2016 Ambassador: Talia Seshaiah

2016 Ambassador: Talia Seshaiah

Talia Seshaiah
Eastside Preparatory School
Kirkland, WA

Future career goals

I want to pursue a career in either neuroscience or psychology. I really like understanding how and why the brain works, and how the brain affects people in different ways.

Description of your school

Eastside Prep is an independent, college preparatory school for grades 5 – 12. It has around 370 students, which makes it relatively small. Eastside Prep’s commitment to help students create their own learning experiences is one of our chief objectives. We have an expectation that each student will find a place, feel a connection, and experience the kind of learning that inspires innovative thinking.

Our mission says it all: “We inspire students to create a better world through Critical Thinking, Responsible Action, Compassionate Leadership and Wise Innovation. We use our tools of all kind to extend our reach in the world.” (Terry Macaluso, Head of the School)

What originally made you interested in this project?

I have always been interested in food and the science behind it. While taking a health class, I learned about genetically modified foods and how the pesticides and sprays used on our food can contain chemicals that are dangerous to our body. It made me realize that a lot of our food is unhealthy (containing processed flour, sugar, chemicals from GMOs and pesticides, etc) and that our food production is harmful to the environment, as it uses a lot of energy and water to process and make the food.

What initially drew me to this project was its focus on food sustainability and sustainable agriculture, and how they were trying to find a new way to grow and produce food while reducing the impact on the environment. I felt that this project could really make a different and have a huge impact.

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

I want to to bring this project to my school because I think it will bring awareness about the issue of food insecurity in the world. We take food for granted, but in other parts of the world, food is sacred. Also, a lot of people are unaware of the effects of food production on the environment because we never talk about. Food insecurity is a topic that is never mentioned at school, and this project will allow people to become more educated on that topic.

– Inform my school community about a different agricultural method for producing food
– Bring awareness to the issue of food insecurity
– Have students learn about aquaponics
– Challenge the school community to think about how we can have a positive impact in helping the environment → challenge them to think critically and innovate wisely (part of the mission statement)

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

My school is very open about students starting new clubs. In order to start a new club, you have to find a small group of classmates who are also interested in starting a new club as well as a faculty advisor. I could also integrate this project into the Environmental Science and Advanced Biology classes, as some topics that center around aquaponics are taught in these classes – for example, the nitrogen cycle.

What is your plan?

First, I will talk to science teachers and see if this project is something they would be interested in. The points I will use are: the science topics will be taught in class (like the nitrogen cycle) and it will give students a chance to see a real life example of what innovative science looks like. I will also incorporate our mission statement, saying that this project will teach students to think critically about a challenge in our world and innovating wisely to fix that problem. Next, I will see if there are other students are interested in setting up an aquaponics system and try to start a club that meets either after school or once a week during our clubs period, depending on people’s schedules.

I plan on incorporating aquaponics into Environmental Science and Advanced Biology, along with Stagecraft (they could build the system) and Health (talking about healthy eating and different ways of growing food). If possible, I plan on using the vegetables we grow in the cafeteria, but in order to do that, I will have to prove that it passes the health safety guidelines, and that it passes GAPs (Good Agricultural Practices).

The first steps for me are to write the project proposal, and to gather interest among the student body and faculty. Then, it’s getting approval from the principal and figuring out funding, and then getting the whole project up and running.

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

I think one challenge will be getting people interested. Aquaponics is relatively new, and so many people probably haven’t heard about it. I also think there will be some pushback in terms of funding because our school has policies about outside fundraising. However, I do have some contacts through my school and parents, so I might ask them if they could get me in touch with potential donors. Another challenge will be getting the aquaponics system up and running in a timely manner. The whole process is very time consuming and tedious, in terms of building (or purchasing) the system, ordering, and getting it up and running. All of that takes time, and I know that students and faculty have meetings, sports, etc that might interfere with their schedule. However, it’s just in the beginning stages that require the most work – once the aquaponics system is running smoothly, it’s all about maintenance and periodical checkups.