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E2CC BOCES turning their plants a little fishy

WATER IN THE PLANTS: The E2CC BOCES will start an aquaculture program in the fall of 2014 with a classroom similar to this one at Cornell University. Photo provided by Cornell University
The Erie 2-Chautauqua-Catataragus BOCES Carrier Educational Center in Angola, is scheduled to have new and unique agriculture programs this September.

E2CC will begin offering not only traditional agriculture classes, but unique classes involving aquaculture, one of the fastest growing facet of agriculture, that produces over a billion dollars yearly in U.S. sales. “Agriculture is hard to teach during the school year in Western New York because of winter,” said Brandon Wojcik, principal of the Carrier Center. “Aquaculture, allows us to keep teaching agriculture during the winter months.”

What makes the aquaculture classes unique is the environment students will be learning in. A 3,000 square foot classroom will feature six, 1,100 gallon tanks, filled with various types of fish. Water from those tanks will feed into a plant bed, providing the plants with nutrients, creating an ecosystem for both plants and fish to thrive under. “It’s a closed ecosystem, the dirty fish water flows into plant beds, where hundreds of plants use the water, as well as the fish waste as fertilizer,” said Wojcik. “You have plants growing from the fish waste, but at the same time these plants are cleaning the water of the waste, so it can be dumped back into the fish tanks clean. Basically it’s a natural filter system.”

Wojcik modeled the idea for the classroom on an enrichment project using a 500-gallon fish tank and two sections of plants, which he and other faculty members set up during his time as a science teacher in the Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District. “The enrichment project lead itsself to hundreds of experiments using the scientific method. When I came to the Carrier Center, trying to figure out how to teach agriculture during the wintertime, that idea came to me, and I knew we had the space to do it on a much larger scale,” said Wojcik. “There won’t be anything else like this in New York state for a high school, this is something that you typically see at the college level. It’s very unique.”

The Agriscience-Aquaculture program encompasses a wide range of interests for students. Besides the aquaculture aspect, the new classroom will provide classes for those interested in fisheries science, including fish hatchery and management, husbandry and ecology. A plot of land will be used for planting crops for those interested in the more traditional farming methods. Students will be able to learn crop science, heavy equipment operation and maintenance, welding and many other skills to go along with the knowledge gained from the aquaculture classes. Students involved in culinary programs will also benefit by the fresh vegetables and fish provided from the program.

Wojcik has been working with a number of different colleges to give students college level credit for many of the classes offered within the program.

Along with colleges, Wojcik has received attention from other parties interested in the program. “Since I have put this idea out there, I have been inundated with e-mails and phone calls from colleges and businesses from Connecticut to Alabama, including the United States Department of Agriculture, to discuss partnerships, employment and funding opportunities,” say Wojcik.

The Agriscience-Aquaculture program will start in the fall of 2014. The program is currently accepting enrollment. For more information contact the Carrier Educational Center at 549-4454.


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