Classroom to Table

Hydroponics and aquaculture in high school and special needs schools.

Chesapeake Bay Academy

While hydroponics (the practice of growing plants in water instead of soil) and aquaculture (the farming of fish and other sea life) might seem like odd choices for a school project, it’s appealing for a number of reasons. Creating these systems is a great way to teach students about how ecosystems work in a way that’s observable in real time. Even better, since plants that lend themselves to delicious salads, like tomatoes, peppers, and lettuces, grow well hydroponically, students often get to eat what they grow!

At Chesapeake Bay Academy, a special needs school in Virginia Beach, a grant from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation has given the school $4,500 to support its initiative, Preparing the Next Generation of Environmental Stewards. This will allow the students to build their own aquaponics system (combining hydroponics with aquaculture) and create their own self-sustaining ecosystem of plants and sea life. When they’ve completed their project, Chesapeake Bay Academy faculty will make a presentation to the Virginia Academy of Science. 

Another special needs school, Elk Hill Staunton School, has created a hydroponics and aquaculture program in partnership with the Blue Ridge Community Foundation and Dominion Energy. Elk Hill’s new hydroponics and aquaculture programs will allow students to learn how to take care of plant and animal life and how an ecosystem functions firsthand, and they’ll be able to supplement their lunches with what they grow. 

Hampton Roads Academy, a private high school in Newport News, added a 1,000-square-foot hydroponics lab as part of a larger renovation, allowing students to learn about biology, ecosystems, farming, and sustainable food systems right at their own school, with no field trip needed!


For more about Chesapeake Bay Academy, Elk Hill Staunton School, or Hampton Roads Academy, check out Top High Schools and Colleges 2019. This article originally appeared in our October 2019 issue.

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