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Aquaponics programs popping up in local schools

Posted at 6:15 PM, Dec 24, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-24 20:15:29-05

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A new way to learn valuable career skills is popping up in more local schools and it involves growing fresh produce in an innovative new way. 

The programs involve using nutrients from fish waste to grow and harvest fresh produce in an aquaponics greenhouse. A team of dedicated professionals is helping launch these programs one after the other. 
 
At Tanque Verde High School, a warm greenhouse on campus teaches students everything from science to marketing. 
 
"It's opened up amazing doors," said Trudy Slanina who teaches both special education and the entrepreneur class at Tanque Verde High School. 
 
She says her students grow the produce and then sell it once a month at the farmers market.
 
"We have a lot of students that don't like to pencil-paper kind of learning," said Slanina. "This is a great way to teach hands on and they don't forget these lessons."
 
Starting aquaponics programs in Tucson schools has been a team effort between University of Arizona professors and researchers and the local school districts. 
 
Joni Lee Giovanna Hesley is a agricultural and biosystems engineer who is part of that dedicated group. She says she considers herself a messenger between the engineers involved in the project and the educators at various schools.
 
"School gardens engage students and teachers in so many different ways," she said. "We can have it in every aspect of the school from language arts to culinary, from actually building these things hands on, to the harvest and economics."
 
So far they have helped five schools start aquaponics programs within the last three years. 
 
"I would definitely like to do something in this type of field so it's really given me a grip on things to look and experience it," said Jesse Renteria, a senior at Tanque Verde High School. 
 
They are also working to get the food grown in the greenhouse incorporated into the school's cafeteria. 
 
"I love it when the students have that 'ah ha' moment that they get it," said Slanina. "This kind of an educational platform, they get it a lot."