Photo by Joel Calvin, Courtesy Science Mill

Mention “aquaponics” to your kids, and you’ll probably get blank stares. But take them to the Science Mill’s new Aquaponics Greenhouse, where they can watch how this underwater ecosystem turns fish poop into organic edible plants, and you’re sure to get an “Oh, wow!”

The Science Mill, Johnson City’s flagship science museum and education center, is all about inspiring “Oh, wows!” among children—and their parents, too. Its new 1,000-square-foot Aquaponics Greenhouse, which opens this Saturday, Feb. 16, demonstrates how the aquaponics system—fish and plants growing together in a symbiotic relationship—can create healthy food that doesn’t deplete the environment.

“It’s a unique ecosystem that represents the technology, beauty, practicality, and science of sustainable agriculture and healthy eating,” says Bonnie Baskin, the scientist and entrepreneur who founded the Science Mill in 2014. “And it’s a wonderful way for visitors to experience the magic that happens when technology meets biology.”

Photo by Joel Calvin, Courtesy Science Mill

This is the Science Mill doing what it does best, bringing science and everyday solutions together in a way that sparks a child’s imagination.

Inside the Aquaponics Greenhouse, visitors are greeted by vibrant orchids and other tropical plants growing alongside fruits and vegetables in vertical growing tubes, floating rafts, and on a giant living wall. Kids can delight in watching the tilapia, prawns, koi, and snapping turtles swim in tanks below, offering an action-packed view of how the system works. And what kid won’t have their interest piqued by seeing how fish feces has a purpose?

The Greenhouse is part of the popular Hill Country museum’s fourth birthday celebration. Special activities this Saturday include the opportunity to hold snakes with herpetologist Ryan Collister from the Austin Nature and Science Center; learn how to a build DIY aquaponics kit; and go on a “Bio Tech Quest” with a special challenge sheet to explore how other exhibits at the Science Mill highlight the intersection of biology and technology. If you’re lucky, you’ll win a prize.

“We’re thrilled to celebrate our fourth birthday with this exciting addition to the Science Mill,” says Baskin, who has founded two successful biotech companies and now, through the Science Mill, is sharing her passion for science with young Texans. “It’s one more way we’re igniting kids’ curiosity, showing the relevance of science in their everyday lives, and inspiring them to become the problem-solvers of tomorrow.”

Considering this is President’s Day Weekend, why not make it an overnight trip and visit other Johnson City destinations, including the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park? Check our our recent coverage for Johnson City travel ideas.


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November 2019 cover of Texas Highways Magazine


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