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This chapter provides an overview of possible strategies for implementing aquaponics in curricula at different levels of education, illustrated by case studies from different countries. Aquaponics can promote scientific literacy and provide a useful tool for teaching the natural sciences at all levels, from primary through to tertiary education. An aquaponics classroom model system can provide multiple ways of enriching classes in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and the day-to-day maintenance of an aquaponics can also enable experiential learning. Aquaponics can thus become an enjoyable and effective way for learners to study STEM content, and can also be used for teaching subjects such as business and economics, and for addressing issues like sustainable development, environmental science, agriculture, food systems, and health. Using learner and teacher evaluations of the use of aquaponics at different educational levels, we attempt to answer the question of whether aquaponics fulfils its promise as an educational tool.
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Chapter 22
Aquaponics as an Educational Tool
Ranka Junge, Tjasa Griessler Bulc, Dieter Anseeuw,
Hijran Yavuzcan Yildiz, and Sarah Milliken
Abstract This chapter provides an overview of possible strategies for implementing
aquaponics in curricula at different levels of education, illustrated by case studies
from different countries. Aquaponics can promote scientic literacy and provide a
useful tool for teaching the natural sciences at all levels, from primary through to
tertiary education. An aquaponics classroom model system can provide multiple
ways of enriching classes in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
(STEM), and the day-to-day maintenance of an aquaponics can also enable experi-
ential learning. Aquaponics can thus become an enjoyable and effective way for
learners to study STEM content, and can also be used for teaching subjects such as
business and economics, and for addressing issues like sustainable development,
environmental science, agriculture, food systems, and health. Using learner and
teacher evaluations of the use of aquaponics at different educational levels, we
attempt to answer the question of whether aquaponics fulls its promise as an
educational tool.
R. Junge (*)
Institute of Natural Resource Sciences Grüenta, Zurich University of Applied Sciences,
Wädenswil, Switzerland
e-mail: ranka.junge@zhaw.ch
T. G. Bulc
Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia
e-mail: tjasa.bulc@zf.uni-lj.si
D. Anseeuw
Inagro, Roeselare, Belgium
e-mail: info@inagro.be
H. Yavuzcan Yildiz
Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Ankara University, Ankara, Turkey
e-mail: yavuzcan@ankara.edu.tr
S. Milliken
School of Design, University of Greenwich, London, UK
e-mail: S.Milliken@greenwich.ac.uk
©The Author(s) 2019
S. Goddek et al. (eds.), Aquaponics Food Production Systems,
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-15943-6_22
561
Keywords Aquaponics · Education · Aquaponics course · Vocational training ·
Higher education · Survey
22.1 Introduction
Aquaponics is not only a forward-looking food production technology; it also pro-
motes scientic literacy and provides a very good tool for teaching the natural
sciences (life and physical sciences) at all levels of education, from primary school
(Hofstetter 2007,2008; Bamert and Albin 2005; Bollmann-Zuberbuehler et al. 2010;
Junge et al. 2014) to vocational education (Baumann 2014; Peroci 2016) and at
university level (Graber et al. 2014).
An aquaponic classroom model system provides multiple ways of enriching
classes in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The
hands-onapproach also enables experiential learning, which is the process of
learning through physical experience, and more precisely the meaning-making
process of an individuals direct experience (Kolb 1984). Aquaponics can thus
become an enjoyable and effective way for learners to study STEM content. It can
also be used for teaching subjects such as business and economics, addressing issues
such as sustainable development, environmental science, agriculture, food systems,
and health (Hart et al. 2013).
A basic aquaponics can be built easily and inexpensively. The World Wide Web
is a repository of many examples of videos and instructions on how to build
aquaponics from a variety of components, resulting in a range of different sizes
and set-ups. Recent investigations of one such prototype micro-aquaponics showed
that despite being small, it can mimic a full-scale unit and it is an effective teaching
tool with a relatively low environmental impact (Maucieri et al. 2018). However,
implementing aquaponics in classrooms is not without its challenges. Hart et al.
(2013) report that technical difculties, lack of experience and knowledge, and
maintenance over holiday periods can all pose signicant barriers to teachers using
aquaponics in education, and that disinterest on the teachers part may also be a
crucial factor (Graham et al. 2005; Hart et al. 2014). Clayborn et al. (2017), on the
other hand, showed that many educators are willing to incorporate aquaponics in the
classroom, particularly when an additional incentive, such as hands-on experience, is
provided.
Wardlow et al. (2002) investigated teachersperceptions of the aquaponic unit as
a classroom system and also illustrated a prototype unit that can easily be
constructed. All teachers strongly agreed that bringing an aquaponics unit into the
classroom is inspiring for the students and led to greater interaction between students
and teachers, thereby contributing to a dialogue about science. On the other hand, it
is unclear exactly how the teachers and students made use of the aquaponics and the
instructional materials offered. Hence, the information needed to evaluate the impact
of aquaponics classes on meeting the objectives of the studentscurricula is still
missing. In a survey on the use of aquaponics in education in the USA (Genello et al.
562 R. Junge et al.
2015), respondents indicated that aquaponics were often used to teach subjects,
which are more exclusively focused on STEM topics. Aquaponics education in
primary and secondary schools is science-focused, project-oriented, and geared
primarily toward older students, while college and university aquaponics were
generally larger and less integrated into the curriculum. Interdisciplinary subjects
such as food systems and environmental science were taught using an aquaponics
more frequently at colleges and universities than they were at schools, where the
focus was more often on single discipline subjects such as chemistry or biology.
Interestingly, only a few vocational and technical schools used aquaponics to teach
subjects other than aquaponics. This indicates that for these educators, aquaponics is
a stand-alone subject and not a vehicle to address STEM or food system topics
(Genello et al. 2015).
While the studies mentioned above reported aquaponics as having the potential to
encourage the use of experimentation and hands-on learning, they did not evaluate
the impact of aquaponics on learning outcomes. Junge et al. (2014) evaluated
aquaponics as a tool to promote systems thinking in the classroom. The authors
reported that 1314 year old students (seventh grade in Switzerland) displayed a
statistically signicant increase from pre- to post-test for all the indices measured to
assess their systems thinking capacities. However, since the pupils did not have any
prior knowledge of systems thinking, and since there was no control group, the
authors concluded that supplementary tests are needed to evaluate whether
aquaponics has additional benets compared to other teaching tools. This issue
was addressed in the study by Schneller et al. (2015) who found signicant advances
in environmental knowledge scores in 1011 year old students compared to a control
group of 17 year olds. Moreover, when asked for their teaching preferences, the
majority of students indicated that they preferred hands-on experiential pedagogy
such as aquaponics or hydroponics. The majority of the students also discussed the
curriculum with their families, explaining how hydroponic and aquaponics work.
This observation extends the belief that hands-on learning using aquaponics (and
hydroponics) not only has a stimulating impact on teachers and students, but also
leads to intergenerational learning.
The objective of this chapter is to provide an overview of possible strategies for
implementing aquaponics in curricula at different levels of education, illustrated by
case studies from different countries. Based on evaluations conducted with some of
these case studies, we attempt to answer the question of whether aquaponics fulls
its promise as an educational tool.
22.2 General Scenarios for Implementing Aquaponics
in Curricula
The introduction of aquaponics into schools may be an aspiration, but in many
countries, primary and secondary schools have rigid curricula with learning objec-
tives that must be met by the end of each school year. Commonly, these objectives,
22 Aquaponics as an Educational Tool 563
called attainment terms or outcome competencies, are course-specic and dened by
the education authorities. Thus, this calls for a well-thought-out strategy to success-
fully introduce an aquaponics in school classes. In comparison, colleges and uni-
versities have more freedom to map out their own curricula.
22.2.1 Which Types of Aquaponics Are Suitable
for Education?
There are, as stated above, many aquaponics described and illustrated on the web. It
is also possible to purchase a kit, or have a complete system delivered and installed.
However, building an aquaponics is in itself a valuable educational experience, and
the fact that it is not delivered to the classroom ready-made adds to its instructional
value.
An aquaponics can address various goals or stakeholders (Fig. 22.1). To attain all
of these, the components of a system have to fulll various requirements
(Table 22.1). The choice of what kind of aquaponics is suitable for a particular
institution should result from a realistic assessment of its facilities and the educa-
tional objectives.
Maucieri et al. (2018) proposed a general classication of aquaponics according
to different design principles. While a system can simultaneously fulll several
objectives, including greening and decoration, social interaction, and food produc-
tion, here we assume that the main objective is education. If we follow the classi-
cation of Maucieri et al. (2018), which categorizes the aquaponics according to
several categories (stakeholder, size), several distinct options for choosing a suitable
aquaponics emerge (Table 22.2). Any decision has to be made within the limits of
the available budget, though it is possible to construct a system at very low cost.
Research &
Development
Ter t ia r y
Education
Voca tio nal
Education and
Training
Societal
Added Value:
Schools,
Health,
Community
Small Scale
Aquaponic
Farm er s
Consumers
Business,
(Commercial
Farm s,
Suppliers,
Retailers)
Fig. 22.1 An aquaponics can address various goals or stakeholders by offering to develop key
competences in appropriate educational and training processes. (Modied after Graber et al. 2014)
564 R. Junge et al.
aquarium from an aquarist among the staff or the students, who would also be
able to give advice on sh care.
Are the sh going to be harvested? Animal welfare should always be observed
and killing the sh should be done according to animal protection laws (Council
of the European Union 1998). Children might have problems in killing and eating
a living animal, which resembles Dory (from the movie nding Nemo). If the sh
are not going to be harvested, then goldsh or Koi are a good option.
Are the plants going to be harvested and eaten? If yes, then suggestions for using the
produce need to be prepared. If not, then consider using ornamental plants instead.
22.2.2 How to Embed Aquaponics as a Didactic Tool?
An aquaponics with living sh and plants obviously provides the potential for long-
term engagement compared to conventional single discipline scientic experiments.
While this is a manifest asset for progressive and continuous experiential learning, it
has been indicated that safeguarding the teachers interest in the long run and the
provision of learning material are key challenges to successfully incorporating
aquaponics in school classes (Hart et al. 2013; Clayborn et al. 2017).
Table 22.2 Suitability of different design options for an educational aquaponics. The green color
denotes the most suitable options, yellow options are less suitable, while red options are not suitable
for the majority of cases
a
Extensive (sh density is mostly under 10 kg/m
3
and allows for integrated sludge usage in
grow beds).
b
Intensive (sh density requires additional sludge separation; however, the sludge has to be treated
separately).
c
Closed loop (coupledsystems): after the hydroponic component, the water is recycled to the
aquaculture component.
d
Open loop or end-of pipe (decoupledsystems): after the hydroponic component, the water is
either not or only partially recycled to the aquaculture component.
566 R. Junge et al.
Ideally, the model aquaponics should be embedded in different classes in a way
that it facilitates attaining course-specic educational goals. Subjects, which pro-
mote an understanding of natural cycles, waste recycling, and environmental pro-
tection, are the most obvious. However, aquaponics can also be used in other
subjects, such as art, social sciences, and economics. The examples discussed in
Examples 22.1,22.2,22.3,22.4,22.5,22.6 and 22.7 below provide an insight into
the versatility of aquaponics in education.
Active aquaponics can be used for teaching over different time periods, and
accordingly there are distinct scenarios:
(a) Over one term, 12 classes per week (812 weeks) (see Examples 22.1 and 22.3)
(b) As a half- to one-day educational activity (see Example 22.4)
(c) As a Science Week or Project Week on 25 consecutive days (see Example 22.2)
(d) As an extracurricular activity, during one term of 1015 weeks
(e) As a permanent feature for the whole school, thus providing a focal conversa-
tion pieceand study/research facility for several classes (see Examples 22.5 and
22.6, Graber et al. 2014)
22.3 Aquaponics in Primary Schools
According to the International Standard Classication of Education (UNESCO-UIS
2012), primary education (or elementary education in American English) at ISCED
level 1 (rst 6 years) is typically the rst stage of formal education. It provides
children from the age of about 512 with a basic understanding of various subjects,
such as maths, science, biology, literacy, history, geography, arts, and music. It is
therefore designed to provide a solid foundation for learning and understanding core
areas of knowledge, as well as personal and social development. It focuses on
learning at a basic level of complexity with little, if any, specialization.Educational
activities are often organized with an integrated approach rather than providing
instruction in specic subjects.
The educational aim at ISCED level 2 (further 3 years) is to lay the foundation for
lifelong learning and human development upon which education systems may then
expand further educational opportunities. Programs at this level are usually orga-
nized around a more subject-oriented curriculum.
According to the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF 2018), providing
children with primary education has many positive effects, including increasing
environmental awareness.
At primary school age, childrens rich but naïve understandings of the natural
world can be built on to develop their understanding of scientic concepts. At the
same time, children need carefully structured experiences, taking into account their
prior knowledge, instructional support from teachers, and opportunities for sustained
engagement with the same set of ideas over longer periods (Duschl et al. 2007). One
22 Aquaponics as an Educational Tool 567
22.4 Aquaponics in Secondary Schools
According to the ISCED classication (UNESCO-UIS 2012), secondary education
provides learning and educational activities building on primary education and
preparing for both rst labor market entry as well as post-secondary non-tertiary
and tertiary education. Broadly speaking, secondary education aims to deliver
learning at an intermediate level of complexity.
While at primary education level, students are mainly directed toward observa-
tional and descriptive exercises on organisms and processes in an aquaponics,
students from secondary schools can be educated in understanding dynamic pro-
cesses. Aquaponics enables this increased complexity and fosters system thinking
(Junge et al. 2014).
Example 22.3 One Semester Course in a Grammar School
in Switzerland
Hofstetter (Hofstetter 2008) implemented aquaponic teaching units in a Gram-
mar School (German: Gymnasium) in Zurich and tested the hypothesis that
incorporating aquaponics into teaching has a positive inuence on systems
thinking (Ossimitz 2000) among the students. Gymnasium students in
(continued)
Fig. 22.3 (a) Students from the sixth grade of Gerberacher School visiting the demonstration
aquaponics at Zurich University of Applied Sciences (Waedenswil, Switzerland). (b) A poster
designed by the same students, explaining the basics of aquaponics
22 Aquaponics as an Educational Tool 571
22.5 Aquaponics in Vocational Education and Training
UNESCO-UIS/OECD/EUROSTAT (2017)denes vocational education programs
as designed for learners to acquire the knowledge, skills and competencies specic
to a particular occupation, trade, or class of occupations or trades. Successful
completion of such programs leads to labour market relevant, vocational qualica-
tions acknowledged as occupationally-oriented by the relevant national authorities
and/or the labour market(UNESCO, 2017).
In order to educate future aquaponic farmers and aquaponic technicians, the
training has to include the professional operation of aquaponics. Therefore, the
training environment needs to be state-of-art. However, the setting does not have
to be large: 30 m
2
should sufce (Podgrajsek et al. 2014, Examples 22.5 and 22.6).
Such systems should be planned and built by professionals as they require complex
monitoring and operation.
Students can be involved in: (i) installation (under professional guidance);
(ii) general maintenance and operation (including daily checks and cleaning); (iii)
operation of the hydroponic subsystem (planting, harvesting, integrated pest man-
agement, climate control, adjustment of pH and nutrient levels, etc.); (iv) operation
of the aquaculture sub-system (sh feeding, sh weight determinations, adjustment
of pH levels, etc.); (v) monitoring of parameters (water quality, sh growth and
health, plant growth, and quality); and (vi) harvesting and post-harvest operations.
Table 22.3 Sequence of teaching units in three classes of seventh grade students during one
semester course in a Grammar School in Switzerland
Teaching
unit
Number
of
lessons Methods Content
TU1 1 Survey of existing
knowledge
Pre-activity Test
TU2 4 Lecture by teacher,
research, & presentations
by students
System basics
TU3 2 Lecture by teacher, stu-
dent assignment
Connection circletool allows the students
to draw a diagram of a system (adopted
from Quaden and Ticotsky 2004)
TU4 2 Discovery learning Planning an aquaponics: sub-units,
connections
Presentations by students
TU5 2 Problem-based learning
(PBL)
Dening the main indicators of the system:
Fish and plants and their interactions
TU6 3 Discovery learning Monitoring the aquaponics
TU7 3 Presentations by students Drawing a diagram of the interconnections
in the aquaponics
TU8 1 Survey of knowledge Post-activity test
TU9 2 Aquaponic party Harvest, preparation of salad, eating
Modied after Junge et al. (2014)
574 R. Junge et al.
22.6 Aquaponics in Higher Education
Higher education programs need to be adapted to meet the expectations of the new
millennium, such as long-term food security and sovereignty, sustainable agricul-
ture/food production, rural development, zero hunger, and urban agriculture. These
important drivers mean that higher education institutions involved in the areas of
food production can play a key role in the teaching of aquaponics through both
capacity development and knowledge creation and sharing. Additionally, it is clear
that the interest in teaching and learning aquaponics is increasing (Junge et al. 2017).
At universities and colleges, aquaponics is usually taught as part of agriculture,
horticulture, or aquaculture courses and the context for course content development
in higher education is specic to each institutions internal and external dynamics.
The main challenge in designing courses at higher education level is the interdisci-
plinary nature of aquaponics, as prior knowledge of both aquaculture and horticul-
ture is essential. While some studies investigated the use of aquaponics in education
(Hart et al. 2013; Hart et al. 2014; Junge et al. 2014; Genello et al. 2015) and a
number of on-line courses are available, a course outline for aquaponics at the
tertiary level at a main-stream does not yet exist, or at least hasnt been published.
For tertiary level aquaponics courses to be implemented in the EU, the Bologna
Process, which underlines the need for meaningful implementation of learning
outcomes in order to consolidate the European Higher Education Area (EHEA),
Fig. 22.6 A view into the
greenhouse of Provinciaal
Technisch Insituut (PTI).
Fish tanks (containing
Scortum barcoo) are located
below the drip-irrigated
tomato gullies. In the middle
of the greenhouse,
Australian craysh (Cherax
quadricarinatus) are grown
in a series of aquaria
22 Aquaponics as an Educational Tool 577
22.7 Does Aquaponics Fulll Its Promise in Teaching?
Assessments of Teaching Units by Teachers
22.7.1 Teacher Interviews in Play-With-Water
Aquaponic teaching units were assessed in the FP6 project Play-With-Wateron
seven separate occasions in three countries (Sweden, Norway, Switzerland). This
involved six schools (1 school in Norway, 1 in Sweden, and 4 in Switzerland) where
the age of students ranged between 7 and 14 years. Six teachers were asked to keep a
diary, which they then used to answer an online questionnaire complemented with
phone interviews, which are summarized in Table 22.5.
Feedback from teachers on their experience with the aquaponics indicated that
some issues were too complex for primary schools. The Play-With-Waterexper-
iments such as those available on the project website (www.zhaw.ch/iunr/play-with-
water/) may be more appropriate for use in secondary education. The learning
Table 22.4 (continued)
Knowledge
and/or Skills:
On completion of the unit, students
should be able to create an economic
feasibility model.
On completion of the unit, stu-
dents should know how to create
a probability impact matrix
relating to risks.
Evidence
requirements:
Students will be required to Students will be required to
Create a feasibility model using differ-
ent nancial indicators based on a case
study
Create a probability impact
matrix of risk based on a case
study
Outcome Assess-
ment Activities:
Oral/computer presentation, written report, classroom quizzes.
Table 22.5 Summarized answers of the six interviewed teachers regarding the advantages and
disadvantages of using aquaponics as a teaching tool
What are the main advantages?
Number of
mentions
What are the main
disadvantages?
Number of
mentions
Suitable to learn system thinking 3 None. 2
Facilitates teamwork 2 High time requirements. 2
mobilization of students 2 High knowledge
requirements.
2
Provides diversity in teaching 2 Difcult concepts &
language.
1
Motivating for students 1 Sensitive for pests. 1
Motivating for teachers 1 Students were not always
paying attention.
1
Transfer between different sub-
jects possible
1
Versatile: several possible edu-
cational objectives
1
582 R. Junge et al.
materials contain descriptions of complex processes and ecological interactions that
require a deeper knowledge of natural sciences such as chemistry or biology than can
be expected at primary school. If the material is to be used by teachers, it needs to
provide the information in a classroom-ready format. Explanations of chemical and
biological processes such as nitrication ought to be greatly simplied.
22.7.2 Comprehensive Study of the Potential for Including
Aquaponics in Secondary Vocational Education
in Slovenia
Peroci (2016) investigated a series of aspects related to the potential for including
aquaponics in the educational process of secondary vocational education in Slovenia
(Fig. 22.7). This included
Analysis of
Knowledge
Catalogs
Course
Design
Preparation
of Lessons
Pretest of
Existing
Knowledge
Course
Implemen-
tation
Posttest of
Knowledge
Testing Skills Evaluati on
Knowledge of
Aquaponics
Views on Food
Produced in
Aquaponic s
Preparation
of Lessons
Studen t
Survey
Interview o f
Educators
Using
Aquaponic s
Integration of Aquaponics into the Secondary Vocational Education in Slovenia
Fig. 22.7 The general structure of the study of Peroci (2016) about the potential for including
aquaponics in the educational process of secondary vocational education in Slovenia
22 Aquaponics as an Educational Tool 583
(i) Analysis of catalogs of vocational secondary education in biotechnical elds in
order to assess the compatibility of these educational programs with learning
objectives related to aquaponics.
(ii) Design of a short Aquaponic Educational Course including the denition of
learning outcomes (knowledge and skills). The didactic material for experien-
tial learning was tested and evaluated by a class of students at the Biotechnical
Centre Naklo (Precedent 5, Sect. 22.8.2).
(iii) Survey of the knowledge of, and attitudes toward, aquaponics in biotechnical
schools in Slovenia by students attending the programs for land managers,
horticultural technicians, technicians in agriculture and management, and envi-
ronmental technicians, in order to evaluate studentsattitudes toward this type
of food production (see Sect. 22.8.2.) The list of potential candidates for
participation in the survey was prepared based on a review of secondary
schools by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport of the Republic of
Slovenia.
(iv) Semi-structured interviews with teachers at relevant schools, examining the
implementation of aquaponics as a learning tool in Slovenia (Sect. 22.7.2.1).
22.7.2.1 Interview with Teachers and Trainers Using Aquaponics
in the Educational Process in Slovenia
In order to investigate the use of aquaponics as a learning tool in Slovenia, Peroci
(2016) conducted semi-structured interviews (4560 min) with ve teachers.
The analysis of interviews revealed the following reasons for using aquaponics:
(i) possibility for experiential learning, (ii) exible installation that can be adapted to
the education goal, (iii) a good way of teaching about food production, and for
teaching STEM subjects. These were very similar to reasons revealed by interviews
in North America conducted by Hart et al. (2013). However, in contrast, in the
interviews conducted in Slovenia, two reasons for using aquaponics were absent:
fun, and developing responsibility and compassion for living organisms.
Based on the analysis of the interviews related to the three aquaponics units used
for education in Slovenia, the future implementation of aquaponics as a learning tool
needs to focus on the following steps:
1. Developing a set of learning outcomes that can be achieved using an aquaponic
unit
2. Designing the aquaponic teaching unit, which facilitates learning outcomes and
competencies that students must gain in order to become an Aquaponic Farmer
3. Establishing a link between teachers and trainers (kindergartens, primary schools,
secondary schools, universities), local communities, companies, and individuals
involved in aquaponics
4. Developing guidelines for integrating aquaponics in the learning process
5. Performing workshops for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance
of an aquaponics
584 R. Junge et al.
22.8 Does Aquaponics Fulll Its Promise in Teaching?
Evaluation of StudentsResponses to Aquaponics
22.8.1 EU FP6 Project WasteWaterResource
The aim of the Waste Water Resource project was to assemble, develop, and assess
teaching and demonstration material on ecotechnological research and methods for
pupils aged between 10 and 13 years (http://www.scientix.eu/web/guest/projects/
project-detail?articleId¼95738). The teaching units were assessed in order to
improve the methods and content and maximize learning outcomes. Based on
discussions with educational professionals, the assessment was based on a simple
approach using questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. Teachers assessed the
units by answering the online questionnaire (see Sect. 22.7.1). The aquaponic units
were evaluated in Sweden (in the Technichus Science Center, and in Älandsbro
skola in Härnösand), and in Switzerland.
22.8.1.1 Technichus Science Center, Sweden
Between 2006 and 2008, an aquaponic unit was installed at Technichus, a science
center in Härnösand, Sweden (www.technichus.se). The questionnaire was placed
beside the system so that the visiting students could answer the questions at any time.
It consisted of 8 questions (Fig. 22.8).
The answers showed that the students understood how the water in the system
was re-circulated. They understood less well how nutrients were transported within
the system and the contents of the nutrients and, interestingly, one in four students
did not know that the plants growing in the aquaponic unit were edible.
22.8.1.2 Älandsbro skola, Sweden
The questionnaire used in Älandsbro skola was rst explained by the teacher in order
to ensure that the students would understand the questions. The questions were
answered before the project started and at the end of the project.
Fig. 22.8 Questionnaire and the frequency of answers of the 24 students (aged from 8 to 17 years)
visiting the exhibition in Technichus, Sweden
22 Aquaponics as an Educational Tool 585
On average, there were 28% more correct answers to the general questions about
nutrient requirements of plants and shes after the teaching unit. As expected, and
similar to the ndings of Bamert and Albin (2005), the increase in knowledge was
evident.
The conclusions of the investigation were that (i) working with aquaponics has a
great potential to help pupils attain relevant learning goals in the Swedish curriculum
for biology and natural sciences; (ii) the teachers thought that the work gave natural
opportunities to talk about cycling of matter and that it attracted the pupilsinterest;
(iii) the questionnaires showed that a large number of pupils had changed their
opinion about the needs of sh and plants before and after they worked with the
system; and (iv) the interviews with the older pupils showed that they had acquired
good knowledge about the system.
Even more important, all the people involved (teachers and students) found that
aquaponics provided the means to expand the horizon of the discipline, in a
refreshing and effective way.
22.8.1.3 Comparison of the Success of Aquaponics in Classes from
Urban and Rural Environments in Switzerland
Bamert (2007) compared the effects of teaching with classroom aquaponics to
students aged 1113 years in two different environments in Switzerland. The School
in Donat, Grisons Canton, is situated in the rural alpine region, where the students
mostly live on nearby farms. Many of these farms are organic, so these students
knew certain concepts about cycles in nature from their everyday life. There were
16 students, aged 1113 years, in the joint class of fth and sixth grade. Their mother
tongue is Rhaeto-Romanic, but the aquaponics classes were given in German.
The School in Waedenswil, on the other hand, is situated in the greater Zürich area.
The students mostly grew up in an urban environment and had less experience of nature
compared with the students from Donat. Because the students from Donat stated that
the theoretical part was rather difcult, nitrication was not explained in Waedenswil
(Example 22.2). Also, one must consider that the teaching unit was spread over
11 weeks in Donat, while it was performed as a 2-day workshop in Wädenswil.
Answers to questions about what they liked/disliked most about the aquaponics
lessons are presented in Fig. 22.9. While the rural students were most fascinated by
the system itself, the urban students were mostly fascinated by the sh. Generally,
sh were the biggest motivator in both classes. Netting the sh, transporting,
feeding, and just observing them were all very popular activities. The thirst for
knowledge about sh mainly involved questions about reproduction, growth, etc.
22.8.1.4 Promoting Systems Thinking with Aquaponics in Switzerland
The effect of the teaching sequence described in Example 22.3 on systems thinking
competencies was assessed at the beginning and at the end of the sequence. The
586 R. Junge et al.
22.8.2 Evaluation of the Aquaponics Teaching Unit
in Vocational Education in Slovenia
22.8.2.1 Evaluation of the Aquaponics Course, Biotechnical Centre
Naklo, Slovenia
The learning progression of the short aquaponic course within the study of Peroci
(2016) (see Precedent 5) was assessed by means of questionnaires: (i) pre-test/post-
test; (ii) test of the acquired skill level in connection with food production in
aquaponics; and (iii) teaching evaluation.
The inuence of various factors on the popularity of the lessons and the practical
work was evaluated. Students named several factors as being crucial for their interest
in the aquaponics course. The most relevant factors were: more relaxed teachers
(80%); entertainment (76%); attractive location of the practical work (72%); contact
with nature (68%); active practical work (64%); and use of interesting new methods
(56%). Generally, students rated the more interesting lessons as those that were less
difcult (e.g., the lesson Monitoring water quality and bacteriawas less interesting
and most difcult) (Fig. 22.11).
22.8.2.2 Survey of Knowledge and Attitudes Toward Aquaponics
Peroci (2016) investigated knowledge, attitudes toward food produced, and interest
in the use of aquaponics among students at 8 secondary vocational schools in
biotechnical elds within the educational programs for land manager (1stthird
year), horticultural technician (1stfourth year), technician in agriculture and man-
agement (1stfourth year), and environmental technician (1stfourth year) during
2015 and 2016.
The survey involved a 15-minute questionnaire, with closed-ended answers (yes
or no). The survey showed that 42.9% of 1049 students had already heard about
aquaponics. They had learnt about it at school (379 students), from the media (79),
from peers and acquaintances (42), from advertisements (18), when visiting the
aquaponics (12), at agricultural fairs (2), and in aquaristic (1). Most of the positive
answers were from students from the Biotechnical Center Naklo where the
aquaponics was constructed in 2012 (Podgrajšek et al. 2014) and aquaponics was
already integrated in the learning process; 28% of respondents lacked any knowl-
edge about aquaponics and 19.8% of respondents said they would choose the
aquaponics course over other modules, mostly because of its interdisciplinary nature
and due to its sustainable and creative approach. The students also expected that after
attending such a course, they would have better chances of nding a job. Most
students liked the practical work, and 10.7% of respondents said they would like to
volunteer by maintaining the aquaponics and that they would like to set up their own
aquaponics. The analysis regarding the interest of students in producing food using
aquaponics showed that they liked this idea. However, they were not sure if they
590 R. Junge et al.
22.9 Discussion and Conclusions
An aquaponics is a perfect example of a system that can bring nature closer to a
classroom and can be used as the starting point for a host of educational activities at
both primary and secondary school levels. A model system, together with
corresponding didactic methods, serves to make natural processes more tangible to
pupils. This, in turn, helps to develop the necessary competencies for dealing with
the complexity and problems of the environment, and promotes a sense of respon-
sibility toward humanity. Creating the opportunity for hands-on experience with
nature and natural elements such as water, sh, and plants also develops environ-
mental consciousness and a greater understanding of the potential for practical
solutions and a willingness to act on this knowledge.
In this chapter, we have presented various case studies of the use of aquaponics at
different educational levels, and also a number of examples that assess the benets of
introducing aquaponics into schools.
While for each separate study the assessment methods were in themselves logical,
and provided interesting insights, clear-cut comparisons across the studies are not
practical, because the methods were not, or were only partly, comparable.
During the FP6 Project WasteWaterResourcethe pedagogical specialists in
the team voiced some critical comments about using questionnaires to measure
impacts on ecological awareness and behavior among students (Scheidegger and
Wilhelm 2006):
In multiple choice questionnaires, students tend to provide the answers that they
think the teacher would like to hear.
Children often have difculties ranking their answers to questions such as how
was my motivation in the Aquaponic lectures?(1: very low to 5:
extremely high).
The answers are highly inuenced by the teacher and the current objectives of
education.
Therefore, it is questionable whether quantitative survey methods are appropriate
for revealing the potential effects, and whether they provide realistic data on the
perceptions of the students.
It seems to be more appropriate to focus on qualitative assessment methods such
as semi-structured interviews with the teachers, or the process of self-observation
according to the action research method outlined by Altrichter and Posch (2007).
Teachers are practitioners who have long-term experience of dealing with students
and can therefore provide better and deeper information on a potential impact than a
survey can reveal. A deeper interview or dialogue with the teachers will also provide
information on critical issues of the learning systems and ideas on its further
development. The research question how did the teachers perceive the material?
seems therefore to provide much more useful information than the question what
was the impact on the students?
592 R. Junge et al.
A key issue for the successful dissemination of new teaching units appears to be a
robust integration of the units into the national school frameworks. The feedback
from the schools strongly indicates that teachers have very limited time to nd and
initiate new ideas and teaching materials. They usually use already established
information portals that provide the material in a form that corresponds to the
national education plan and is ready-made for a particular school level. There is
therefore a need to establish cooperation with the key players in the national
pedagogical frameworks. In order to better evaluate the impacts of aquaponics on
STEM subjects, environmental and other learning outcomes, a comparative study
between educational institutions where they used aquaponics as a teaching tool
based on the same and well-designed research methods and addressing various
teaching goals would be needed.
Acknowledgments This work was partly supported by funding received from the COST Action
FA1305 The EU Aquaponics HubRealising Sustainable Integrated Fish and Vegetable Produc-
tion for the EU.
We acknowledge the contribution of the EU (FP6-2004-Science-and-society-11, Contract
Number 021028) to the project WasterWater Resource,and thank the entire team, especially
Nils Ekelund, Snorre Nordal, and Daniel Todt.
We acknowledge the contribution of the EU (Leonardo da Vinci transfer of innovation project,
Agreement Number - 2012-1-CH1-LEO05-00392) to the project Aqua-Vet, and thank the entire
team, especially Nadine Antenen, Urška Kleč, Aleksandra Krivograd Klemenčič, Petra Peroci, and
UrošStrniša.
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22 Aquaponics as an Educational Tool 593
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A survey was carried out among students of secondary vocational schools (subject: biotechnology) to get an insight into their understanding of aquaponics, their views on food produced with aquaponics and their interest in using aquaponics in their own household. 1049 students participated in the survey; 42.9% have heard of aquaponics in the past. Survey results showed reduced student interest for selecting Aquaponics module; this is attributed to the fact that catalogues of knowledge are orientated toward a more traditional method for production of food. The presence and use of an aquaponics unit as a teaching aid in the territory of Slovenia was examined. An interview was done with practitioners who use or have used an aquaponics unit in their teaching process in the past. Results have shown positive experiences in including aquaponics in their teaching process.
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"Aktionsforschung ist die systematische Relexion von Praktikern über ihr Handeln in der Absicht, es wieterzuentwickeln." (John Ellitott)Das buch versteht sich als Handbuch zur methodischen Untertsützung dieses Prozesses. Ein Fülle von praktischen Anregungen und Beispielen zur Reflexion über das eigene Tun, Förderung der professionellen Kommunikation und Weiterentwicklung der Qualität von Unterricht und Schule wird angeboten.
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This article reports on a mixed methods evaluation of an indoor garden-based learning curriculum for 5th and 6th graders which incorporated aquaponics and hydroponics technologies. This study provides a better understanding of the extent to which indoor gardening technologies can be used within the formal curriculum as an effective teaching tool. Treatment group students showed statistically significant improvement in environmental knowledge scores as well as higher overall scores on environmental preservation, and in some instances, a commitment to practicing pro-environmental behaviors. Unexpected findings were found in relation to the extent to which students with learning disabilities excelled within the pedagogical design.
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Exposing the next generation to nature can foster a stronger appreciation for aquatic resources, yet it may not always be possible to allow students to experience natural aquatic environments. Aquaponics, the combination of aquaculture with hydroponics, can be an effective tool in schools and classrooms to reunite students with plants and animals, promote systems thinking, and encourage hands-on learning. In this article, we bring awareness to aquaponics in education, its potential as a novel platform for learning, and the realities of aquaponics in order to guide educators in managing their expectations for an aquaponics system. Specifically, running an aquaponics system requires diverse knowledge and skills, which makes it appealing as a teaching tool but may also present day-to-day technical challenges. Additionally, educational settings may affect long-term care, available space, and funding. We present strategies for addressing these realities of aquaponics in education and highlight two educational aquaponics programs.