MARQUETTE — During Northern Michigan University’s Reimagine STEM Summer Youth Academy, high-schoolers were given the opportunity to learn a new skill based on Native American knowledge and culture. This class is just finishing up their aquaponics projects, designed to provide crops in an eco-friendly manner.

“What they’re doing here with the aquaponics is thinking about how it relates to indigenous history, indigenous populations and the issues that we’re facing with food sovereignty issues, climate change, all very important for the future of our planet,” said Dr. Martin Reinhardt, a Professor of Native American Studies at NMU.

In an aquaponics system, the fish produce waste that fertilizes the plants, which in turn filter clean water back into the tank for the fish.

“We put strawberries and tomatoes in our aquaponics system, and we have suckerfish underneath,” said student Elizabeth Wilkinson.

This class is giving students a chance to try something that they may not have thought of doing. It provides a unique experience they may not find elsewhere.

“It is so cool, it’s more cool than a snowstorm in Northern Michigan,” exclaimed Reinhardt.

Luckily, once that impending snowstorm hits, the students, if they choose, can continue to use their creations. An aquaponics system can be used indoors or out, making it a practical tool in year-round gardening.

“It regulates itself, and you don’t have to take a ton of care of it,” said Wilkinson. “So if you want to grow your own plants, I recommend having an aquaponics system; it’s really nice.”

Students and teachers alike have enjoyed the project, and hope that their experiences aren’t all for nothing.

Reinhardt says, “Hopefully they’ll take these teachings and they’ll go back to their communities and it’ll spark some interest in a career path, and will attract them into the STEM disciplines.”

The students are ready for a well-deserved week of fun at Camp Nesbitt, but are excited to see how their work has progressed when they return.