Nearly 130 high school students discover aquaponics thanks to an initiative of the Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles

Since last year, nearly 130 young people from secondary 4 and 5 classes in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Grande-Rivière and Chandler have carried out various science experiments using projects with the aquaponics. With the help of Intern students from Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles and an additional teacher, two members of the Cégep teaching staff have built these projects with notions that touch on several scientific subjects.

Aquaponics is at the heart of an innovative multidisciplinary program to promote science among young people in the Magdalen Islands and the Gaspé. Lisandre Gilmore-Solomon, biology teacher at the Îles-de-la-Madeleine campus, and Pierre-Olivier Fontaine, aquaculture teacher at the Quebec School of Fisheries and Aquaculture (ÉPAQ), are involved in this scientific project since 2021.

Aquaponics is the integrated cultivation of aquatic plants and animals. Waste from aquatic animals is transformed by bacteria to be accessible to plants, which will feed on it. “You should know that you set up a small aquaponic system from A to Z. When carrying out experiments, you study a multitude of biological, chemical, mathematical, physical, and engineering concepts. For young people, it becomes a stimulating challenge to better understand interactions with scientific concepts,” explains Pierre-Olivier Fontaine. Students can follow the progress of the project every school day, as the systems are housed in the classrooms.

This year, three student interns from Cégep are working with their teachers to program the workshops and the presentations in class. “The workshops are linked with notions depending on the course and the level targeted. One can, for example, project current documentaries, plan various manipulations such as planting seeds, float a raft with plants in an aquaponics system, taking measurements on plants, identifying deficiencies, etc. These activities are always linked to the central theme of aquaponics”, continues Lisandre Gilmore-Solomon.

This type of initiative is part of an approach aimed at developing regional self-sufficiency and short-circuit food production. Young people are also made aware of and exposed to various types of possible scientific careers and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The project will continue this winter with workshops offered from the second year of high school at the Polyvalente des Îles.

Thanks to the local partners for their financial support: la Caisse populaire Desjardins des Ramées, M. Joël Arseneau, député des Îles-de-la-Madeleine, M. Jean-Pierre Léger, la Fondation Cornélius-Brotherton, l’école polyvalente des Îles, l’école secondaire du Littoral de Grande-Rivière, l’école polyvalente Mgr Sévigny de Chandler , la Ville de Grande-Rivière, la MRC du Rocher-Percé, le gouvernement du Québec, le Centre de formation professionnelle des Îles, Merinov et le club aquaponique de l’ÉPAQ.