Ocean Springs High School science teacher Bryan Butler spends the majority of his work day in one of three greenhouses behind the school’s main campus.
He oversees the breeding, rearing and harvesting of plants and fish in all types of water environments through the state’s only high school aquaculture program.
Housed in nearly 20 tanks, the students are breeding both freshwater and saltwater fish in the aquaculture portion of the class. With the waste created by the fish, vegetables are grown in a water-based environment in a process called “aquaponics.”
“We have tilapia, catfish, speckled trout and koi in the tanks,” Butler said. “And after the water is moved to the planter areas, full of nutrients for them, we are growing tomatoes, okra, corn and other vegetables.”
In late 2015, Mississippi Power’s Environmental Stewardship Council awarded Butler a $900 environmental education grant for the project. With the money, Butler purchased enough wood to build a deck to house the koi tank, two vegetable beds and several planter boxes.
Butler and his students were visited by a video crew in late March for a feature story on the program that will air this summer and fall on Pursuit Channel during Wayne Pearson’s “Ultimate Outdoors” TV program.
“Southern Company has a great relationship with Pursuit Channel,” Senior Environmental Specialist Patrick Chubb said. “We were looking for a project to promote across our service territory and we felt strongly that this was the perfect program to spotlight.”
The students seemed to enjoy the visitors to their outdoor classroom on a very sunny South Mississippi day.
“It’s so much fun being involved in this program,” Ocean Springs High School senior Eric Lucas said. “It provides an opportunity for us to get out of the classroom and practically apply what Mr. Butler teaches.”