Educator Spotlight: Oliver Schinkten Inspires Student Creativity with Classroom Aquaponics

Posted by Amy Storey on September 11, 2014

oliver2 headshotClassroom Aquaponics

As you may have noticed by increased news coverage and social media chatting, more and more people are taking advantage of the benefits offered by gardens in schools and classrooms.

We've met a number of enthusiastic educators who are all about innovative teaching and building a world-wide teaching community.

How awesome is that?

As part of this movement, the education team at Bright Agrotech want to help you all get to know some of these incredible people. That's why we're writing the Educator Spotlights. One of the most passionate teachers I've had the pleasure of communicating with is Oliver Schinkten.

A bigger vision for student success

Oliver Schinkten teaches science at Oshkosh North High School in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and has been using aquaponics as teaching technique in his classroom.

"My stance on education is that we need to INSPIRE students to become passionate learners by engaging them in hands-on experiences & projects for authentic audiences while making a positive impact in the world."

Schinkten's teaching philosophy takes into account more than just state standards and curriculum by focusing on the end goal: raising young people who will be equipped to make a positive impact on the world.

Intriguing students and inspiring creativity

Accomplishing that goal requires genuine experiences and inspiration. When he found aquaponics, Oliver believed it could be an excellent teaching tool for supporting this goal. As it turns out, he was right; Oshkosh students took to aquaponics like a fish to water. (So to speak.) And, this is how it started:

"We visited Growing Power in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during field trip in our high school program. When students saw the aquaponics systems they fell in love with them. Many have had experience with alternative agriculture as my science club had hydroponic lettuce gardens in the past. The thought of aquaponics, however, intrigued them beyond belief. When we returned, there were a number of students that were passionate about making this happen at school."

Learning from setbacks

And they did make it happen. Of course, no project goes without it's challenges.

"Our students built some medium sized systems and had them running. We learned the hard way about some very important concepts as we lost some tilapia. We also had many successes, however, in the fact that we grew lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, radishes, etc...."

Oliver was amazed at the enthusiasm he saw from his students.

Rather than being discouraged about failures and challenges, Oliver chose to use them as opportunities to teach valuable life lessons.

"Although there have been many obstacles, a lot of work, and some failures along the way..... that is EXCELLENT because that is REAL LIFE."

The students involved in aquaponics at Oshkosh learned not to give up when faced with a challenge, but to problem solve, and continue on with a good attitude. And they did!

"Watching these students give up time before school, after school, at lunch and all summer was mind-blowing! The students were constantly problem solving, communicating, collaborating, etc.... They were doing tons of research, contacting experts, fundraising, attending meetings, informing the public..."

Classroom aquaponics: ownership and pride

The students at Oshkosh take pride in using an innovative technique that addresses a hot topic.

Teachers are thrilled to see students taking ownership of their learning as well as making a positive impact on the community.

The attitude of the students at Oshkosh is a great indicator of the success of Schinkten's teaching philosophy: Compassion Based Learning (click below for Oliver's blog).

Aquaponics is still growing at Oshkosh.

"Our grand plan is to construct a 48' x 24' hoop house in collaboration with Dani Stolley and "Growing Oshkosh", which is a local spin-off of Growing Power. Money was raised, materials, purchased, and permissions have finally been granted (after tons of meetings with the schools, city, etc...). Now, in the upcoming school year, there is a student who plans to lead the construction of the hoop house and the implementation of the aquaponic system."

Learn more about Oshkosh North High School's aquaponics project in this video.

 

See how other educators are transforming their classrooms

Educators and leaders around the world are changing the way that their students and children learn, providing them with opportunities, and giving them brighter futures.

Learn how you can do the same:

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Topics: Spotlights, In the Classroom

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