Upstander of the Issue

Meet Hannah Phelps.

An Upstander is someone who acts to make positive change. Senior Hannah Phelps is working with elementary school students to educate them about aquaponics and develop a working system within their school. Here is what Hannah has to say, and one among many reasons that she is an Upstander:


How did you get this opportunity?

Junior year I had an internship for the Institute for Systems of Biology and it was all about food security and how to supply food to our growing population. The end goal was to have me go out and teach this to other high schoolers. We didn’t have to, but I decided to partner with my old elementary school [Montlake].


What inspired you to develop a program?

I thought that little kids really don’t understand where their food comes from and there’s no education around it until you’re in high school. I thought they would find building their own aquaponics system interesting and engaging.


What is aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a closed system which means all the organisms, which are plants and fish and bacteria, have a symbiotic relationship where the fish’s waste fertilizes the plants and the plants purify the water for the fish through the nitrogen cycle.


What do you do with the kids?

Every Wednesday during lunch and half of fifth period I go and teach the kids about a different part of food security, the nitrogen cycle, and why we need to develop new ways for farming. I also built a system for the kids to have and maintain in their classroom.


What is the goal of this project?

The goal is for the kids to realize why we need to use less land in farming and how aquaponics wastes much less than traditional farming and uses ninety-five percent less water. The kids will hopefully end up being able to eat the kale, baby greens, and spinach that they are growing.


Why is this important work?

Sustainable farming is important because we don’t want more people to drop below the poverty line and not have a reliable food source. Aquaponics is an environmentally sustainable way to grow food and account for population growth. I think elementary school kids, as part of the next generation, should understand these upcoming problems.


To learn more about aquaponics and other sustainable farming methods visit or talk to Hannah in person!