Students are rethinking their global impact through The First Academy’s first Living Ecosystem Aquaponics Facility, which opens this fall.
The First Academy (TFA) is developing new educational pathways for students to impact lives during their mission trips while creating more experiential learning opportunities in the classroom.
Aquaponics is a food production system that combines aquaculture (the raising of fish) with hydroponics (the soil-less growing of plants in water) into an integrated symbiotic ecosystem. TFA has expanded its S.T.E.A.M. opportunities to develop their first L.E.A.F. (Living Ecosystem Aquaponics Facility) that students will start using in the late fall.
The L.E.A.F. will consist of four fish tanks and six growing beds in a science-based system controlled by water quality and a greenhouse operated by students and teachers. During the first year, students will be exposed to all of the options for growing crops and fish; however, they will mainly focus on tilapia and leafy greens as they deploy this system. All students will benefit from the experience, but the curriculum will be integrated into 4th to 10th grade science courses over the next few years. In addition to science curriculum, there are other opportunities to integrate math, Bible and personal finance courses.
Matt Eggert, TFA’s Director of Technology and Innovation, is leading the efforts to organize, build and integrate this system. “We hope that students not only learn the skills necessary for sustainable farming but also take these skills abroad during mission trips,” he said. “Our students are uniquely positioned at TFA to impact communities in developing areas of the world. We already give them the opportunity to share the word of God with others in impoverished areas, so why not try to improve their lives as well by teaching them ‘how to fish’ and grow their own food?”
TFA plans to sell the crops in a variety of methods. They will sell some retail to parents and attempt to build partnerships with local establishments that want fresh, local and top-quality ingredients.
“We want our students to understand the logistics, marketing and budgeting of running a self-sustainable business while teaching them what to do with abundance once we have achieved profitability,” Eggert added.
Once the school has reached abundance, more L.E.A.F.s will be purchased with that money then drop shipped to TFA’s mission areas to change lives. A variety of community partners are already interested in the project.
Brian Rose, TFA’s Assistant Head of School for Advancement, commented, “This project is so exciting, and we’re always looking for passionate community members who are eager about finding innovative ways to educate students and create an impact for Christ.”
TFA is still fundraising for non-vital components for the L.E.A.F. project. If you’re interested in participating, contact the Office of Institutional Advancement.
Finally, TFA will be starting its social media campaign to connect the community to this project. Student ambassadors for the L.E.A.F., along with Eggert, will be using the hashtag #LEAF4LIFE to connect and improve the impact they have in the classroom and globally. For more information, visit www.TheFirstAcademy.org/leaf4life
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