SUSTAINABLE STEM EDUCATION IN AUSTRALIA | URBAN GREEN FARMS
STEM education is an approach and a curriculum based on blending Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. This form of education and learning gives Australian students the opportunity to integrate subjects that are usually taught separately. This form of blended learning teaches students a depth of skills that are applicable to the real-world problem solving. This form of inter-disciplinary concepts ensures that students are learning dynamic thinking in preparation for a technology driven era.
Urban Green Farms are dedicated to providing educational access to Aquaponics and Hydroponics in a way that meets the needs of every Australian school and education facility. The application of Aquaponics and Hydroponics in Australian Schools means that students are met with innovative methods to explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.
Urban Green Farms will help you discover the world of sustainable indoor farming practices that are emerging rapidly by providing you with a range of products, implementation, ready to go education courses, training and on-going support.
What is Australian Stem education?
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics will continue to play a key role in sustainable growth and stability of the Australian and Global economy. The future of the planet will need to rely on Innovation driven by STEM. STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and enables the next generation of innovators and out of the box problem solving.
Our team at Urban Green Farms are passionate about creating a solution to our soaring demand for food. As the human population grows, we will need to produce more food in the next 50 years than we have in the last 1500 years. More importantly, we need food production that is sustainable, efficient, chemical-free and grows quickly. Our Aquaponic and Hydroponic STEM Learning Programs give our future generations the knowledge and tools to create a much more healthy and sustainable food production system.
Why is Stem important to Australian Schools?
As Symbotic Aquaponics explains; Aquaponics is a natural fit for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classrooms. Used by the Aztecs, Egyptians, and Chinese as a means to sustainably grow food for large populations, today’s aquaponics technology has made aquaponics accessible nearly all over the globe (and perhaps into outer space). Which makes it a promising instrument for the future of the Australian agricultural system and feeding mankind. As the viability, demand, and importance of aquaponics is increasing, it makes sense that aquaponics is being explored in our kids’ classrooms. Before we talk about the role of aquaponics in classrooms though, let’s talk about what aquaponics is and its numerous benefits.
Aquaponics Australia is a form of non-traditional agriculture that uses a recirculating water system to raise and harvest all-natural plants and fish (in addition to other organisms like red wiggler worms and crawfish) together in a symbiotic environment. It allows a grower to harvest both a valuable protein source as well as most plant species simultaneously. Aquaponics is so efficient that it requires less space and can be practiced anywhere so that people can locally harvest foods when they are freshest and most nutritious. This significantly reduces the waste of fossil fuels, and, in fact, food miles are among the fastest growing sources of greenhouse emissions globally. Alarmingly, 60 to 70 percent of the costs food go to production inputs currently within traditional agricultural and distribution systems. Because of the recirculation of water through the system, aquaponics uses up to 90 percent less water in a soilless environment. It also allows farmers to plant crops typically twice as close with 2-3 times the growth rate when compared to traditional agriculture. Aquaponics can even be a completely self-sustaining system by feeding fish the plants produced from the system!
Aquaponics works with the help of naturally-occurring, beneficial bacteria that thrive in the aquaponic system which allows the nitrogen cycle to take place continuously. Fish are fed and produce waste (ammonia) which then is circulated to the filter and grow beds where Nitrosomonas bacteria convert the ammonia to nitrite which either feed plants or is consumed by other naturally occurring bacteria such as Nitrobacter and Nitrospira. Nitrate converted from nitrite is consumed by plants or safely recirculated throughout the system. Other macro and micronutrients are circulated through the system to support plant growth as well with the help of worms and natural additions of small amounts of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chelated iron. Aquaponics is an emerging technology that will be essential for our next generation to feed the world while protecting our most precious natural resources.
Aquaponics is a natural fit for the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classroom, providing hands-on, practical, and integrative learning opportunities for students (and teachers)! It’s no wonder so many Australian educators and teachers are looking for and finding great ways to integrate aquaponics into their classrooms. Here in Melbourne, Australian we have worked to develop a curriculum that meets Accara Standards and beyond. We have also developed our aquaponics curriculum to foster 21st-century learning skills, such as an interest in STEM, perseverance, critical thinking, peer-to-peer interaction, and peer-to-adult interaction. Students who receive a successful aquaponics curriculum gain invaluable experience that will prepare them for the future in a way that traditional classroom curriculum does not.
Aquaponics presents a safe environment for continuous learning where students practice managing an ecosystem that is always changing. Practicing aquaponics forces students to solve problems and make critical decisions that will result in consequences that will impact themselves and others. Students are able to address any failure and try again stimulating leadership and team skills development as well as perseverance. Students also are learning technical skills that will be relevant as the emerging aquaponics industry continues to be a critical solution to feeding a growing population globally. We have observed that growers are able to learn and practice business skills as well as feed their community with the healthiest of foods by selling their produce and fish protein.
Because of the nature of aquaponics being a living ecosystem, we have observed that nurturing a living ecosystem also simulates a therapeutic environment for growers of all learning styles as well as learning differences. In addition, our aquaponics system has been designed so that anyone can enjoy its benefits. When students of all ages grow their own food, it stimulates healthy eating habits which promotes the healing and prevention of the most common health ailments that plague our society.
HOW IS STEM EDUCATION APPLIED TO AQUAPONICS?
Similarly to Aquaponics, Hydroponic's is also natural fit to Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.
Hydroponics, a method of growing plants using nutrient-enriched water without soil, offers a gardening alternative that is not tied to external space and the growing season and can be conducted indoors year-round. Although there are many versions of hydroponics systems, most include a structure for holding the plants, a reservoir of water containing nutrients, a method for getting the water to the plants, and a light system. As such, students can be engaged in learning and applying concepts from chemistry, physics, and biology while conducting research investigations by changing variables (i.e., the time the lights are on) and observing the impact on plant growth.
A major advantage of classroom-based hydroponics in Australian Schools is that there are a wide variety of possible systems, and the systems can easily be adapted to fit the space, resources, and needs of specific settings. Our systems are designed as a result of meetings with teachers who wanted the systems to be (1) small, (2) easily moved, and (3) capable of fitting in the trunk of a car. With those design constraints in mind, we designed a set of hydroponic systems that teachers could use in their classrooms. Seeding the Future.