What do a greenhouse and a tilapia farm have in common? And what do they have to do with teaching and learning?
Students and staff at Green Street Academy know the answers. In the basement of their school, three large water tanks are filled with 200 tilapia fish. The nitrogen-rich waste the fish produce is collected in another tank, and then used as fertilizer in the greenhouse and vegetable beds in front of the school.
Taking care of the environment is a focus of instruction at green Street academy. Through the tilapia and vegetable farms, students tune into “making their own decisions about what to eat and how to eat it in the future,” says 8th-grade teacher Mike Rennard. and more than that, they are learning to think critically about issues like industrial farming versus small-scale local farming. “Is it raised in a way that is fair to the environment and to people and animals?” is one of the questions students might discuss as they work and learn in Green Street’s farms, or in the school’s chicken coop near the raised vegetable beds.
Of course, raising fish, chickens and vegetables teaches students a lot about biology as well as ethics. But there’s more: “The farm is two-fold. There are the technical skills that go into managing the farm,” says Brian Giglio, the tilapia farm operator. “Then there is also the business side of it, where students reach out to the community, they go through the whole process of developing a business plan and then they create the plan and market, sell and distribute the fish. They get to participate as the producer and the seller, so they have to develop an entrepreneurial skill that they didn’t have before,” says Mr. Giglio.
Greenhouses and tilapia have more in common than you may have thought. and at Green Street Academy, so do science lessons, critical thinking and real-world business skills!