Aquaponics: A teacher’s perspective

The following explanation of aquaponics comes from Oaklandon Elementary School’s Wayne Naylor.

The aquaponics system, built by teacher Wayne Naylor and his students.

The aquaponics system, built by teacher Wayne Naylor and his students.

Students in the Alternative Instruction Classroom (AIS) built the tilapia tank as part of their participation in inquiry learning. Students come to the AIS room because they are struggling in the regular class setting. Normally, this means they are not behaving and thus disrupting the learning for others. Some students spend all day in the room while others attend for a period or two.

One student became passionate about this aquaponics project and has lead it all year long. He has connected his reading and writing to the project by writing instructions on how to feed the fish, care for the fish, and breed them. He also applied his math skills when building the tanks.

At one point in the construction process, I gathered together students who were struggling with math to help measure and build the tanks. In fact, they were failing in their regular math classes. Many students applied math skills to the project, and improved their math acumen.


About half the tank was built from left over pieces of wood lying around in the greenhouse. Our school PFO (parent support group) gave the students about $600 to finish the tank and purchase fish.


• A hands-on authentic project about which students become passionate

• Ignites passion for future scientific investigations

• Research skills sharpened: how to breed fish, what to do with them during the summer, how to create a closed loop system, and how to apply permaculture principals

• No discipline problems when students were working on the aquaponics system

• Students engaged, connected, and invested in the project

Here is an Oaklandon student describing this aquaponics system.