JCU rewards schools for sustainability focus

Creating a sustainable fish ecosystem and discovering the best food for red claw will be among the lessons Innisfail State College students will learn thanks to a $10,000 grant to develop the school’s aquaponics project.

James Cook University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering will launch a Sustainable Schools Network next year and has selected Innisfail State College as the first recipient of Federal funding from the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program.

The Program’s student liaison officer Meg Collis said JCU wanted to help schools actively involved in sustainability projects to further their work as well as link them to other schools with similar agendas.

“Innisfail State College stood out with its aquaponics program which is used for Year 9 through to Year 12 students as part of their science and biology programs as well as marine studies,” she said.

“JCU will develop a network of northern Queensland schools that are actively involved in, or have the capacity to develop, sustainability initiatives in science and engineering.”

Head of the Land and Sea Science Department at Innisfail State College, Darrin Timms, said the funding would be used to double the number of fish tanks at the College to 96 so students could conduct scientific experiments in aquaponics as well as grow fish and vegetables.

“Other schools grow barramundi, but we will take the education process further with aquaponics as it teaches sustainability principles with the waste nutrients from the fish used to feed plants,” he said.

“The additional tanks will allow students to undertake scientific trials and learn about the aquaculture industry which provides employment in our region.

“As well as introducing students to career pathways, this Program will get younger students excited about science with interesting ecology experiments now able to be included in the curriculum.

“In Grade 9 we do a unit on ecology which is usually out of a text book, but next year students will collect fish and replicate an ecosystem with the challenge of making it sustainable.

“It will also help our school community understand the sustainable principles behind food production and ensure each child knows pumpkins grow on vines and don’t just come from supermarkets.

“We plan to sell the vegetables to ensure the project is sustainable in the long term and use the proceeds towards reducing the fees for students enrolling in hospitality classes.”

Issued December 12, 2012

Media enquiries: E. linden.woodward@jcu.edu.au T. 07 4042 1007