Surfside Middle School building aquaponic structure

Local News

PANAMA CITY BEACH, FLA. (WMBB) — Surfside Middle School seventh grade science teacher Erin Elliott was awarded a grant by the Florida Department of Agriculture. The grant will supply Elliott’s class with a 10 x 16 foot aquarium.

Elliott plans to likely put catfish in the aquarium, which will be placed outside along with plants, to teach the students about aquaponics. 

“The fish tank circulates the water through from a fish tank to a grow bed where the plants live, and then that water comes back,” Elliott said. “The nutrients from the fish feeds the plants, the plants help filter the water and then it goes back to the fish.”

Aquaponics has always been an interest of Elliott’s. Now, she is hoping that her students become interested in the field as well. 

“Understanding how our world works really opens you up to understanding, you know, a lot of things as an adult,” Elliott said. “And I think starting them young will help them be more well rounded adults.”

However, the main purpose of the structure is to give Surfside students an opportunity to learn about earth science in a hands-on way, rather than through the textbook.

“There’s a really big difference between reading about something in a book or writing a paper about it and actually working with it everyday,” Elliott said. “Getting hands on and seeing things grow.”

Elliott expects the structure to be completed in early October. Besides putting the aquaponic structure together, an overhang needs to be built to provide shade to the fish and plants. Currently, the plan is to place the structure in an open field, where there is direct sunlight.

Elliott is expecting all of the pieces to arrive by Friday. Then, the school can begin construction.

“Money is always an issue and this is the funding that allowed me to get this so that my students can really get the hands-on experience, to make it more exciting than just reading about it in a book,” Elliott said.

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