Lane Tech`s aquaponics lab teaches students to farm with fish - FOX 32 News Chicago

Lane Tech`s aquaponics lab teaches students to farm with fish

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

There is something fishy going on at Lane Tech College Prep High School, but it's a good thing and it's teaching students a new skill.

Sabrina Mendoza and her fellow green thumbs are planting more than just seedlings at Lane Tech. They are laying the groundwork for what could become a business model for other schools. It's part of a class on aquaponics--the science of growing plants and fish together in a closed, self-sustaining ecosystem.

"We have fish tanks full of tilapia who that are hooked up to plant beds. The waste water from those fish tanks are filtered into the plant beds and that waste water is converted into a really super rich fertilizer for the plants," Academic Center Director Cristen Lain details. "The plants then filter that waste out of the water and then clean the water for the fish."

Lane Tech was the first city school to have a lab like this and it's already having a big impact on students.

"I've actually thought about, looking into a major that I could possibly do something similar to this, if not here at Lane I could possibly work and start my own auqaponics systems in another school," says Lane Tech senior Sabrina Mendoza.

"The fascinating part about aquaponics is really that something no one really appreciates, waste, can be recycled and made into something good that you can use and eat," student Giana Kirby says.

The class serves as a science elective available to kids starting in 8th grade. They feed the fish and do water quality testing and everything else to make sure the system operates like it should. Right now, the fish are tiny, but last year, some of them grew to about three pounds.

Students are growing rhubarb, Swiss chard, herbs and flowers this year with more to come.

"It is more than just raising the fish and growing the plants," Lane Tech Principal Dr. Christopher Dignam explains. "It's really all inclusive, it should have a business model as part of it, something they can take away from that, collecting data that's authentic and can be used in a math classroom."

The school also teaches students how to run a business where they have to plan supplies and price out the costs of running an aquaponics system.

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