Teachers at The Meadows Elementary in DeSoto Jerry Martin, Linda Nunley and Irene Chaney-Babino help Jonathon Musser of Aquaponics and Earth, second from left, set up the aquaponics system last month. Courtesy of Aquaponics and Earth.

March 10, 2014

By Rita Cook 

The DeSoto Independent School District wants students to learn by watching scientific principles come to life. They're also providing a lesson in sustainability after installing an aquaponics system last month. 

Teresa Angeles, principal at The Meadows Elementary in DeSoto, said that the school received a grant from the American Heart Association to build a community garden. They decided to add an aquaponics system as well when they learned that an aquaponics expert was based in DeSoto. 

“It gives us an opportunity to teach STEM curriculum through gardening” said Angeles, referring to a national campaign to promote learning in science, technology, engineering and math. “It was the perfect fit.”

Below, Illustration courtesy of Aquaponics and Earth.

Aquaponics is a circular water and energy-conserving system in which fish provide fertilizer for plants grown in a media bed, as opposed to soil. The nutrient-rich water from the fish tank fertilizes the plants, which in turn filter and clean the water.  

John Musser, founder of Aquaponics and Earth, a nonprofit based in DeSoto, who’s installing the system, says it uses a small amount of land, one tenth of an acre, to produce an abundance of crops.

“The unique growing system is also self-sustaining once the techniques are mastered,” he said. “We are excited about being partners with them in a new adventure that we call a journey into pure food sustainability.”  

In fact, the system is a full blown education platform for the farming of the future and Angeles explains that students will learn about seeds, soil, growth patterns and photosynthesis.  

“All kinds of science lessons will be demonstrated in this model,” she said. “Also we plan to integrate all subjects into this curriculum – writing in journals, problems in math, reading articles and stories about gardening. The possibilities are endless.” 

The Meadows proved to be the perfect testing grounds for the project because the facility already has an interior location with plumbing in the gym locker room.   

As for the goals of the garden, Angeles said they want to provide fresh herbs and vegetables to students and teachers in the classroom.   

“Though these real life learning laboratories, we will teach students the value of responsibility and healthy habits of eating that will hopefully last a lifetime.” 

Rita Cook is an award-winning journalist who writes or has written for the Dallas Morning News, Focus Daily News, Waxahachie Daily Light, Dreamscapes Travel Magazine, Porthole, Core Media, Fort Worth Star Telegram and many other publications in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. With five books published, her latest release is “A Brief History of Fort Worth” published by History Press. Contact her at rcook13@earthlink.net.

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