On the second floor, in the former planetarium at Cedar Cliff High School, students are looking down where they once looked up. During the summer of 2019, the District partnered with Integrated Agricultural Systems (INTAG) to construct an aquaponics lab unlike any other INTAG had designed before.
The indoor lab combines conventional aquaculture (raising fish and other aquatic animals in tanks) and hydroponics (producing plants in water rather than soil) into a symbiotic system used to grow fish, fruits, vegetables, feedstock, and other plant products year-round. And while the primary goal of this aquaponics facility is education, the possibility also exists for produce grown at the lab to be sold or donated in the future.
For now, the system constructed for West Shore students will act as a STEAM lab where students from all 14 schools are able to experiment with plant propagation, food production, aquaculture technical skills, and hydroponic plant growth. Additionally, high school students can use the lab to conduct real-world research in areas including plant lighting manipulation, propagation techniques, crop rotation studies, and fish breeding/rearing practices. Beyond the clear research and occupational training opportunities the lab provides, the system will also assist in teaching time management, problem solving, and leadership strategies.
Funding for the lab was made possible through a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry for approximately $250,000 which the District received in collaboration with the South Central Workforce Investment Board.