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Young eco warriors cast a fishy plan for sustainable school environment

 
Wulguru State School students learning about growing fish in aquaculture systems, Image courtesy of Wulguru State School

 

Student eco warriors at Wulguru State School are growing a green thumb, planting roots for a sustainable school community, through the creation of their first aquaponics sensory garden.

 

Through the partnership with Lendlease and Landcare Australia’s Junior Landcare Program, Wulguru State School were awarded $2,500 towards their sustainable initiative.

Combining aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the growing of plants without soil) the garden utilises an integrated system where fish and plants are grown. The fish waste provides an organic food source for the plants and the plants naturally filter the water for the fish.

Wulguru State School Principal Tracey Kenway said the aquaponics sensory garden will be an addition to the school’s existing vegetable, herb and flower garden.

“The aquaponics sensory garden will be an addition to our existing vegetable, herb and flower garden. Combining aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil) the garden will utilise an integrated system where fish and plants are grown together,” she said.

“The fish waste provides an organic food source for the plants and the plants naturally filter the water for the fish. We will install an aquaponics system with a fish tank and a growing bed. The fish tank holding water, fish and water plants will pump water to the other tub holding clay balls and plants such as vegetables, herbs and flowers.”

“Aquaponics has a positive effect on the natural environment (Dry Tropics) as it enhances the sustainability of food production through the use of recycled waste water. It is a water smart initiative. Aquaponics uses far less water than growing vegetables in the ground and is far more productive, allowing a lot of food to be grown in a small area. It is organic, with no harmful pesticides, and efficient as it can be run on solar energy. A medium sized aquaponics system can produce food including vegetables, herbs, fish and redclaw.”

The school will collaborate with William Ross State High School to gain expertise for the set up and maintenance of the system. The local high school has an existing aquaculture and aquaponics systems.

“We will establish a STEAM Team to work across the two campuses. Students will have the opportunity to visit the Townsville City Council's Rowes Bay Sustainability Centre to see another aquaponics system in action and learn from the scientists there,” said Ms Kenway.

“The science of aquaponics will allow the students to access knowledge in a real-life learning context. They will learn that fish living in a tank produce waste rich in ammonia then this water is pumped into the growing tank where bacteria living on the clay pellets convert the ammonia and fish waste to nitrogen. Plants then use the nitrogen and filter the water and the clean water goes back to the fish.

“Students will undertake research into aquaponics and this will include visits to WRSHS and the Rowes Bay Sustainability Centre. The vegetables and fish will be used to prepare healthy meals as we are a Healthy Eats accredited school. Science teachers from the high school will collaborate with teachers and students to monitor the health of the system.”

As a Healthy Eats school located in Townsville in the Dry Tropics, the whole school community will benefit from learning about aquaponics as a sustainable, water smart and efficient method of food production.

The Lendlease Junior Landcare Grants program was created to support the next generation of environmental and community leaders through fostering relationships with youth, the local community and Indigenous champions to drive greater environmental and social outcomes in the community.

Elliot Springs Social Sustainability Manager Danielle Kollanyi said that the program can support a variety of environmental sustainability projects, and the program encourages students to be actively involved in the research and design process.

“The program’s goal is to support the next generation of environmental and community leaders through fostering relationships with youth, the local community and Indigenous champions to drive greater environmental and social outcomes in Lendlease communities,” she said.

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