High School teachers spend part of summer studying aquaponics at UAPB

Bobbie Handcock | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences    

PINE BLUFF, Ark. – High school science teachers from across Arkansas spent part of their summer at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Aquaculture/Fisheries Center of Excellence. During a two-day workshop, the educators gained knowledge about aquaculture that they can share with students.

“This year, the major component of the workshop was aquaponics,” said Bauer Duke, UAPB Aquaculture Research Station manager. “It was a sideline last year, but more people are interested in aquaponics and it fits well with school Vo-Ag/FFA (vocational-agriculture/Future Farmers of America) programs that are raising fish and growing terrestrial plants.”

Aquaponics is the method of growing plants and fish together in a re-circulating system.

“The purpose of the workshop is to teach teachers,” Duke said. “We try to present techniques they can use in class, give them technical support with their grow-out systems and prepare them for potential problems and questions they may encounter in the classroom.”

Topics covered during the workshop included an introduction to hydroponics/aquaponics, system design, holding capacity determination and stock rotation, fish disease, plant disease, harvesting and economics. Participants also toured the greenhouse.

John Bearden of McCrory High School, Nathan Bowie of Guy-Perkins School; Rocky Clements of Bay High School, John Crangle of Brinkley High School, Alex Dykes of Lake Hamilton High School, Kim Moody of NEA Career and Technical Center in Jonesboro, Jonathan Roberts of Flippin High School and Coleen Gilmore, Steve Love and Randy Romeo, all of Conway High School, participated in the workshop.

UAPB has been working with school aquaculture programs since the 1990s. The programs help engage students in hands-on ways as they learn math, biology, chemistry, economics and business concepts.

“We will supply tilapia to any teacher in the state who needs them for classroom activities,” Duke said. “We’ve supplied tilapia to a few high schools in Missouri as well as the University of Arkansas and the College of the Ozarks for their fish courses. We’ve worked with close to 70 schools over the years.”

The UAPB Aquaculture Research Stations also hosts Aquatic Sciences Day for high school students. This year’s event will be held on Sept. 26. It’s a fun day of learning about biology, chemistry, engineering, math, nutrition and careers in aquaculture. Demonstrations include pond sampling, catfish culture and fisheries equipment.

Educators who want information or want to sign up their classes can contact Casandra Hawkins-Byrd at 870-575-8123 or cbyrd@uaex.edu.

Pictured above: UAPB Extension aquaculture specialist Anita Kelly harvests peppers from an aquaponic system. The peppers grew in three-fourths of the time it would take to grow them in soil.

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