Culinary Grade 11 students Nicholas Wolfe

Culinary Grade 11 students Nicholas Wolfe

Students raise fish, then eat them

Allison Stevenson doesn’t think she’ll have a problem catching a fish from the tank, scraping off its scales, pulling out its bones and serving it for lunch in the school cafeteria. Just as long as it’s not the disabled little swimmer some fellow students have named Winky.

EDMONTON — Allison Stevenson doesn’t think she’ll have a problem catching a fish from the tank, scraping off its scales, pulling out its bones and serving it for lunch in the school cafeteria.

Just as long as it’s not the disabled little swimmer some fellow students have named Winky.

“I don’t think we should eat the one that has one eye,” says Stevenson, a Grade 11 student at Edmonton’s Jasper Place High School.

“It’s special. He’s like our classroom pet.”

Their teacher warned them about getting attached to the 100 tilapia donated by an Alberta fish farm and transported to the school in early December. By spring, the fish will be full-sized and destined for a frying pan.

It’s all part of a unique project that teaches students about the cycle of life, the environment and the food they eat.

Hydroponic grow beds with vegetables and herbs sit on top of the school’s largest fish tank. Through various hoses, water and waste from the fish feed the plants. The plants clean water that’s returned to the fish tank. And scraps of vegetables left over from cooking are then fed to the fish.

It’s a big idea that takes place in a small corner of the school’s culinary classroom.

Grade 12 student Dakota Laboucane takes a break from baking cookies to give the fish some wilting, shredded lettuce.

He’s already coming up with mouth-watering recipes for using the flaky, white flesh in fish tacos and a version of coconut barramundi.

“All of it will be fresh and used the same day,” says the 17-year-old, who wants to train as a professional chef after he graduates.

Through the culinary program, students get credit for college apprenticeship. They spend hours in the school’s commercial-style kitchen cooking a healthy lunch each day for 2,500 students and staff. As if they weren’t busy enough, they also do catering on the side.

Now they’re hooked on fish.

“I think that having a fresh, healthy food source is a really great idea,” says Laboucane. “A lot of students don’t have enough fish in their diets.”

He admits he is one.

Teacher Dustin Bajer spearheaded the project, after first helping the school establish a rooftop greenhouse as well as a farm forest in the courtyard that was once populated by smokers.

With help from 15 regular members of the school’s permaculture club, the gardens yield dozens of different plants — everything from tomatoes and zucchini to, they hope someday soon, grapes and kiwi fruit. And it all goes to the school’s kitchen.

Bajer says the food project casts a wide enough net to teach most people in the school some lessons.

The permaculture and culinary students are primarily taking care of the fish and plants. But because there are so many fish, and they’re growing bigger, some are also swimming in tanks in a computer technology classroom.

Chemistry students have been tasked with doing research into the science that makes the tiny eco system work, says Bajer.

And there’s even a bit of sex education. Students are trying to identify the female fish and get them to breed.

The idea is to never run out of fish and eventually add new flavours to the tanks. The school has a commercial fishing licence that allows them to expand their tiny water farm to include other types of fish like salmon, eel and prawns.

And there could be more related projects on the way. Bajer says students are thinking big — Moby Dick big.

Some have talked about putting bicycle-powered generators in the school’s cafe to charge their cellphones and laptops. So why not produce energy to make their food?

“There’s a fitness centre here. There are spin classes. How many generators could we get going? Could we basically produce enough electricity to at least offset the costs of the lights for the aquaponics system?” asks Bajer.

“Then it’s off the grid.”

He jokes that the school could lock its doors and everyone inside would survive on their own, eating fish and vegetables.

Just Posted

RCMP looking for these two suspects
Police looking for suspects who stole truck in central Alberta

A Ford F350 was stolen out of Blackfalds on June 9. Two… Continue reading

An excavator is tearing up old parking lots at the Michener Centre north site. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Demolition gets underway at Michener Centre’s north site

Some people are nostaligic, but not everyone is sad to see it go

The Red Deer Indian Industrial school stood off Burnt Lake Trail and across the Red Deer River from Fort Normandeau. The residential school is known to have lost at least 70 students through illness, poor sanitation and nutrition. (Advocate file photo)
Some Indigenous leaders say SNC-Lavalin can’t make up to First Nations people with offer of help

Quebec company is connected to MP Jody Wilson-Raybould allegations

RCMP are looking for this 30-year-old missing woman.
Red Deer RCMP looking for missing woman

The Red Deer RCMP are asking for the public’s assistance to locate… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

(Photo contributed)
Red Deer’s Ernco Braves go 4-0 in opening weekend games

Braves shot out Edmonton Padres in four straight games

Love it or hate it, tequila conjures up strong feelings in many drinkers. For some, there are bad memories. But today’s premium tequilas are changing some of those perceptions. (Photo by The Associated Press)
Rethinking tequila: Premium brands aim to change perceptions

LONDON — Love it or hate it, tequila conjures up strong feelings… Continue reading

This image provided by Glenorangie shows Glenorangie's Giraffe Tin. To enjoy the occasional beverage and also help wildlife, consider Glenorangie's Giraffe Tin. The Highland Scotch maker's stills are the tallest in Scotland, as tall as a giraffe, and the collectible tin is patterned like the animal's coat. Each purchase supports the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. (Glenorangie via AP)
Father’s Day gifts that celebrate interests old and new

After a pandemic year in which the shape of work and play… Continue reading

Pumpjacks are shown pumping crude oil near Halkirk, Alta., on June 20, 2007.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Canada’s crude oil exports have increased 15-fold in 30 years: report

HALIFAX — The value of crude oil exports from Canada has increased… Continue reading

Everlasting Wind, aka Dawn Goodwin, joins others by raising her fist in the Mississippi River near an Enbridge pipeline construction site, on Monday, June 7, 2021, in Clearwater County, Minn., to protest the construction of Enbridge Line 3. Goodwin is a co-founder of RISE Coalition. More than 2,000 Indigenous leaders and "water protectors" gathered in Clearwater County from around the country. The day started with a prayer circle and moved on to a march to the Mississippi headwaters where the oil pipeline is proposed to be built. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP)
Minnesota court affirms approval of Line 3 oil pipeline

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed… Continue reading

Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, speaks during a news conference held by the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable, a coalition of airports, airlines, hotels, boards of trade and chambers of commerce, to urge the federal government to implement a reopening plan for travel and tourism, at the Ottawa Airport in Ottawa, on Monday, June 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canadian business leaders demand plan to reopen borders, economy now

OTTAWA — Business leaders are calling on Ottawa to immediately lay out… Continue reading

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021.  The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

The national spotlight on residential schools is also highlighting a difficult question… Continue reading

Deputy Prime Minister, not shown, and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland joins Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as they participate in a virtual discussion from Ottawa on Monday, May 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals move to cut debate, force vote on bill to implement 2021 budget

OTTAWA — The Trudeau Liberals moved on Monday to force an end… Continue reading

Most Read