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HomeCommunityEnvironment$25,000 Donation Ensures Continuity and Success for Gifft Hill School Aquaponics Program

$25,000 Donation Ensures Continuity and Success for Gifft Hill School Aquaponics Program

Island Green Living President Harith Wickrema presents Gifft Hill School Head of School Liz Kinsella with a $25,000 donation. The donation will, in part, ensure the continuity and continued success of the Upper Campus aquaponics system, as seen in the background. (Submitted photo)

A significant donation made to Gifft Hill School supports the continued success of the school’s aquaponics and hydroponics program. Island Green Living president Harith Wickrema, who donated the aquaponics system to the school on behalf of Island Green in December 2020, has now given $25,000 on behalf of Island Green to reinvest in a program that has found great success at the school.

“The continuation of the aquaponics program and Gifft Hill’s EARTH program are essential to address the island’s food security issues,” said Wickrema. “Currently, Island Green and GHS are working with the Virgin Islands Department of Education in bringing food security to the entire territory, and the Gifft Hill School aquaponics system will serve as a role model.”

Since the implementation of the aquaponics system at the Gifft Hill School Upper Campus, students have taken part in caring for the tilapia, whose waste provides nutrients for the herbs and greens grown in the soil-free system. Through science and STEAM classes in grades 6-12, students monitor the system’s water quality and oversee the growth and harvest of the plants. Students have also harvested tilapia from the system, which they used in various dishes in culinary class.

Plans include enhancing previous micro-business models that allowed students to sell produce grown in the aquaponics system to local restaurants.

GHS Head of School Liz Kinsella said the school is pleased to provide its food security curriculum framework to any schools in the territory interested in developing experiential learning programs that support environmental education and sustainability.

“In addition to the critical importance of developing food security within the territory, the aquaponics system offers rich opportunities for students to apply rigorous academic concepts from a variety of disciplines,” said Kinsella. “We have seen students’ knowledge and critical thinking skills benefit tremendously from the integrated lessons involving the aquaponics and EARTH programs at our school.”

“We’ve got a really strong curriculum around our EARTH program, which has a signature element in each grade level and includes the aquaponics system at the Upper Campus, and we know how to integrate the program across grade levels and disciplines,” Kinsella said. “We’re excited to leverage our experience and provide leadership in the area of environmental stewardship and green education.”

As a member of the National Association of Independent Schools, Gifft Hill School serves St. John as the island’s only toddler through 12th grade institution. It provides high-quality educational programming to more than 200 students, many of whom are supported in their learning by scholarships, grants and financial aid. The board of trustees is made up of business owners, parents, academics and grandparents, all of whom actively support the island of St. John in many different ways. The time they volunteer and their generosity as donors are a testament to their commitment to GHS, to education on St. John, and their passion for the community. Visit www.giffthillschool.org for more information.

Established in 2004, Island Green Living Association is a registered 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization on St. John dedicated to sustainability throughout the USVI. www.islandgreenliving.org.

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