Fish and Aquatic Conservation
Mountain-Prairie Region

Future Hatchery Staff?


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Compass Montessori School is a non-traditional school in Golden, Colorado. One of its distinguishing features is Farm School. This unique middle school program is based on student-driven learning. Farm School operates as a small village with its own micro-economy and economic council with students learning in one of eight real world occupations each semester. Students in the "Aquaponics" occupation rear tilapia and lettuce for the school kitchen in student-built recirculating aquaculture systems in addition to learning about geology and water systems.


This semester, the students had a problem. The pump in one of their two recirculating systems was not filling the water filtration system and they weren’t able to rear fish. They believed they needed a bigger pump and called FWS looking for advice on pump suppliers. After a few questions, it was clear they hadn’t calculated their needed pump size, but were just going to buy 'something bigger'. Kris Johnson, Fisheries Facility and Asset Maintenance Coordinator, was willing to help the students understand that they needed to use some basic engineering principles to determine their pump size.


Under Kris' instruction, the students drew design schematics for their tank system. They measured their tanks, pipes, pipe heights and pump location. They learned about head pressure and determining friction in their pipes. True to the nature of the school’s philosophy we did not immediately provide the students with an answer. They spent a couple of days working with the high school math teacher and the engineering formulas provided by Kris to determine their needed pump size. Kris also used the students’ measurements to solve the problem; and then the students compared their answer to his. They were very close! A new submersible pump was ordered and the students are currently working to bring that system online.


"It was a lot more math than I thought it was going to be, but I learned a lot. It was great to have the engineer from Fish & Wildlife Service come to school to help us. Hopefully we can start growing fish in these tanks soon" said Michael McGimsey.

Caption - Kris Johnson of the Region 6 Fish & Aquatic Conservation program assists Michael McGimsey with calculations needed to determine the system volume and head pressure in their recirculating aquaculture system. The students in Compass Montessori's aquaponics curriculum needed to add a larger water pump to more effectively raise tilapia and lettuce for the school's kitchen. Credit - Joanne Grady/FWS

Last updated: July 21, 2014