BOAZ, Ala. — Students in Renee Adams' advanced science elective class at Boaz Middle School have gone fishing.
Not that they are taking time away from classes. They are getting their feet — and hands — wet in an aquaponics class by partnering with Gadsden State Community College.
Aquaponics involves using fish waste as fertilizer to grow plants. Through a grant, a greenhouse was constructed behind the middle school to house the fish tanks and an area to grow plants under strict atmospheric conditions.
Enlisting the assistance of her husband, Wade, who raises chickens, Adams had the greenhouse constructed, with the students getting their first lessons at the beginning of this school year.
Plants were put out about three weeks ago and the first fish — tilapia — were delivered by GSCC early last week. Friday, a truckload of catfish fingerlings arrived.
Former middle school Principal Jeff Johnson came up with the idea. Adams attended a workshop last summer, and it has been hands-on ever since.
"This will shorten the growing time (of the plants) with high-quality fertilizer," she said. "It's teaching a different way to raise agriculture."
A veteran of 12 years of teaching at Boaz, Adams said the project has "broken the mold" of the regular teaching routine.
"It's a sustainable form of food," she said. "Farmland is shrinking every day. It's the future of farming. It's a challenge to learn from uncharted waters as we go."
The class enables students to learn body systems. "They can compare between humans and fish," Adams said, noting that the functions are similar in both.
The fruits of the students' labors will be realized near the end of the school year when they have a fish fry using the tilapia, catfish and vegetables — including tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, mustard, parsley and tendergreen.
"It will be a well-balanced meal," Adams said.