September 6, 2012 – Milwaukee, WI—We are pleased to announce Sweet Water Foundation (SWF) has won a grant in the amount of $175,000 from the 4th annual Digital Media and Learning Competition, held in conjunction with the Mozilla Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation. Sweet Water was selected as one of 30 winners out of 500 international applicants for its innovative approach marrying lifelong education with project-based learning through urban agriculture and aquaponics, the symbiotic cultivation of plants and aquatic animals in a closed-loop water system.
Created in 2007, The Digital Media and Learning Competition is a funding program provided by the MacArthur Foundation, Mozilla, University of California, and Duke University to “find and inspire the most innovative uses of new media in support of connected learning”— learning that occurs in and out of school, in physical places and in online spaces. The badge-based lifelong learning competition focuses on “badges as a means to inspire learning, confirm accomplishment, or validate the acquisition of knowledge or skills.” Ultimately the badge-based learning system aims to improve the academic achievement, economic opportunity, civic engagement, and opportunities for lifelong learning.
The funding from this competition will support Sweet Water in the development and implementation of an “AQUAPONS” online platform for learning and assessment in the emerging field of aquaponics. The Sweet Water AQUAPONS badge system will establish a methodological framework for connecting, assessing, evaluating, and placing emerging “aquapons” – people practicing aquaponics. The program will serve a rapidly expanding network of aquapons (locally, regionally, nationally, globally) and the emerging 21st century industry of aquaponics. The long-term vision is the creation of a repository of learning and assessment models for aquaponics and urban agriculture that will give students of all ages and backgrounds a means of learning, sharing, validating, and showcasing the knowledge and skills that they possess.
Sweet Water AQUAPONS builds upon the curricular-based focus of the USDA-funded Midwest Aquaponics Expertise Development Initiative (MAEDI) and the Urban Schools Aquaponics (USA) projectsupported by a grant through the NEA Foundation and AT&T Foundation Partnership (2009-2012). Each of these initiatives have laid the groundwork for both an innovative teacher training and educational pilot program and the development of a support network advancing a hands-on, interdisciplinary curriculum to improve students’ interest and achievement within the Science Technology Engineering Art and Math (STEAM) disciplines. The Sweet Water AQUAPONS program also builds upon the recent success of the The Growing NetworksWisconsin – Kerala Aquaponics Connection, a collaborative partnership between Sweet Water, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Mahattil LLC, which introduced aquaponic farming to communities in Kerala, India this past summer.
According to SWF Executive Director, Emmanuel Pratt, “the Sweet Water AQUAPONS lifelong learning program will be a game changer for SWF’s educational endeavors. This online platform will allow SWF to exponentially reach a global audience looking to explore the interdisciplinary opportunities in aquaponics and urban agriculture as dynamic pathways towards 21st century careers.”
This 12-month grant from the Digital Media and Learning Competition will allow SWF to contribute to a robust badge ecosystem, where traditional and 21st century skills and achievements are inspired, recognized, translated across contexts, and displayed and managed across the web using Mozilla’s Open Badge Infrastructure. All winning badge systems will launch and join the badge ecosystem in mid-2013. SWF will partner with a host of other Milwaukee-based partners, including SmartWave, Snowfall Creative, and Alverno College, who will work over the course of the next 12 months to launch the project. An online copy of the proposal can be found at this link: http://www.dmlcompetition.net/Competition/4/badges-projects.php?id=3197