Yesterday I posted about the International School perched on the hill above where we’ve been staying for the past few months. I had considered investigating it previously, but you know how life just goes on day after day; other things crowd in and take another day away. But with a gentle kick in the ass I got the family moving and collected a few men to go with us.
A deliberate part of the school is the Farm where they grow produce thru aquaponics. If you need an explanation of aquaponics, here’s a YouTube video that explains it, Made Easy!
“As a part of the IB World Schools community, we strongly believe in cultivating the Learner profile attributes in our students, one of which is being Principled. The respect they show their community and themselves by taking care of our environment accurately reflects the values that the attribute is meant to install. Our school also works to demonstrate these same values by using technology and implementing programs that help reduce our imprint on the environment so we can be a better role model for our students and demonstrate that we can all work together to improve our quality of life and the future of our world.”
Chelli has been, along with engineers, planning & developing, and now she is working the aquaponics greenhouse, part of the International School. A big learning curve has not deterred Chelli from learning on the job, “trying again”, and pushing ahead. I believe the Farm has only been running about a year. It isn’t running at full capacity yet as they work out any kinks before going full speed ahead, with future plans “to provide needy families with a monthly vegetable and fish ration in order to supplement their nutritional needs.”
We are immediately greeted by hundreds of tilapia fish in 4 huge tanks, with filtering systems and pipes of water flowing through this area and then out into the produce growing area.
We walk thru wide strips of thick clear plastic doorway into the actual greenhouse. To our left is where the water from the fish tanks first flows, rich with fish wastes (which equates to plant fertilizer).
From these table-height trays the water flows via gravity, to the lower beds, flowing in a zig-zag pattern throughout the greenhouse.
The produce sits on these floating pads where their roots are fed by the nutrient water flowing below them. Aquaponics doesn’t use soil, the same as hydroponics. But with aquaponics there is the co-dependency of the fish with the produce, each benefiting the other. The water makes the cycle carrying nutrients and oxygen to the other participants.
The products are used in the school cafeteria in order to provide a healthy and balanced menu. Some local sales take place, but as I said, it isn’t yet into full production.
“Locally-grown and organic foods from the school’s aquaponics farm and from other local sources are incorporated as much as possible” into the school’s “Dining and Nutritional Science program which will also conduct educational classes on nutrition and diet to students, parents, and the community throughout the course of the school year.”
Besides the Farm, the school has considered its impact on the environment and tried to minimize its footprint.
The school has its own well which it uses for bathrooms and cleaning areas. They intend on installing filters so they will be able to produce their own drinkable water.
The school uses solar panels for most of their electrical needs. They use only LED lighting, and as you can see from yesterdays post the building has large and plenteous windows to maximize on natural lighting. “The ventilation system of the school was designed so that the least amount of cooling would be needed even in summer months.” (They do have classes over the summer.)
They have had recycling programs where funds obtained were used to support their scholarship program. They attempt to use all pieces of paper to their maximum extent.
This appears to be quite a progressive school and grounds, with strong leadership. Their vision is to send students out internationally with a passion for knowledge and social responsibility. This young school is certainly on the right road to achieving that.
* Notes quoted from an official school pamphlet
For further information on aquaponics check out my friend Cliff’s Urban Farms Co. He has a wealth of knowledge, and a real passion for “bringing affordable aquaponics systems to the marketplace” offering various financing options to help get anyone into growing food for their community.