Education and Aquaponics

I have wanted to be a teacher since I was four, the age where adults are just starting to ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and your options are limited to about three professions because they’re the only ones you know. But somehow, I stuck it out and maintained my dream of becoming a teacher, now 14 years later. What does that have to do with aquaponics? Turns out, quite a bit.

When I joined Michigan Aquaponics, I was doing so simply as a curious science major. I went in thinking I wouldn’t be teaching others directly, but this group has proved to be more than just another extracurricular. As the Vice President of Ecology, I get to plan pseudo lessons, activities, and discussions for my fellow ecology teammates every week. To teach people my own age or older is a new frontier for me, as my experience has been previously been limited to teaching science to students from preschool to 10th grade. This educating of peers tends to lean more toward sharing information everyone have discovered rather than a traditional teacher-student relationship - and that’s great because we all have so much to learn from each other. With membership to Michigan Aquaponics based mainly on interest and commitment to the club, our members come from a huge range of backgrounds and prior knowledge. Some of us have built our own aquaponics systems from scratch, while others hadn’t even heard the term “aquaponics” prior to this school year (I personally fall somewhere in between). To not only teach but simultaneously be taught by others is an incredibly eye-opening experience.

It’s no exaggeration that there’s so much to learn. I’m confident in my ecology abilities; thankfully, through afterschool science programs where adults first relinquished college ecology textbooks into my eager hands at the age of 12. But had I ever even looked at a business budget? When was the last time I picked up a drill to do something other than hand it to the person beside me while I continued painting a project? And although I could spout off seemingly endless information on water quality, did I know where to begin in the complex, connected aquaponics system? (The answers to those questions, by the way, are heck no, longer ago than I’d want to admit, and I really hoped so.) Thus, my journey into the surprisingly well-rounded world of aquaponics began, and after a year of learning from and with others older than me, I’m here to tell you that it was well worth it.

I still have the ultimate goal of teaching science in mind and, to me, aquaponics is the perfect way to showcase it in action. You have a contained, almost entirely self-sustaining, miniature ecosystem. You combine the chemistry aspects of water testing, the biology of fish and plants, and the mechanics and engineering of building a system. You get a potential solution to the bigger social issues of urban blight, poverty, and even climate change. Best of all, you get a technology that can continue to be improved on as you instill knowledge into others. With aquaponics, you get to spearhead an educational journey, for yourself, for others, and for years to come.

The beauty of education is that it is never stagnant; once you learn, you are able to teach, empowering those learning from you to go teach someone else. Then more knowledge is discovered and the process repeats. I’ve found a great example of that right here through MAqua. And that, more than anything else, is what makes us a whole lot more than just another resume-building club.

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