Raising Fish at Doty School

The fifth/sixth grade room at Doty is teeming with life.  11- and 12-year-old life, sure. But also plant and animal life.  In the back corner of the room, a small aquaponics system hums regularly with the sounds of aquarium bubblers, a water pump and cycling water.  Fish are swimming about down below in the 30 gallon aquarium and an assortment of plants - kale, tomatoes, pepper and a rapidly growing pumpkin - grow in the 30 gallon tub above.  Ammonia is being converted into nitrates via a colony of beneficial bacteria.  A tiny ecosystem, in action. 

In the fall, the fifth and sixth grade Community Outreach Coordinators attended the Vermont Rural Partnership conference with their teacher, Lisa Hanna, in Greensboro.  The VRP offers grants to support small Vermont schools to expand their connections to place, the community and student voice.  The Doty team brainstormed and came up with the idea of building a classroom aquaponics system.  The rest has been a blur of research, engineering and water testing!  The class has pulled together to design, build and use the scientific method to create a system that uses fish waste to fertilize plants that are growing in clay pellets, instead of soil.  There have been challenges along the way, including the loss of fish and plants.  But the team’s scientific curiosity has not faltered and the result has been a living system right in the classroom!

Raising Fish at Doty School

Greta Sabo, Kayle Humke and Cole Dyer, the fifth/sixth grade Community Outreach Coordinators in front of the Doty School aquaponics system.