Aquaponics USA


Part 3: After graduating from California State University, Channel Islands, Mr. Luke Hanes started his teaching career at Rosamond High School in Rosamond, California at the beginning of the school year in 2015, where there was a fully functioning STEM Food Growing System waiting for him to give it some TLC.

Unlike the teachers in the other two parts of this series who are Elementary School teachers or Coordinators, Luke is teaching High School students, which can be more challenging in many ways as well as more rewarding, especially if the teacher is highly versed in his/her field and eager to dive deep into the subject matter. That's the rewarding part.

The challenging part is the need to deal with disciplinary issues with students who are sometimes bigger than you as exemplified by the photo on the left. Luke is the one with the checkered shirt. As an accomplished first year teacher, he was able to rise to the occasion, get respect from his students and, therefore, deliver his subject matter with well-earned knowledge and expertise.

In the words of Luke, his STEM Food Growing System "is especially useful in my environmental science and green technology classes, where it can be used as a model ecosystem, and as an example of sustainable, eco-friendly technology.

The system allows my students to interact with and observe naturally occurring processes such as competition for resources, mutualistic relationships between species, nutrient cycling, and photosynthesis." Now, those are the kinds of things you can talk about in a High School classroom with a STEM Food Growing System in it.

In the photo above, Luke and one of his Rosamond High students are measuring the length of one of the tilapia that are being raised in his STEM Food Growing System's Fish Tank. Notice that the water in the Rosamond fish tank is so clear you can see right to the bottom of the tank. That's because, unlike the fish tank at Manzo Elementary School (Part 1), this is an indoor STEM Aquaponics system that isn't growing much algae, which also means the fish are totally dependent on the the caretaker to make sure the Automatic Fish Feeder is working properly and consistently delivering fish food.

Usually the Automatic Fish Feeder is secured by a stand that attaches to the side of the fish tank. In this case, a cover was added (most likely by the Rosamond maintenance crew) so that the fish could be protected, and the Automatic Fish Feeder is sitting on top of it. The Automatic Fish Feeders that come with our STEM Food Growing Systems make raising fish in a classroom that shuts down on weekends and holidays very convenient. The Automaic Fish Feeder also helps to feed the fish the amount of food they need each day in small increments spread through out the day.

Luke goes on to say, "I am in a unique position as I have had the system since I began my teaching career, but I’d have to say that it provides an extra element that helps students to stay involved and interested in my courses. The system also gives us a sustainable supply of fresh vegetables."

Teachers often wonder about the time they have to put into maintenance of STEM Food Growing Systems. According to Luke, "The system is nearly self-sustaining as well, it requires only a small amount of upkeep such as keeping the fish tank full and clean."

In the photo on the left, two students hold cherry tomatoes that they harvested from one of the tomato plants. Luke is also growing peppers in his STEM Food Growing System. On the right above, one of Luke's students is examining the flower that appears on one of the tomato plants prior to the plant's production of cheery tomatoes.

Rosamond High ordered their STEM Food Growing System with Induction Grow Lights which allow for the growing of flowering plants like tomatoes and peppers. Fluorescent Lights, which is another lighting choice for schools will only grow Leafy Green veggies. If you want to grow flowering plants, we now offer LED Grow Lights instead of Induction Grow Lights.

There's a big push to get girls interested in STEM subjects, but Luke isn't finding that difficult at all. The gals in his Environmental Science and Green Technology classes are just as interested in the STEM Food Growing System as the boys, and in this case, taking the place of Mother Nature is quite fitting.

Luke's closing words: "Overall, I’d say that the aquaponics system has been a great addition to my classroom as it provides various learning opportunities as well as allowing us to have an occasional salsa party."

Luke's STEM Food Growing System has 22 sq. ft. of growing area and a 120 gallon fish tank. It's about one half the size of the systems at Manzo Elementay (Part 1) and Davis Bilingual Elementary (Part 2).

Schools choose their systems based on the size of the space they have. This one fit perfectly on one side of Luke's Science classroom. It's designed to be a walk around system and requires a 2 ft. walkway on all four sides. We also have STEM Food Growing Systems that don't require walk around space and can even be placed in a corner.

We installed this STEM Food Growing System, which is unusal. Most often these Systems are shipped on pallets in trucks; however, some teachers have choosen to pick up their STEM Food Growing Systems to save the freight fees.

Isn’t it time to turn every school campus into this exciting, engaging and interactive experience called STEM Food Growing System Learning?

To Learn More about bringing a STEM Food Growing System into your classroom, click on our "Bring Your Classroom To Life!" document below. It will tell and show you everything you need to know to create an Aquaponics STEM classroom.

The Assistant Principal of Rosamond High, Mrs. Debi Keys, had acquired the STEM Food Growing System through a Grant she wrote and was awarded in 2014, and because Aquaponics USA resided in California at the time, we were able to install the system at Rosamond High. We gave an In-Service Training to Debi and her husband, Mike, who had built an Aquaponics system at their home, so fortunately, he knew a lot about Aquaponics. Others in attendance included some staff, a maintenance person and his wife and the first year teacher who was to be in charge of the system. Unfortunately, the first caretaker wasn't able to utilize the potential that a STEM Food Growing System offers, so Debi and her husband stepped in to save the Aquaponics project and the fish, stabilizing the system and keeping it all going through the summer break until Luke came on board.

The moral of this part of the Rosamond story is you really need to have back up people to take charge of your living ecosystem in the event that the original person designated to be the caretaker just doesn't work out. In the case of Rosamond High, this Aquaponics project was Debi's baby; and she and her husband, Mike, became the heroes that saved the day. STEM Food Growing Systems are living ecosystems that will die if they don't get the kind of maintenance and follow through they need. Even though that maintenance is minimal, it needs to be consistent. The caretaker of a STEM Food Growing System is the Mother, as in Mother Nature, for an ecosystem that depends entirely on that caretaker.

Since installing this STEM Food Growing System at Rosamond High School, we have re-designed our Systems to make them look more like furniture within a classroom.

Below is what this same System looks like now, and we were able to do this while keeping the price the same. This new wooden pedastal design is also more sturdy than before.

We have a funny saying that says "If a bull got loose in your STEM Food Growing System area, it wouldn't be able to knock one of these Grow Beds over, and that can be very comforting for Teachers."

What Is Aquaponics? Aquaponics is a food growing technolgy that utilizes live fish to fertilize vegetables and fruits in a cross-linked ecosystem where the fish fertilize the plants and the plants clean the water for the fish.

STEM Food Growing Systems integrate Plant and Fish Biology with Chemistry, Math and Engineering. It's STEM Education that actually deals with stems.

Here's what Aquaponics STEM Teachers have to share direct from the field where they are using our STEM Food Growing Systesm to teach their Aquaponics STEM Classes.

This is a 3-Part Series that's being published in the STEM Education Coalition Weekly Newsletter. The STEM Education Coalition Newsletter is an amazing resource to keep you up to date about what's happening with STEM in schools across the nation and in State and Government administrations and agencies.

Thank you for visiting our "Aquaponics STEM Classrooms In Action, Part 1 Page". Watch for Part 2 in the STEM Education Coalition Newsletter and remember to check out our "Aquaponics in The Classroom", our "Where To Get an Aquaponics Grant" and our "STEM Resourses" Pages and feel free to give us a call at 760-671-3053 or email us at

Aquaponics STEM Classrooms In Action, Part 3