Kingscliff High School students.
Kingscliff High School students.

Students get real world experience

KINGSCLIFF High School has given the green light for an innovative aquaponics system as part of a rich, real world learning experience designed to engage indigenous students as they learn about sustainable environments and sustainable food production systems.

Science head teacher Simon Graham and agriculture teacher Simon McQueen have allocated space and a 1000L tank for year 10 indigenous students to establish their sustainable system.

Aquaponics is a system which combines aquaculture and hydroponics without the use of chemicals and recycling the water.

The project involves the students designing, constructing and maintaining the system to sustainably produce fish and organic vegetables in a closed loop system.

Giving the students invaluable experience in this growing industry, building relationships, increase self esteem, improve student engagement and retention rates, along with continual production of organic vegetables and hopefully edible size fish by the end of the year, that will be part of a community lunch with all produce provided grown via the system.

Students Jake Finn and Arden Maurice used their free time during the last week of term 2 and muscle power to clear the site which is a 6m long by 2m wide section between the aquaculture shed and fence.

During the school holidays students Brody Brand and Alex Atkinson, along with their respective step fathers Geoff Paratene and Peter Valentine generously gave their Sunday along with their construction know how to complete the clean up process, levelling the site, and constructing the supports for the 3 bath tub grow beds.

The assistance and input of industrial arts teacher Glenn Kaminski and farm manager Ian Akehurst on this day was invaluable and helped the students to confidently construct the grow bed supports.

The support of local businesses such as Nucrush concrete donating the grow bed material, and One organics providing seedlings has been invaluable and greatly appreciated.

In aquaponics, nutrient-rich effluent from fish tanks is used to fertilise hydroponic production beds. This is good for the fish because plant roots and rhizobacteria remove nutrients from the water.

These nutrients – generated from  fish manure, algae, and decomposing fish feed – are contaminants that would otherwise build up to toxic levels in the fish tanks, but instead serve as liquid fertilizer to hydroponically grow plants. In turn, the hydroponic beds function as a biological filter – stripping off ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, and phosphorus – so the freshly cleansed water can then be recirculated back into the fish tanks.

The nitrifying bacteria living in the gravel and in association with the plant roots play a critical role in nutrient cycling; without these micro-organisms the whole system would stop functioning.

This project is still in construction requiring plumbing, a submersible pump and fish. It should be noted that the Aboriginal advisory committee has kindly allocated $200 for ongoing costs. Most of the materials used thus far have been salvaged, with 2 bath tubs purchased by Sharon the Norta Norta tutor from the local tip shop.

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