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Aquaponics promotes scientific literacy and provides a useful tool for teaching the natural sciences at all levels, from primary through to tertiary education. An aquaponics classroom model system provides multiple ways of enriching classes in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The day-to-day maintenance of an aquaponics system also enables experiential learning, which is the process of learning through physical experience, and more precisely the ‘meaning- making’ process of an individual’s direct experience. Aquaponics can thus become an enjoyable and effective way for learners to study STEM content. It can also be used for teaching subjects such as business and economics, and for addressing issues like sustainable development, environmental science, agriculture, food systems and health.
There are many types of aquaponic systems available on the internet which can either be purchased as a kit, or a complete system can be delivered and installed. However, building an aquaponic system is in itself a valuable educational experience. A basic aquaponic system can also be built easily and inexpensively from reclaimed materials. Even a micro system (1.5 m²) can mimic a full- scale unit in terms of water quality and water consumption, thus making it an effective teaching tool (Maucieri et al. 2018). However, implementing aquaponics in classrooms is not without its challenges. Technical difficulties, lack of experience and knowledge, and maintenance over holiday periods can all pose significant barriers to teachers using aquaponics, and disinterest on the teacher’s part may also be a crucial factor (Hart et al. 2013; Hart et al. 2014). However, other studies revealed that many educators are willing to incorporate aquaponics in the classroom, particularly when it provides an opportunity for experiential learning (Clayborn et al. 2017). Teachers strongly agreed that bringing an aquaponics unit into the classroom is inspiring for the students and led to greater interaction between students and teachers, thereby contributing to a dialogue about science (Wardlow et al. 2002). A survey of the use of aquaponics in education in the USA found that in primary and secondary schools it tends to be project oriented and used for teaching single discipline subjects such as chemistry or biology, while college and university aquaponic systems were generally used for teaching interdisciplinary subjects such as food systems and environmental sciences. In vocational and technical schools aquaponic systems are rarely used to teach subjects other than aquaponics (Genello et al. 2015).
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