Blue Stream Farms receives grant

WEIRTON — Blue Stream Farms is a project-based learning platform that, according to officials, will serve as apprenticeships, providing students with a strong advantage and help them take their next step in life.

“Currently seven high schools have offered letters of support to Blue Stream Farms with four of those high schools actively participating in projects. These projects align with classes the students are taking and are in a discipline they are considering majoring in when they go to college,” Doug Velegol, an advisor of the organization, explained.

Aquaponics is raising fish and plants together in one integrated organic system. The fish provide the plants with 22 of 23 nutrients they require. In turn, the plants naturally filter the water for the fish to keep their environment healthy.

Blue Stream Farms uses aquaponics to integrate science, technology, writing, engineering, arts and math into projects that not only help the students’ understanding of the subject, but also helps to operate and sustain the business. It also incorporates technology that will provide high definition images for research, data for business analytics and the ability to remotely control operating parameters of the system.

The West Virginia Association of Conservation Districts’ mission is to provide for and promote the protection and conservation of West Virginia’s soil, land, water and related resource for the health, safety and general welfare of the state’s citizens. The Blue Stream Farms’ platform supports the WVACD mission by building an educational system that high schools across the entire state can participate. Additionally, Blue Stream Farms supports healthy lifestyles by providing locally grown produce and facilitates ecosystem sustainability.

“Several schools have tried aquaponics, but the programs were not successful.” Dan Spickard, president of the organization, explained. “First, the projects were not integrated into the students’ classes and it was more of an after-school club. Second, the schools did not focus on sustainability. Instead of relying on school funding to support the project, Blue Stream Farms will sell fish, greens and herbs to local restaurants and farmer’s markets, providing the students with real life marketing and sales experience.”

Currently, there are projects involving accounting, water analysis/management, web design, automation, storyboarding and fluid dynamics. These projects were developed by the students, teachers and Blue Stream Farms. Adding to the learning experience, each project involves a university professor and a subject matter expert, so the students understand the concepts and practical use.

The final layer to the Blue Stream Farms platform is a portion that is modeled after Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business “Game”. Students who participate in this program will be required to present their information/ideas to a panel of advisors who are made up of professionals in several fields. The advisors are there to ask questions and challenge the student’s thinking. They will not provide answers but will provide direction to the student, so they improve their project and/or direction.

Currently, there are seven schools signed up in West Virginia, with goals to expand into Ohio and Pennsylvania. By 2019, Blue Stream Farms plans to offer internet-based classes that meet state standards that will provide high school students with an enhanced educational experience.

Additional information about the program can be found online at www.bluestreamfarms.com.

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