RAPID CITY, S.D. — Some Rapid City middle school students are flexing their green thumbs with a twenty-first century twist.
In 2019, an aquaponic garden was introduced to East Middle School through a partnership with Western Dakota Tech. After a team of students from WDT took first place in the fourth annual Community College Innovative Challenge for their aquaponics project, East Middle School teacher Jason Cerny reached out to instructors about doing a guest lecture on the project.
Soon after, with the help from a Youth Educator Grant, the “Planting the Pond” project was started at East Middle School.
The goal of the program is to increase the number of students interested in STEM educational tracts and ultimately careers.
“The first thing I noticed was the just the curiosity on their face was, ‘what is this system…what does it do?’ And then the excitement on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis. As soon as we started planting new plants, it’s every day they’re coming up and taking a look at the system,” Cerny said.
“It’s cooler to have it inside than outside on farms and fields. [I] think it’s a lot cooler to have it inside and automated and stuff,” said Brecken Sasse, a sixth grader at East Middle School.
The medium-sized system was designed, constructed, and implemented by students with WDT’s environmental engineering, electrical trades, and computer-aided design courses.