Aquaponics at Fort Collins High School.

With the weather growing colder you may think the time for gardening is over for the year. On the contrary, Speech Language Pathologist, Colleen Reyes, and students at Fort Collins High School are extending the growing season. With the use of the greenhouse at FCHS, an Apple grant, as well as a grant from Whole Foods, several projects have been funded for students with disabilities.

The Apple grant has helped fund two projects. The first portion of the grant was used to purchase poinsettia flowers and spider plants. These plants gave students the opportunity to utilize the greenhouse at Fort Collins High School, with their peers, while building on their speech and language skills. “Speech and language objectives targeted in these two tasks included the following: biology, botany, and science vocabulary introduced to the students, as well as teaching the sequencing, following directions, community experience,  vocational and communication skills necessary for participation of  working  in the greenhouse,” says Reyes. Vocational learning opportunities for students include caring for plants, re-potting plants, root clipping, sweeping, washing windows and cleaning tables with independence.

The secondary portion of the grant is the partial funding of an aquaponics system for the greenhouse. The Aquaponics Source explains aquaponics as “the marriage of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the soil-less growing of plants) that grows fish and plants together in one integrated system. The fish waste provides an organic food source for the growing plants and the plants provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in.” A grant from Whole Foods provides the funds for the growing system as well as the supplies necessary to keep the aquaponics system working.

Students are in charge of budgeting, shopping for parts for the gardening system, building the station and ultimately caring for the fish and plants. Students practice appropriate and functional communication through team work, following directions in a variety of settings and working with peers and the community.

The goal for this year is to grow lettuce, spinach, basil and green beans as well as an assortment of herbs. There are big plans for aquaponics growth in the future, but one thing is certain now – the students are loving their time in the greenhouse.

Poudre School District Integrated Services                                                                Director: Sarah Belleau                                                                                                2407 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521

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