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US (CT): Introducing aquaponics systems to schools

For 50 years, Connecticut’s Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) has helped the state’s school districts, including its own 16 interdistrict magnet schools, meet the changing educational needs of children in grades Pre-K through 12 through a wide array of cost-effective and high-quality programs and services.

To advance its mission of providing innovation in education and impactful learning opportunities, CREC is partnering with Trifecta Ecosystems. CREC and the Meriden-based company are introducing aquaponics systems to schools, along with a Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) curriculum that CREC specially developed to complement them. The aim is to enhance educational technology in both private and public schools throughout Connecticut through fun, hands-on classroom activities that may lead students to careers in science and technology.

Seven schools throughout the capital region are currently utilizing Trifecta’s educational aquaponics systems, with more to adopt the technology in the coming year.


Trifecta’s aGarden system at CREC’s Academy of Science and Innovation

Trifecta’s “aSystems” come in three sizes. Schools may choose the aGrow (small-scale), aGarden (mid-scale), or aFarm (large-scale). Each system can be used to teach a wide array of subjects geared towards students of all ages, such as science, math, engineering, design, and more. Students learn the foundations of aquaponics and take responsibility for feeding the system’s fish and harvesting plants, which has been shown to positively impact engagement, while providing experiential learning for the entire classroom.

Providing the NGSS curriculum to go with the systems was a natural fit, according to Dr. Ellen Retelle, CREC’s director of teaching and learning. “Our curriculum is specifically designed to be used with these systems. More than 150 students in CREC schools have already interacted with, and gained valuable experience from, Trifecta’s aquaponics systems,” she said. “By incorporating our curriculum with Trifecta’s systems, we’re changing the way our students interact with the world around them. We’ve also made teaching according to NGSS standards fun for teachers as well as their students.”

Dr. Jaime Rechenberg, CREC’s science education specialist, has led the development the curriculum, assessments, and has provided professional learning – launches – for educators. The teaching units are comprehensive and come with detailed lesson plans. They give teachers specific strategies for shifting instructional practice to an NGSS style and contain assessments to help them gauge student learning.

Each aquaponics system purchased comes with full setup and implementation by Trifecta’s experts and can be operated and managed by educators and students. In addition, CREC and Trifecta will provide training and professional development workshops to help educators get the most out of their aquaponics systems, further enhancing experiential learning across their schools.

As of late last year, 19 states, along with the District of Columbia, have adopted NGSS standards. This represents more than thirty-five percent of U.S. students. The standards aim to combat ignorance of science, create common standards for teaching, and foster a greater interest in science among students so that more of them choose to major in science and technology in college. Overall, the intent is to help students grasp core scientific concepts, to understand the scientific process of developing and testing ideas, and to have a greater ability to evaluate scientific evidence.

“Our partnership with CREC will allow us to cultivate new, impactful learning opportunities, while also making it clear that Connecticut is a leader in the education technology movement,” said Eric Francis, chief development officer of Trifecta Ecosystems, Inc.

To learn more about training and professional development workshops for educators and Trifecta’s upcoming “Tour & Tasting,” visit http://trifectaecosystems.com/events/educators-tour-tasting/.

To learn more about CREC’s NGSS curriculum, visit http://www.crec.org/scienceservices/index.php.

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