A growing number of educators in Maryland are discovering that aquaculture (fish farming) offers an effective tool for teaching science and an excellent vehicle for project-based science (PBS).
That’s because aquaculture is interdisciplinary — understanding how it’s done requires understanding aspects of physics (like water flow), chemistry (water quality and pH), and biology (fish and plants).
Maryland Sea Grant has developed a network of "aquaculture educators” called Aquaculture in Action. It’s based on a model program that began with Carroll County Public Schools in 1997. Now these programs have spread to 36 schools in 12 Maryland counties (see a complete list of Aquaculture in Action participating schools). We encourage you to inquire if you are interested in joining the network!
The Aquaculture in Action program consists of some fundamental elements that are key to its success:
One-week workshops: The workshops support teachers with an instructional guide, materials, and equipment for the construction of a 260-gallon recirculating aquaculture system.
A web portal: This gives teachers and students the ability to enter project data related to their research in the classroom and share information and ideas with those at other schools.
Support by Maryland Sea Grant and its partners throughout the school year: This includes help to obtain native fish for culture and release of fish in coordination with MD-DNR at the end of the school year at approved locations in Maryland.
Current support from the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office B-WET program is supporting the addition of new schools from Baltimore City, Harford County, Baltimore County and Allegany County public schools. Additionally, this support will help reintroduce native species like yellow perch and shad in the classroom with support from MD-DNR and the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) in Baltimore.
Maryland Sea Grant Personnel
For more information, contact:
Scholarly Research about Aquaponics Education
The use of aquaponics to teach science is growing across the United States. Maryland Sea Grant’s Adam Frederick and colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University studied this trend through an online survey of high-school and college aquaponics instructors. They collected responses from 100 individuals at separate institutions.
They reported findings in a recent issue of the European Journal of Health & Biology Education. Among them:
- Aquaponics education programs engaged a total of up to 50,250 participants per year.
- Institutions spent a median of $1,000 to $4,999 on aquaponics facilities during the previous year.
- K-12 schools financed their operations from a variety of sources. These included government grants; non-governmental grants and gifts; and income from the sale of aquaponics products, materials, workshops. and consulting.
A topic for future study is how aquaponics teaching affects students’ academic performance. Another is the needs among teachers for training and technical support.
Articles and Resources for Aquaculture Education
Aquaculture education projects at participating schools: See details of projects. For example, Westminster High School is raising clownfish, a colorful tropical species displayed in aquariums (for more information, download the article).
"Problem-Solving Science Teaching." This Maryland Sea Grant video provides an introduction to Aquaculture in Action. Students learn to tackle and solve a slew of research questions and technical problems, ranging from water quality to food supply to fish disease.
"Bringing the Bay into the Classroom:" Article about Aquaculture in Action in Chesapeake Quarterly, Maryland Sea Grant’s magazine.
“New Recirculating Aquaculture Technology Comes To Carroll County": South Carroll High School set up a new type of recirculating, anaerobic process using the Anammox process. The system was designed to reduce or eliminate the need for water changes and the mortality of the fish in the system.
See a photo gallery of an Aquaculture in Action workshop showing teachers and the fish tanks used in aquaculture education.
Finfish Aquaculture Workbook Series: Maryland Sea Grant fact sheets.
Raising Horseshoe Crabs in the Classroom, Maryland Department of Natural Resources
ALERN: ALabama Education in aquatic sciences, Aquaculture, Recreational fisheries and Natural resource conservation.
Partners in Aquaculture in Action
- Carroll County Public Schools
- Center for a Livable Future Aquaponics Project
- Chesapeake Bay Trust
- Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
- Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
- Maryland Department of Juvenile Services
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources
- Maryland Sea Grant