Sweet Water AQUAPONS is an online learning platform for practitioners of aquaponics. This open-source website allows learners to accrue a series of digital “badges” that correspond with aquaponics achievements, skills, and proficiencies.

AQUAPONS is intended to motivate individuals to develop their aquaponics skills through a self-directed learning process. AQUAPONS also allows learners who are isolated or have exhausted their local resources to access a repository of information and a global aquaponics community. The site establishes a dynamic framework for engaging students, teachers, job seekers, and independent practitioners in the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) disciplines.

Sweet Water Foundation views aquaponics as a tool for community development and as a vehicle for new educational models. AQUAPONS allows us to realize this vision by interfacing with more communities than ever before, reaching across geographic, cultural, economic, and educational boundaries to address growing concerns surrounding food sourcing and healthy food availability.

The program supports a rapidly expanding network and wide array of career pathways inspired by the emerging 21st century green industries. As learners (Aquapons) complete activities in the areas of Water, Plants, Fish, Design & Build, and Community/Environmental/Economic Impact, AQUAPONS asks them to capture and record their achievements and data. This data can take the form of photography, written journals, videography, or other types of record keeping.  Learners then engage in a mentorship-based evaluation process, in which they complete self-assessments and receive feedback from mentors.  Learners can also seek assistance from fellow Aquapons.  After this review process, learners earn badges and move up the scale.  Mirroring traditional apprenticeship models, learners start at the Novice level and achieve badges that move them to the Junior Apprentice, Senior Apprentice, Journeymon, and Master AQUAPONS levels.

In 2012, Sweet Water Foundation successfully submitted the original idea behind AQUAPONS to the 4th Digital Media and Learning Competition held in conjunction with the Mozilla Foundation and supported by the MacArthur Foundation. The DML Competition funds the development of badge systems and their supporting technological and learning infrastructure to improve academic achievement, economic opportunity, civic engagement, and opportunities for lifelong learning. As the product of a DML Competition grant, AQUAPONS contributes 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.