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Students in Jake Lyke's biology class can add a new skill to their high school resumes: creating a sustainable food production system with fish, bacteria, and plants.

Lyke introduced aquaponics to his classroom, which is a combination of hydroponics (growing plants in water) and aquaculture (farming fish). The fish produce waste, on which the bacteria feed and turn into nutrients for the plants—creating a natural ecosystem that can be managed in a greenhouse.

"As a natural ecosystem, it has everything that I teach in my course: biology, basic chemistry, and ecology," said Lyke. "Each topic I cover in the classroom can be found in the living system. Students apply what they have learned in the classroom to what is actually happening in the tanks and the plant grow beds."

Students were able to grow a sustainable food system using aquaponics, and donated the first crop of lettuce to the school cafeteria to utilize in daily lunches.

The concept of aquaponics has been such a hit that Lyke started an after school Aquaponics Club so that more students can participate.

"There is a lot of STEM in building and working with these systems to keep them working and healthy," said Lyke. "It is a great teaching tool and we have only just begun to tap into how we can use it."