Students at John Bowne High School are learning about how fish develop in their interactive aquaculture classes.
The program, which attracts more than 600 students, has been in existence for over a decade. It teaches the teens hands-on science by working with the school’s aquaculture system and the New York City Watershed.
Since opening its doors in 1964, Bowne High School has made an effort to teach students environmental responsibility by encouraging learning outside of classroom activities.
“Aquaculture is a very large industry. It’s one of the largest employers in the nation,” said Steve Perry, the assistant principal of agriculture. “We’re training them for careers in these areas and preparing them for further study in college.”
As a part of the aquaculture program, students raise trout and tilapia. They are also taught how to raise hybrid striped bass.
Perry said that for their program, the agriculture school gets trout eggs from a certified fish hatchery. Students are then given the eggs and a journal to record the development. Once the eggs are hatched and the trout are the size of a “thimble,” students travel to Pound Ridge in Westchester County and release them into the waterway.
While the trout are raised to be released, the tilapia are grown to be eaten.
Perry said students are raising 80 tilapia throughout the school year by feeding them commercial fish food, and before school is over in June, sell the tilapia as live fish to the student body, faculty and public. He hopes that some of the fish will be saved for a year-end Future Farmers of America party at the school.
“By June, they should weigh 1-1/2 pounds and the cafeteria staff will prepare them,” the assistant principal added.
Perry said the revenue generated from the sale of tilapia is used for tools and supplies for the program.
Bowne High School works in collaboration with the FFA, a national organization for students enrolled in the agricultural program.
“The aquaculture program is part of an effort to teach environmental responsibility,” Perry said. “It also teaches students stewardship and conservation. Students can take this information with them beyond the classroom.”
Other agriculture programs at the high school include growing produce such as corn and tomatoes and raising farm animals such as chickens. Plant science students grow seedling flowers and vegetables for use on the school farm, as well as for sale to the public.
Egg and produce are sold at the school store to the public throughout the year.
The high school’s agriculture program is unusual in the city school system. Bowne has about four acres of land behind the facility on Main Street for cultivation, greenhouses and animals.