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Aquaponic teaching units were assessed in the FP6 project "Play-With-Water" on seven separate occasions in three countries (Sweden, Norway, Switzerland). This involved six schools (1 school in Norway, 1 in Sweden, and 4 in Switzerland) where the age of students ranged between 7 and 14 years. Six teachers were asked to keep a diary, which they then used to answer an online questionnaire complemented with phone interviews, which are summarized in Table 22.5.
Feedback from teachers on their experience with the aquaponics indicated that some issues were too complex for primary schools. The "Play-With-Water" experiments such as those available on the project website (www.zhaw.ch/iunr/play-withwater/) may be more appropriate for use in secondary education. The learning
Table 22.5 Summarized answers of the six interviewed teachers regarding the advantages and disadvantages of using aquaponics as a teaching tool
table thead tr class="header" thWhat are the main advantages?/th th Number of mentions /th th What are the main disadvantages? /th th Number of mentions /th /tr /thead tbody tr class="odd" tdSuitable to learn system thinking/td td 3 /td td None. /td td 2 /td /tr tr class="even" tdFacilitates teamwork/td td 2 /td td High time requirements. /td td 2 /td /tr tr class="odd" tdmobilization of students/td td 2 /td td High knowledge requirements. /td td 2 /td /tr tr class="even" tdProvides diversity in teaching/td td 2 /td td Difficult concepts & language. /td td 1 /td /tr tr class="odd" tdMotivating for students/td td 1 /td td Sensitive for pests. /td td 1 /td /tr tr class="even" tdMotivating for teachers/td td 1 /td td Students were not always paying attention. /td td 1 /td /tr tr class="odd" tdTransfer between different subjects possible/td td 1 /td td/td td/td /tr tr class="even" tdVersatile: several possible educational objectives/td td 1 /td td/td td/td /tr /tbody /table
materials contain descriptions of complex processes and ecological interactions that require a deeper knowledge of natural sciences such as chemistry or biology than can be expected at primary school. If the material is to be used by teachers, it needs to provide the information in a classroom-ready format. Explanations of chemical and biological processes such as nitrification ought to be greatly simplified.
Peroci (2016) investigated a series of aspects related to the potential for including aquaponics in the educational process of secondary vocational education in Slovenia (Fig. 22.7). This included
Fig. 22.7 The general structure of the study of Peroci (2016) about the potential for including aquaponics in the educational process of secondary vocational education in Slovenia
(i) Analysis of catalogs of vocational secondary education in biotechnical fields in order to assess the compatibility of these educational programs with learning objectives related to aquaponics.
(ii) Design of a short Aquaponic Educational Course including the definition of learning outcomes (knowledge and skills). The didactic material for experiential learning was tested and evaluated by a class of students at the Biotechnical Centre Naklo (Precedent 5, Sect. 22.8.2).
(iii) Survey of the knowledge of, and attitudes toward, aquaponics in biotechnicalschools in Slovenia by students attending the programs for land managers, horticultural technicians, technicians in agriculture and management, and environmental technicians, in order to evaluate students' attitudes toward this type of food production (see Sect. 22.8.2.) The list of potential candidates for participation in the survey was prepared based on a review of secondary schools by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport of the Republic of Slovenia.
(iv) Semi-structured interviews with teachers at relevant schools, examining theimplementation of aquaponics as a learning tool in Slovenia (Sect. 184.108.40.206).
In order to investigate the use of aquaponics as a learning tool in Slovenia, Peroci (2016) conducted semi-structured interviews (45—60 min) with five teachers.
The analysis of interviews revealed the following reasons for using aquaponics: (i) possibility for experiential learning, (ii) flexible installation that can be adapted to the education goal, (iii) a good way of teaching about food production, and for teaching STEM subjects. These were very similar to reasons revealed by interviews in North America conducted by Hart et al. (2013). However, in contrast, in the interviews conducted in Slovenia, two reasons for using aquaponics were absent: fun, and developing responsibility and compassion for living organisms.
Based on the analysis of the interviews related to the three aquaponics units used for education in Slovenia, the future implementation of aquaponics as a learning tool needs to focus on the following steps:
Developing a set of learning outcomes that can be achieved using an aquaponicunit
Designing the aquaponic teaching unit, which facilitates learning outcomes andcompetencies that students must gain in order to become an "Aquaponic Farmer"
Establishing a link between teachers and trainers (kindergartens, primary schools,secondary schools, universities), local communities, companies, and individuals involved in aquaponics
Developing guidelines for integrating aquaponics in the learning process
Performing workshops for the design, construction, operation, and maintenanceof an aquaponics