4-H Aquaponics Project
University of Maine Cooperative Extension 4-H in partnership with the UMaine Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research (CCAR) and the UMaine Aquaculture Research Institute (ARI) delivers the 4-H Aquaponics Project, an experiential learning program for youth ages 9-18. The program includes learning experiences in introductory aquaponic systems and design, fish husbandry, aquaponic gardening, cooking and nutrition, and more. Youth practice important life skills such as record-keeping, problem-solving, food safety, collaboration/teamwork, science and math literacy, and more! Youth can participate in this project from home (virtually) or from their classroom or other group setting such as after-school programs, summer camps, etc (hybrid).
This program received the 2021 Denise Miller National 4-H Innovator Award, presented annually by the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals. Read more about the program featured in the UMaine Today Magazine.
What is Aquaponics?
Aquaponics is a type of farming that combines raising fish in tanks (aquaculture) and growing plants without soil (hydroponics). In an aquaponics system, the plants use nutrient-rich water from the fish tank while purifying the water for the fish. Aquaponic farming can be done year-round, indoors, and in any climate. It is a fun and different way to grow your own food that is safe, easy, and fresh!
How to Participate
At-Home 4-H Aquaponics Project
Next Session: Summer 2023
The At-Home 4-H Aquaponics Project is a five-month experiential learning program offered virtually and completed at the participant’s home. The program leaders mentor youth through the stages of designing and building an aquaponics system through maintenance and harvest. Youth complete their project independently at home (with adult supervision), but they are also members of a state-wide group of youth who are participating in the project together. Youth do not have to be enrolled in 4-H, but will enroll when beginning this project. The project is open to youth from any county in Maine. Prior experience with aquaponics is not required to participate.
Classroom 4-H Aquaponics Project
The 4-H Aquaponics Project is currently expanding into formal and informal learning spaces such as K-12 classrooms, after-school programs, summer camps, and other group learning settings. The program leaders mentor educators and youth through the stages of designing and building a group aquaponics system, through maintenance and harvest. The program is self-paced and designed to meet the needs and timeline of the group – it can last for a few months or all year long (and beyond!). This is a hybrid experience where youth design, build, and maintain their systems in-person in a group setting, while the aquaponics program leaders offer self-paced learning modules and mentorship virtually (and in person if possible). Prior experience with aquaponics is not required to participate. Thanks to federal funding from the USDA, significant materials and resources are provided, including the technology needed for distance learning. Educators who are interested in learning more and getting on our waitlist, please fill out the interest form below.
Participant Responsibilities and Expectations
- Come with an open mind to experiential learning in a virtual setting
- Be respectful and participate fully in the program
- Adult supervision (at home and in the classroom) is expected for all project-related activities
- Obtain the necessary equipment and supplies (materials/parts lists will be provided and $200 grants are generously available from the Maine 4-H Foundation). Funding is available for Classroom Aquaponics Projects.
- Design, construct and maintain an appropriate aquaponics system for your household (hint: this takes a lot of hard work and dedication!)
- Perform tasks necessary to ethically care for living plants and animals (husbandry, gardening, water quality testing, systems check, etc)
- Keep records as directed by program leaders
- Report and present on the outcome of the project
- Take on a leadership role in an area of your interest
- Abide by all UMaine and State/Federal safety guidelines (this may include some restrictions due to COVID-19)
- This project will require a small financial investment and time commitment from parents/guardians for their child to begin the at-home project.
UMaine Extension, UMaine CCAR, and ARI will provide aquaponics project-related information to all participants; provide educational experiences related to the project such as learning modules, webinars, hands-on activities, virtual tours, etc.; arrange for the purchasing of materials from reliable sources; check-in with participants on a regular basis; and respond quickly to questions and issues related to the project.
Aquaponics Learning Modules
- Aquaponics Project Kick-Off
- Grant Proposal – System Design & Engineering
- Grant Proposal – Materials and Budget
- Aquaponics 101
- System Cycling
- All About Fish I
- All About Fish II
- Aquaponic Gardening
- Aquaponic Food Systems
- Harvest, Cooking, Nutrition
- Virtual Tours
- Project Records
If you are interested in a future 4-H Aquaponics Project, please complete the form below and we will contact you at the beginning of the next project cycle.
The University of Maine is an EEO/AA employer, and does not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, transgender status, gender expression, national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, genetic information or veteran’s status in employment, education, and all other programs and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies: Director of Equal Opportunity, 101 Boudreau Hall, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469-5754, 207.581.1226, TTY 711 (Maine Relay System).