (see Example 22.2)
(d) As an extracurricular activity, during one term of 10—15 weeks
(e) As a permanent feature for the whole school, thus providing a focal "conversation piece" and study/research facility for several classes (see Examples 22.5 and 22.6, Graber et al. 2014)