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Access Type

Open Access

Document Type


Degree Program

Environmental Conservation

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



aquaponics, education, STEM, qualitative, classroom


Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture and hydroponic technology to grow both fish and plants together in a closed-loop system. While aquaponics can play a role in increasing food security, it may also be a potential educational tool because of its interdisciplinary nature and required technological skill set. With aquaponics, students could conduct hands-on activities involving chemistry, physics and biology to solidify their understanding of a range of theories. Beyond standard science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) principles, aquaponics may be related to projects on sustainability, environmental science, agriculture, the food system, health, economics, business and marketing. The interdisciplinary nature of aquaponics may make it an appealing tool for education, yet that same aspect may also make an aquaponics system challenging to implement and manage. Given this paradox, this exploratory research assesses challenges, solutions and success of aquaponics in education with a specific focus on implementation. Qualitative data were collected through phone interviews with educators (n=10) who currently, or had in the past, used an aquaponics system in an educational setting in North America. The most frequently described uses for aquaponics were flexible, hands-on teaching and learning of STEM and food-related concepts. Participants reported two broad challenges to implementing aquaponics: technical difficulties as a result of the nature of aquaponics and restrictions as a result of their school settings. Solutions given by participants were physical aquaponics system modifications and the development of intangible characteristics, especially community connections and support, passion for aquaponics and expertise. In this study, success in aquaponics in education emerged as a cyclical pattern: participants valued the overall learning experiences of aquaponics and the continued application of these learning experiences. Ultimately, these exploratory findings will help educators manage their expectations for aquaponics while establishing objectives for their particular educational settings.


First Advisor

Andy J. Danylchuk