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Lyford Cay School Builds Aquaponics Outdoor Classroom
By Gillian Watson, LCIS
Jun 13, 2012 - 3:35:25 PM

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esse Baker, PhD builds an aquaponics system with the help of Grade 5 Students at Lyford Cay International School

Nassau, Bahamas - As part of their 50th Anniversary Speaker Series, Lyford Cay International School (LCIS) invited sustainability expert, social entrepreneur and humanitarian, Jesse Baker PhD, and his partner, Chrissy Gray, to teach students about sustainability.  “Our efforts are meant to (re)define sustainability in more comprehensive terms, and to inspire individuals to take action in their everyday lives,” said Baker.

Baker and Gray founded a non-profit organization in California to develop various projects that promote an ethic of "sustainability."  Baker and Gray believe that sustainability has become overly focused on the industries of cutting carbon emissions and energy savings. “These are important components of sustainability, but far short of the complete picture,” said Baker when addressing grade 11 students of LCIS. “ Far too often, social issues are left out of the picture, and the importance of individual action is vastly under addressed.” He shared his  experiences in Latin America, Antarctica, and Haiti reminding them that we are all linked because we all share the same planet. “ Don’t wait for the big corporations or governments to change the way they are treating the environment, “ he told students, ”become ‘agents of change’ and try to take small steps to living more sustainably.”  
During the week that Baker and Gray spent in Nassau they spent a lot of time with the students at LCIS, whether during formal talks and presentations or over lunch in the school library. The conversations were remarkably varied, ranging from instructions on how to care for the school’s newly built aquaponics outdoor classroom, to the possibility of LCIS students taking part in humanitarian trips to Haiti. Students, teachers, administrators and parents all had opportunities to meet with the pair and discuss their ideas on sustainability and how LCIS, as a school, could become more sustainable.
The topic was a timely one as LCIS embarks on the first steps of achieving Green Flag School Status. Baker and Gray, with the help of LCIS students, built The Aquaponics Outdoor Classroom on the campus, and used it to engage students in conversations about the environmental impact of most food production industries.
Students learned that aquaponics was a sustainable method of food production because it did not use fertilizers, used very little electricity, recycled water, required no soil in which to grow plants, produced plants at a faster rate than traditional farming and also provided fresh fish as a food source. During his conversations with the students, Baker told students about his visits to Haiti to distribute portable water filtration systems to the often forgotten people living in rural areas. “We needed to get them an efficient way of filtering their water because they were in the middle of a cholera outbreak,” explained Baker. The water filtration project in Haiti led into an aquaponics project. “The challenge was to help the Haitian people gain access to fresh water and healthy food in a country where there is very high pollution of water sources and very little soil for growing food. And Aquaponics was the answer, fresh food in plant form as well as fresh fish!” Within the modular system, fish are raised symbiotically with plant production through a closed system that uses 90% less water than regular agriculture.
The Aquaponics system built at LCIS is much the same as the systems installed in Haiti. Essentially, there is a tank containing fish which produce waste. Water, carrying the fish waste, is pumped from the tank into a series of water channels that contain edible plants situated in porous baskets. The plants roots are anchored in a clay ball growing medium that gives the roots somewhere to adhere too and eliminates the need for soil. The nutrient rich water feeds the roots of the plants as it passes through the channels. The plants roots also filter the water so that eventually clean water falls back into the fish tank below, where it begins it cycle all over again. Aquaponics uses 90% less water than traditional farming and no added fertilizers. The system at LCIS will be used to teach much more that sustainability, it is also a wonderful tool for teaching math, biology, history, civic engagement and it could also be a way to develop another lasting community engagement program at LCIS. “We are happy to invite other school to visit our Aquaponics Outdoor Classroom and learn how they can build similar systems on their campus,” said principal, Stacy Bobo.


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