At The Table Fall 2012 Newsletter; Mid-Atlantic Region, US Department of Agriculture
Good news concerning the tilapia farm. Kean High has been featured in the Fall Newsletter for the Mid-Atlantic Region, US Dept of Agriculture! Below is the article about the Tilapia Farm, entitled Virgin Islands High School takes Farm To School to a New Level.
Sitting at the far end of the school parking lot is the outdoor “classroom” containing an odd assortment of tanks, pumps and filters. Over the din of bubbling, oxygenated water, students are proudly taking care of baby tilapia fish in bright blue tanks. And just a few feet away another group of students admire the lettuce, pumpkin, and carrots thriving in a nutrient-rich aquaponic farm.
The new class is the brainchild of Ivanna Eudora Kean High School science teacher Kirk Lewis, who was longing for a way to give students a more hands-on approach to science. After learning about aquaponics during a visit to the University of the Virgin Islands on St. Croix, Lewis approached the school’s Principal Dr. Sharon McCollum with the unique idea to teach agricultural
self-sustainability. Dr. McCollum enthusiastically embraced his vision and both got to work planning and raising funds to build
the facility. Lewis then arranged for 45 tilapia hatchlings to be flown in from St Croix and a new and very popular science course
Kean student Clemon Lewis, who plans to study science in college, says the class is popular because it is so interesting and fun. “We get to see the whole process of aquaponics. And we’re learning with our hands as much as with our brains.”
Lewis and his classmates get daily hands-on lessons.They learn the importance of maintaining equipment, keeping the water
at just the right pH and temperature, and how the nutrient-rich water is gleaned by the vegetables’ long root strands before being filtered and pumped back into the fish tanks.
When fully-grown the tilapia and the vegetables will be harvested and used to supplementhe fresh food offerings in Kean’s cafeteria— an excellent example of USDA’s Farm To School Program. Down the road Lewis hopes the aquaponics facility will be a thriving, self-sustaining venture, its bounty sold to local residents and perhaps even visiting cruise ships. Students are learning to develop, market, and sell food. Lewis says, “I hope some of these kids, after attending an institute of higher learning, will remember some of these lessons and become agriculture entrepreneurs here in the Virgin Islands.”