In December, Fairyland School began construction on its Aquaponics Floating Greenhouse, which is being built on the school’s pond. This project, which will soon be a reality, fits in perfectly with the schools STEAM curriculum, which embodies Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. The greenhouse will be a learning lab for the students and will create an environment that will allow the students to be innovative and creative outside of the classroom by using renewable resources while learning technology and researching problem-solving. Basically, the greenhouse will be for growing plants and raising fish in an enclosed environment that will be a self-sustaining ecosystem.
The students will raise fish, and when the water becomes full of nitrogen nutrients from the fishes’ waste, it will be constantly pumped through a series of PVC pipes that hold live plants, which will then thrive and grow from the nutrients in the water. The 700-square-foot dome that is 30 feet in diameter will have two solar powered fans and a ceiling fan to create a nature-like breeze that will also help the plants flourish. The children will be able to decide what plants they want to plant, like strawberries, tomatoes or lettuce; there really is no limit as to what can be planted. Students will then harvest the plants and some of the fish, which they will sell to make money for a project of their choosing or even a third world country to help them sustain or better their lifestyle.
This aquaponics project has definitely been a school-wide project, with the children writing persuasive letters to different companies asking for donations. Their pleas were effective, as they received 30 different donations, as well as a big contribution from See Rock City. The children will also pick nicknames for their produce, like “Fairy Berries,” and create posters to market their fruits, vegetables and fish, all of which will be organic and pesticide-free.
There are many high schools in the region that already have this incredible teaching tool in place, including Ridgeland High School, which will send some students to help design the inside of the greenhouse.
The PTO hired Emily Scoggins to help with the curriculum for the children, and she and Principal Jeremy Roerdink will visit several schools and borrow from their lesson plans and curriculum.
Wendy Taliaferro and I were both asked about the “bubble” on the pond, so we scheduled a visit with Principal Roerdink, who was very generous with his time and patiently explained to two “old ladies” what it is and how educational it will be. He even took us on a tour of the floating lab, which is aesthetically designed and edged with attractive cumaru wood that will last for 100 years.
Principal Roerdink was instrumental in getting this incredible project started. He spent four years learning about these aquaponics greenhouses and admits that he is still learning every day. He said that if any plants fail, the children will figure out why and make corrections. It truly is an incredible, fun teaching tool that includes so many different skills, from physics to the simple pleasure of growing your own food.
So far, the PTO has raised $125,000 but needs another $25,000 to complete the project. As of the middle of February, the project is 85 percent complete and awaiting electricity so that the pumps can circulate the water. The project should be complete in the middle of March, and the entire community will be invited to to see it. Without the community’s generous support, it never would have have happened.
If you would like to make a donation, send a check payable to Fairyland School’s PTO to FES, 1306 Lula Lake Road, Lookout Mountain GA, 30750. If you want to buy a brick for $100 that is inscribed with your dedication, it will be placed in the walkway to the dock.
Fairyland school is already a school of excellence, and this project solidifies that fact.