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Building an aquaponics system in the classroom
The article describes a process by which students may engage in learning impacts of photosynthesis, the nitrogen cycle, and how plants obtain nutrients in modern agricultural practices, and explore alternative means. It is designed to be utilized in a freshmen biology class, over the duration of 10 80 minute classes, or a total of 800 minutes of class time.
There are several aspects of the lesson which are beneficial to engage students with the material, via inquiry, and its relevance beyond the classroom. For instance, students utilize group collaboration with roles for conducting the extended experiment; the teacher helps assign expectations to these roles to keep students on task. When the lab is done, groups must evaluate ways in which they may iterate their experimental design to improve its performance, if the testing were to be repeated. This includes discussing and interpreting data they collect.
In addition, groups must research a type of agricultural practice that find to be most appealing in design. Then, they create a research paper based around the topic, and prepare for a debate with other groups to try and explain why their chosen method is superior to the other ones, backing their perspective with research from evidence.
The entire process is quite extensive and engaging. However, there are a few problems with its design. Taking near a month in a typical class schedule of near 40 minute classes, the entire lesson engages students in experimental design and research from experimentation and informational literacy; at the same time, no new concepts are taught. Given some states' standards, incorporating this lesson could prove troublesome in trying also to meet the required curriculum goals in a timely manner. If time is a concern, I would consider potentially consider shortening the extent to which students explore the application of previously learned material, or perhaps incorporating new information with the inquiry to branch into other topics.
Andrew J (Munroe Falls, OH)
The article describes a wonderful lesson about incorporating a science and engineering task in the classroom by having students build an aquaponics system. The design of the lesson incorporates many core ideas of NGSS standards. The article includes a great task in engaging students in evidence based argument over different methods of farming. I particularly like the fact that students will each take a roll in the project, that they will keep a daily log of their design, and after the build of the aquaponics system, they are encourage to review their work and think about a redesign. There are a few areas in this activity I think that could be amended. This inquiry based activity is likely slated to take three weeks to complete which may be very difficult to pull off. I think scaling this back to a week or week and a half time frame is more reasonable. The core idea of the lesson is that we are saying alternative farming is more efficient and more effective at conserving resources than tradition farming methods. Outside of the evidence based argument, I think the lesson lacks any student gathered data from using the system to be able to compare it to data from conventional farming methods. They are basing the core idea off of mainly internet research and aren't getting to experience the real time data for themselves.
Nick P (Canton, OH)
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