Programs & Activities

Programs & Activities

Aquaponics at Riverbend

Riverbend is thrilled to launch our new aquaponics education program. Aquaponics offers a dynamic resource to advance and expand our educational mission of teaching environmental principles to inspire action and stewardship of the Earth's natural resources.

What is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics, a method of sustainable agriculture, is the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture. It is an ecosystem in which plants and fish are symbiotically grown together, using nutrient-rich fish wastewater to provide nutrients for the plants to grow. These nutrients would build up to toxic levels if left in the fish tanks; instead they serve as liquid fertilizer to hydroponically grown plants. In turn, the plants function as bio-filters releasing freshly cleansed water back into the fish tanks.The nitrifying bacteria living throughout the system play a critical role in nutrient cycling. Without these microorganisms, the whole system would stop functioning. Aquaponic food production uses just a fraction of the water resources that are required by traditional farms and it's a system that cycles free of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.

As a tool to teach about aquaponics, sustainable agriculture, food issues and more, Riverbend has built a 300 square foot Aquaponics Greenhouse! All field trip experiences include a tour of the greenhouse in addition to great hands-on activities that explore this exciting topic.

Building STEM Skills through Aquaponics

Riverbend offers an integrated aquaponics curriculum that enables teachers to investigate deeply in a single topic across multiple subject areas. It provides experiential learning opportunities that engage students in STEM topics, farming production and sustainability. It invites students to think critically about how community and societal goals can be met using agricultural practices such as aquaponics.

The program includes:

I. Resource Guide

  • Introduction to Aquaponics
  • Ecosystem of Aquaponics
  • Current Farming and Food Production
  • Sustainability

II. Teacher Training

Professional development for teachers includes an introduction to aquaponics and tour of Riverbendís aquaponics greenhouse, a walk through the curriculum and 18 hands-on activities, and an introduction to the classroom system. The two-day training will take place at Riverbend.

III. Classroom System

Riverbend will provide the participating teacher with a 20 gallon system for their classroom. Riverbend will help to assemble the system with teachers and students, provide an introductory lesson and ongoing technical support to ensure a healthy operating system all year.

IV. Field Trip

Students (up to two classrooms) will visit Riverbend for a day long experience presented by skilled aquaponics educators that will offer a menu of activities to choose from including fish dissection, water testing, Brix testing, watershed model, greenhouse tour, food miles game and plant dissection.

Field Trip Experience

Aquaponics: Fish to Plants and In Between

Address Standards 3.1, 3.3, 3.4, 4.1 and 4.4.

Bring your students to Riverbend to get up close and personal with Aquaponics! Explore this amazing form of sustainable agriculture that mimics a natural ecosystem. Learn how fish, plants and bacteria work together to help solve many of our food and environmental issues. This 1.5 hour lesson includes:

  • Tour of the Aquaponics Greenhouse
  • Exploration of the aquaponics ecosystem
  • Hands-on activities that compare aquaponics to traditional agriculture and food production
  • Discovery of how aquaponics can lead to a more sustainable future

Cost: $6 per student in fall. $7 per student in Spring

If you have any questions or would like to book a program, please contact Erin McCool at or 610-527-5234 ext. 108.





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