Local high school teaches students sustainable indoor fish farming

RUSSELLVILLE, Ky. (WBKO) -- A new program at Russellville High School is meant to give students a hands-on experience in a growing field of farming.

Aquaponics is considered a sustainable and circulating system, raising tilapia while growing garden vegetables.

"Aquaponics is basically growing fish with bacteria and plants," said biology teacher, Tanya Mullen. "And each of those three components help each other."

16 students worked together to tabulate different factors on fish conditions.

"I'm comparing when we first got the fish, how much they weighed, to what they weigh now," said Maggie Cockrell, a sophomore at Russellville High.

Students bailed water from the fish tank, brought in garden hoses, and weighed the tilapia -- it's not something you see every day in a high school classroom.

"This class is completely a hands-on process. To whether they're doing the water quality testing, or they're planting seeds, they're problem solving," said Mullen.

With the help of a grant from Kentucky State University, the aquaculture and aquaponics program was first part of a biology module, and students worked on it in their freetime.

This school year, it became an elective all its own.

"We've had so many kids, and so many kids couldn't take the class, and they're like -- 'Oh no, we can't we can't take it this year. Or you're gonna have it next year?' And I'm like, 'Yes, we're gonna have it next year!'" said Mullen.

The class is teaching a growing field for food access.

"Having a good, sustainable amount of food, and fresh food that is grown locally, makes more sense," said Mullen.

It's also a practical and hands-on way to get students in touch with STEM concepts.

"Science is not just 'sit and get'. Science is do," said Mullen. "And this is one of the best programs for that to take place."

Eventually, Mullen said she hopes to add in a business component that also gives back -- getting students to design a business model to sell their organic fish and plants to the community.​

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