By Gina Bell, Assistant Principal, BRES ~~
BRES’ aquaponics dome was built by 4th grade students on March 14. Then on March 15, the aquaponics system was installed inside as well as the cover for the dome. The system will grow 200 plants at a time. We will put them on a cycle to harvest 50 plants a week. We will begin with peppers and lettuce. We will grow root vegetables such as tomatoes and potatoes in the nine raised beds that surround the dome. The self-sustaining system contains fish that fertilize the water which then pumps into the plant beds providing nutrients. The plants clean the water that pumps back into the fish tank as it works in a continuous cycle.
We want to teach our students practical life skills, while providing opportunities to incorporate STEAM strategies and develop critical thinking skills that will prepare them to be future productive members of society. We also want to expand our farm to table program in our school cafeteria. Additionally, we want to use the excess vegetables and growth as a community outreach to share with our local food banks and those in need.
Fourth grade students will be working with their math teacher to design and engineer several panels based on the isosceles and equilateral triangles that the dome is made of to get a cross breeze during the summer to reduce the heat and regulate the heat that will build up during the hottest part of summer. Fifth grade students are going to work on designing the venting system using fans from old computers that will be programmed and powered through our solar panel. This will come on when the inside of the dome reaches a certain temperature. In the future, our students will also research what it takes to keep the dome warm throughout the winter, and we would also like to expand the system to include vertical growth such as hanging plants inside and outside the dome.
Teresa Tate, 4th grade Science Teacher and STEAM leader at BRES, headed up the project and helped raise funds. Her 4th graders created garden art and sold it at various craft shows in order to raise money. We have worked closely with Ryan Cox and HATponics to design and create this system. We also had many generous donors and partners who made this project happen with monetary and in kind donations including: The Stone Depot, QMS Services, Brandon and Sherry Holloway, The Thoresen Family, Walter George Soil Company, Jamey and Jill Burnette, Blue Ridge Stone Depot, Kevin Ware Trucking, Sisson, Dupont, and Carder, Mallory Thigpen/Doterra Consultant, Remax/Joy Walker, and other Anonymous donors.