West Shore School District students led Governor Tom Wolf on a tour of a new aquaponics lab at Cedar Cliff High School. Funded with a $250,000 grant awarded by the Wolf administration, the new lab provides hands-on learning for students across the school district to develop skills in science, business and leadership.
“This new lab goes beyond teaching students about aquaculture and hydroponics to creating opportunities to learn about leadership, technology, and marketing,” said Governor Wolf. “This is another example of the workforce development strategies my administration is supporting to prepare future generations with the knowledge and skills to succeed and make Pennsylvania an attractive place for growing and emerging industries to do business.”
The indoor lab constructed at the high school last summer combines conventional aquaculture, such as raising fish and other aquatic animals in tanks, and hydroponics, the production of plants in water rather than soil, into a symbiotic system used to grow fish, fruits, vegetables, feedstock, and other plant products all year.
Students from all 14 West Shore School District schools will use the lab to learn about plant propagation, food production, and hydroponic plant growth. High school students are also using the lab for research in plant lighting manipulation, propagation techniques, crop rotation studies, and fish breeding and rearing practices.
The aquaponics lab was one of 16 projects that received a total of $3.5 million in Strategic Innovation grants from the Department of Labor & Industry. The grants are awarded through Local Workforce Development Boards.
“The Aquaponics Lab at Cedar Cliff High School is a catalyst for district-wide STEAM experiences and hands-on learning opportunities,” said West Shore School District Superintendent Dr. Todd Stoltz. “The investment made by the Department of Labor & Industry in our students’ future extends beyond aquaponics. We now have a variety of opportunities available not only to those students interested in a career in science, but also communications, education, technology, marketing, and finance. The impact this program is having on students individually and collectively, and in our local community, perhaps even global community, is a great source of district pride.”
Investing in science and technology education is a priority for Governor Wolf. In addition to Strategic Innovation Grants, the governor launched the PAsmart workforce development initiative and secured $70 million over two years. PAsmart is providing $40 million for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning and computer science programs, and $30 million for apprenticeships and job training programs.
Pennsylvania now ranks second in the nation for investments in computer science education and is third in the number of nationally recognized STEM ecosystems.
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