Today’s episode features an inspiring guest, Michael Kosko, a Science teacher at Al Raby School for Community and Environment in Chicago, Illinois. I got him on the show after being inspired by the article he was featured on, From Aquaponics to Robots: McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation disperses over 149,000 for school enrichment in the US and Sudan.
Michael has been teaching in Chicago public schools for nine years now. He currently focuses on teaching environmental science to freshmen and exploring it together for the past years. Receiving the McCarthey Dressman grant gives them the opportunity to expand the program and support their Career in Technical Education programs, specifically culinary arts, emulating a lab-to-table model where students grow their own food sustainably, learn how to prepare it, and eventually selling it in partnership with their Business Career in Technical Education program. They are the first school to combine horticulture and culinary model together in their programs,
Listen in as we discuss topics like nitrogen cycle education, instilling a love of science, and how his students are occasionally flooding the classroom. We also talk about bell siphons, classroom aquaponic units made from IKEA stands, plans for media beds and and systems cost.
We touch on things like system failures, filtration methods, and water testing as well as cycling duration and methods. Michael discusses business programs including business planning and marketing and integrating into the horticulture program and his love for science and kids! Lastly, get loads of information on bringing aquaponics in the classroom through funding and grants.
Read Full Show Notes
54: Bringing Aquaponics to the Classroom with Michael Kosko of Al Raby School for Community and Environment
Here’s what you’ll learn from this episode:
- Michael talks about the school’s Career in Technical Education programs
- Broadcast technology
- Culinary arts
- Culinary students will start their actual culinary program and the aquaponics on their sophomore year
- Check out how their application works
- Integrating the culinary/horticulture program with business and pre-engineering programs (even the pre-law and broadcast tech programs)
- Find out how Michael decided to do aquaponics in the classroom
- Fitting environmental science into the curriculum and having salad parties
- Michael gives us a visual of what their classroom units look like
- Find out more about the failures and problems they encountered along the way
- Use of direction packets for the students
- Michael shares with us their main goals for the project:
- To learn more about nitrogen cycling and how energy and matter flow through
- To collect data, analyze, and use it to argue from the evidence they see, and communicate it effectively
- Check out the main things students have learned in their first year of experimentation
- Various crops and fish they’re growing
- Setting up the system out of IKEA stands – Find out how much their system costs.
- What do they use to de-chlorinate the water?
- Water testing, off-gasing the water, and water cycling methods
- Discover why sump tanks work great to prevent flooding
- What comprises their business program?
- Marketing is 90% of the business – would you agree?
- Successes of bringing aquaponics and sustainability to the classroom
- Listen in to Michael’s tips for getting funding to bring aquaponics in your classroom
- Here’s a tidbit: Home Depot gives out grants as well!
“One of the things to keep in mind is to expect these things to happen. Yes, there’s going to be water on the floor. Yes, you’re going to have to mop up. Yes, you might have dead fish. All these things – that shouldn’t be a reason not to attempt it. It’s just one of the things to keep in mind and have a plan going forward as far as how you’re going to trust those situations or those roadblocks when they come up.” – Michael Kosko
“All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” – John W. Gardner
“From the students that I had, it was the fact that they had built the units themselves – that was the number one hook for them for the project.” – Michael Kosko
“What I really want my students to leave my class with is just being able to see how science plays a role in their lives and be able to identify as a scientist.” – Michael Kosko
“That’s a big thing that a lot of students don’t learn is how systems work and thinking in terms of systems, not just in parts in isolation but really how things work together.” – Michael Kosko
“People are a little bit afraid of grants in some ways. Just have fun with it!” – Michael Kosko
Resources/links to websites:
Here’s the feature article, From Aquaponics to Robots
Grants you may apply for:
McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation (national)
Michael Kosko is a high school science instructor and Career and Technical Education coordinator at Al Raby School for Community and Environment in Chicago Public Schools. He studied Anthropology-Zoology and Spanish at the University of Michigan and completed his graduate work at the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University where he focused on how digital feedback on student writing affected their performance and engagement during the writing process. Outside of school, you can find Michael at the gym, in his garden, or checking out new restaurants around Chicago with his husband, Mesmin. Follow him on Twitter: @MrKosko.