Harrisburg students learn lesson in aquaponics

Some Harrisburg students are taking part in a project that’s really getting their hands dirty, gardening. But this isn’t your typical garden. The kids are learning about science, organic foods, and even the economy.

“Basically we’re growing plants here.”

Sixth grader Jacob Basehore put it simply, but there’s much more to it than that. Marshall School is teaching aquaponics.

“We have a fish tank, and when the fish do their duty, their waste goes into these two,” said 8th grader Maryah Burney, “This rock bed and this other tank.”

“The process is it goes from ammonia to nitrites to nitrates,” said Basehore, “The nitrates is what the plants like to use to grow. The fish give the plants food, and the plants in return clean their water.”

The fish use that clean water to survive, and the cycle continues. In this self-contained system, students are raising tilapia as well as all kinds of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices.

“You know how you grow plants outside, this system grows two times faster,” said Basehore.

“They’re creating an ecosystem that’s right down the hall from their homeroom,” said gifted support teacher Leann Tepsich-Cox.

While students are busy growing green, they’re also bringing in green — cash.

“School to table is our school producing produce, and selling them to various types of restaurants,” said Burney.

“We’re an economic stimulator,” said Jerome Ringo, CEO & President of Aggreco International, “We’re creating jobs. Green jobs. I think this is the direction America and the rest of the world wants to go and needs to go.”

The aquaponics system was given to marshall through a partnership with Aggreco International, which focuses on renewable energy.

Aggreco hopes to take this to classrooms across the country.

“Our prototype is a test into what kind of modifications are necessary, and what’s needed to make it successful,” said 8th grader Hoang Le, “So their success relies on ours.”

Aggreco also wants to develop it in Africa.

“In Nigeria they have poor soil, it’s hard to grow plants,” said 6th grader Kayla Palmer-Barnes, “This might help them in a way so they can grow plants, and have food for their family.”

The students at Marshall are also growing their minds.

“It’s basically hands-on science,” said Burney, “For a really long time that was a subject I struggled in. Being with this, it was seeing life science.”

“There’s a lot of negative stuff in Harrisburg,” said Palmer-Barnes, “This is one of the few positive things, but it’s a very big positive thing.”

“We’re learning and we’re having fun. It’s real cool,” said Basehore.

Harvest Restaurant in Susquehanna Township is already impressed. It bought food from the students in November. That money goes right to the school. It will be used for teaching needs like new technology and field trips.

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