Cyber school aquaponics program draws Springetts student

John A. Pavoncello
York Dispatch

Nathaniel Saxe doesn't mind driving almost an hour to school from his Springettsbury Township home.

The 17-year-old junior has been enrolled in the Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA) since sixth grade, but his love of biology, and aquatics in particular, has led him to a unique learning experience in Harrisburg. 

Nathaniel Saxe, a CCA junior from Springettsbury Township, harvests kale at the Agworks aquaponics facility in Harrisburg, Tuesday, January 8, 2019.  
John A. Pavoncello photo

Agworks, a state-of-the-art learning aquaponics lab, is located across the street from the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex. The facility was officially opened by CCA in December and is the largest public educational aquaponics facility in the country.

Funded through a federal grant, the facility lets cyber charter school students gain hands-on experience in agriculture, environmental science and trades.

Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA), a public cyber charter school, unveiled Agworks at CCA in December. Nathaniel Saxe, a CCA junior from Springettsbury Township, is planning a career in aquaponics and hopes to someday open an agriculture center in York City.
John A. Pavoncello photo

For Nathaniel, Agworks means that he is already focusing his education on his career.

"It's been an amazing experience," Nathaniel said. "I've been able to study how plants and fish can interact and produce a lot of food."

Students involved with the aquaponics facility do everything from feeding the fish, tilapia to be exact, to planting and harvesting plants such as romaine lettuce and several varieties of kale. The produce and fish raised by the students are donated to feed the local community, and some is even being sold to local restaurants and retailers.

Nathaniel's dream is to purchase an old warehouse in York City and convert it to an aquaponics farm.

"I hope I can use that as an opportunity to revitalize York," he said. "I love York City, I think it's a beautiful place."