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2016 Ambassador: Gabby Alonso

08 Nov 2016 Ambassador: Gabby Alonso

Gabby Alonso
Glacier Peak High School
Snohomish, Washington

Future career goals

My goal is to pursue a higher education in science, specifically in the medical field or in global health. Throughout my professional career, I want to dedicate my time to projects that will create positive contributions in the lives of others. I have a strong desire to help my community and, ultimately, my goal is to achieve this through science.

Description of your school

Glacier Peak High School is a public school with approximately 1,750 students ranging from grades 9-12. As a school of strong academic integrity, students are actively motivated by staff and peers to perform at the highest levels. Additionally, students are encouraged to be focused, enthusiastic, and active participants in learning for the prosperity of the Glacier Peak community and the community at large (Jim Dean, Glacier Peak Principal).

What originally made you interested in this project?

After learning about the pressing issue of food insecurity in a global health course, I was surprised by the amount of misinformation I had received prior to that class. I, like many people today, was guilty of doubting the severity of the food gap by depending on a seemingly obvious cure-all solution: simply grow more food. As presently viewed in society, the lack of education impedes action. What initially drew me to this project was the direct impact I would be enabled to make in my community by educating citizens about food insecurity and offering them an alternative method to soil-based agriculture through aquaponics.

Why do you want to bring this project to your school/community center/organization? What are your objectives?

The problem of food insecurity is an underestimated and pressing issue that many people simply choose to overlook. I know that several individuals and families in my community do not think twice about this impending crisis, refusing to acknowledge the direct impact it will have on their lives. I want to bring aquaponics to Glacier Peak High School so that my peers will learn about the modern issue of food insecurity and gain the proper skills needed to create their own systems at home.

Objectives:
-Educate high school students about the food gap
-Teach them how to make aquaponics systems (an eco-friendly alternative to traditional farming methods)
-Help food insecurity in my own backyard—the city of Snohomish

What current clubs are available? What teachers/courses could integrate this project?

Established clubs that could potentially want to work with or possibly partner with aquaponics would be STEM club and National Honors Society. While there are not many options in relation to current clubs, a deadline does not exist for new clubs at Glacier Peak. All I would need to start an aquaponics club is a teacher willing to supervise during club meetings. On the other hand, instead of forming a club, courses like AP Environmental Science, regular and advanced biotechnology, AP Biology, and Plant Science/Agriscience would all be great classes that could feasibly implement aquaponics in their curriculums. Mrs. Caraballo could supervise an aquaponics club, but I should ask her if she is planning on implementing aquaponics in the classroom again beforehand.

What is your plan?

After discussing with the STEM club leaders, STEM club has agreed to focus on aquaponics this school year. This year, the goal is to impact the community by donating vegetables to the local food bank, which will be grown aquaponically in our school greenhouse. We will establish four aquaponic systems that will each grow different produce. The STEM club advisors and I plan to build the first aquaponic system together and have that system running as an example for the other club members. The club will officially begin during the second semester of school and will work collaboratively with the Advanced Molecular Biology class at GP. The students from the Molecular Biology class will work on setting up the systems during class time and are encouraged to join STEM club, which will meet once a week after school. In addition to the weekly meetings, members will be assigned different roles that will need to be fulfilled throughout the week, either before school, during grizzly period, or after school. This will help ensure that our systems will run smoothly throughout the semester. These club members will focus on collecting data, such as water chemistry and observational notes. This data will be used to compare the growing rates and crop yields of the various plants. We hope to have multiple harvests throughout the second semester and be able to supply the food bank with produce grown through sustainable agricultural methods.

What challenges do you think you will face in getting this set up?

-Funding
-Following agricultural guidelines to be able to donate the food and figuring out what all the guidelines are.
-Many teachers use the greenhouse so finding enough space might be difficult
-Being informed enough about aquaponics and the issue of food insecurity to be able to teach people by the time school starts
-Last time I worked briefly with aquaponics, fish kept jumping from the water. -How can I prevent suicidal fish?
-Getting the word out about the club
-I believe plenty of people will be interested once they hear about it, but setting up and maintaining an aquaponics system is a big time commitment.
-An incentive like community service hours or extra credit would be helpful