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23.3 Methods

5 months ago

4 min read

In the context of this chapter, three data sources were used including (a) an exploratory study on the educational opportunities at school (Bosire et al. 2016), (b) a feasibility study carried out among teachers (Bosire and Sikora 2017), and (c) the eGBG study (Toth and Mikkelsen 2018).

The first study (a) was carried out as an exploration of the opportunities and challenges of using aquaponics as an educational tool. The study aimed at investigating to what extent it makes sense to use aquaponics in school teaching. Data from three (N = 3) independent qualitative interviews were collected. The informants were (1) a biology teacher engaged in natural science teaching at primary school; (2) a consultant entrepreneur, which is an aquaponic expert, too; and (3) one local aquaponic bio-farmer. The data analysis procedure was inspired by the future workshop approach (Jungk and Müllert 1987), leading to a categorization and evaluation according to the three categories of critique, fantasy, and strategy.

In the second study (b), a feasibility study was carried out at the Blågaard Public School located within the Copenhagen Municipality in cooperation with two biology teachers and a physics teacher and with approval from the school administration. The local aquaponic bio-farmer and expert was also involved. A low-cost aquaponic facility for teaching was developed using a simple do-it-yourself (DIY) food production system and off-the-shelf components. The idea for this design and construction was to illustrate that this kind of technology can readily be undertaken, and it is not only for advanced urban growing but that it also has potential to be used as a science-teaching tool in humbler settings such as a local school. Since the budget of the school is limited, the overall goal was to complete the project at low cost and to carefully fit the system within the requirements of the existing curricula.

In the third study (c), a digital component was added to an improved version of the aquaponic system and the eGBG was introduced. The eGBG is a learning program based on simple aquaponics, and it is designed to create learning insights among adolescents. The program's special focus is on teaching principles of sustainable food production in cities and at the same time to facilitate ICT learning. The program's didactics is aimed at showing how a biological system like aquaponics can be controlled, maneuvered, and self-regulated using sensors and feedback mechanisms. This is done by connecting sensors that measure temperature, pH, and nutrient balance via a digital interface such as Arduino. The eGBG developed a simple urban farming tool based on a learning package for schools where students can learn about this technology in biology classes. By studying how the sensors work, they have the ability to learn how ICT can be integrated to monitor and control a living biological system.

The eGBG educational program can be used both in an interdisciplinary course with ICT as a theme or in the subjects of biology, physics, and chemistry. The components of the eGBG are for a low-cost aquaponic system that has been developed for the school context as described previously. Some of the key elements were supplied by BioTeket, which is a company with a social and cultural remit with an emphasis on environmental technology. BioTeket offers a series of workshops and events, giving the citizens of Copenhagen an opportunity to gain experience with sustainable urban life. The assembly was done under the company's technical supervision. According to the national curricula, ICT in elementary school is taught not as a stand-alone subject, but in a transversal manner spanning several subjects. Combining smart and sensor-based control and biological system therefore seems straightforward for this requirement. Urban farming technologies require a monitoring system with a multitude of sensors since maintaining a system in balance requires continuous measurement of temperature, pH, etc. To meet this requirement, the eGBG was developed in cooperation between Aalborg University, a municipal school in Albertslund, and the enterprise BioTeket. The development process was configured as an action research study where data was collected along with the development process.