By Faith Jennetta, CEPC, baking instructor/program
coordinator, Technology Center of DuPage, Addison, Ill.
Do you fish in your kitchen?
Students at the Technology Center
of DuPage, a career and technical
education school located in Addison,
Ill., do. As part of its sustainability
curriculum, the school installed an
aquaponics lab. Students learn about
how their choices impact the planet
and are shown options to become
“It is a great opportunity for
students to be introduced to the
concept of sustainability and, even
more importantly, the falsehood
that sustainability means sacrifice,”
says Edward Susmilch, principal.
“Too often we associate the concept
of sustainability with some lowering
of our standard of living,” says
Susmilch. “It is not. Sustainability is
about change. This project can teach
that concept without beating the
students over the head with some
political rhetoric. It is smart long-term business.”
Where are the fish?
Fish breed and live under the
care of Brian Clement, landscape
design and management instructor,
and his students at the tech center
just down the hall. The fish’s
location introduces students
to the concept of food miles,
aquacultures and food respect.
Mary Boyd, assistant principal
of curriculum and instruction,
sees the aquaculture project as
an excellent chance for students
from the landscape and culinary
programs to explore animal
science and cooking together.
Landscape students teach culinary
students how to care for the
fish, and culinary students teach
landscape students how to butcher
and cook the fish. Together, they
enjoy the fruits of their labor. The
fish is also featured on the culinary
team’s competition menus and at
the student-operated Bistro, which
is open to the public for lunch.
The simplest way to explain
a land-based aquaculture is to
think “hot tub.” The school
purchased three 500-gallon
tanks that are used for breeding,
growing and holding. The
necessary water, electrical and
installation requirements, along
with licensing from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, were
completed. Automated feeders
and backup generators were
added to enhance performance.
Just add fish
The species tilapia (Tswana for
“fish”) was sourced from the
University of Illinois, Urbana, Ill.
Tilapia is the third most important
fish in fish farming because of
their large size, rapid growth,
prolific breeding and palatability.
They are the fifth most popular
Technology Center of DuPage
Katy Sullivan fishes out a tilapia from the aquaponics lab, which serves as
a cross-curricular project for landscape and culinary students.
seafood consumed in the United
States. A mature fish can be
processed in skinless, boneless
fillets with a yield of 30-37
percent. Tilapia is low in total fat,
saturated fat, calories and mercury.
Tilapia is an excellent source of
phosphorus, selenium, vitamin
B12 and potassium.
Tank to plate
The curriculum provides students
with the opportunity to see the
whole picture — from tank to plate,
says culinary instructor Matt Barker.
“Many of our students have
never eaten seafood before,
much less seafood as fresh as the
tilapia harvested right at our own
school,” Barker says. “During
this project, we teach students the
importance of choosing the right
seafood to eat and the different
methods of farming.”
The school leans on its professional
business partner, Mark Palicki, with
Fortune Fish Company, Chicago, for
professional guidance. He believes
there needs to be more public
awareness of aquacultures and how
they provide high-quality, healthy
proteins to our growing population.
“Technology Center of DuPage’s
tilapia project is a great example
of not only showing our students
the future, but allowing them
the hands-on experience to truly
understand and appreciate it,”
For more information on the
Technology Center of DuPage,