AT&T and the NEA Foundation have joined the movement to pique students’ interest in STEM education with a recent $98,000 contribution to Milwaukee Public Schools’ Urban Schools Aquaponics initiative.
The grant, to be awarded over two years, will enable the farming program to expand to five new schools and benefit at least 1,500 students, according to MPS. The funding will also enable MPS to develop a more comprehensive aquaponics curriculum that is compatible with new math and science standards.
The school system defines aquaponics as a “highly efficient and sustainable form of farming in which water from aquatic animals is used to feed hydroponically grown plants.” Those plants filter the water, which is then redistributed back to the animals.
Through MPS’ Urban Schools Aquaponics initiative, low-income and minority students at 18 schools total will have an outlet to learn more about STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – and apply classroom objectives to real-life issues.
“Aquaponics is a strong part of our STEM education efforts, and we’re grateful and proud to be able to strengthen and growth that program,” said MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton. “This program gives students hands-on STEM experience and exposes them to career options in a new and growing field.”
The program may also serve as a model for educators across the country looking to develop similar programs and prepare their students for different career paths rooted in STEM.
“In order to keep our country’s economic growth and innovative engine moving, it’s critical that we develop STEM skills in our young people,” said Scott VanderSanden, president of AT&T Wisconsin. “Programs like this one with the NEA Foundation ignite the interest of the next generation in the STEM skills they’ll need to succeed through exciting, real-world applications.”