Activity Introduction

Quick summary: This is a STEAM lesson, which adds the Arts to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). To find out more about STEAM and STEM click here. This lesson allows students to explore how aquaponics can improve the sustainability of home gardening practices by mimicking the nutural symbiotic relationships between plants and animals. Students will explore how aquaponics systems cycle water through fish tanks and planting systems, observe different ways people have created their own aquaponics systems, and finally design their own 3D model. 

This STEAM lesson demonstrates how science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics are interrelated. The lesson requires students to draw on and develop skills from all areas to complete their project.

Learning intentions: Students will…

  • … understand why aquaponics systems are a sustainable option.
  • … design and construct a model of an aquaponic system.

21st-century skills: 

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions: 

Year 3 Science:

  • Living things can be grouped on the basis of observable features and can be distinguished from non-living things (ACSSU044).
  • Science involves making predictions and describing patterns and relationships (ACSHE050).
  • Science knowledge helps people to understand the effect of their actions (ACSHE051).

Year 4 Science:

  • Living things depend on each other and the environment to survive (ACSSU073).
  • Science involves making predictions and describing patterns and relationships (ACSHE061).
  • Science knowledge helps people to understand the effect of their actions (ACSHE062).

Year 3 Mathematics:

  • Measure, order and compare objects using familiar metric units of length, mass and capacity (ACMMG061).
  • Make models of three-dimensional objects and describe key features (ACMMG063).
  • Identify angles as measures of turn and compare angle sizes in everyday situations (ACMMG064).

Year 4 Mathematics:

  • Use scaled instruments to measure and compare lengths, masses, capacities and temperatures (ACMMG084).
  • Compare objects using familiar metric units of area and volume (ACMMG290).
  • Compare the areas of regular and irregular shapes by informal means (ACMMG087).
  • Compare and describe two dimensional shapes that result from combining and splitting common shapes, with and without the use of digital technologies (ACMMG088).
  • Compare angles and classify them as equal to, greater than, or less than, a right angle (ACMMG089).
  • Recognise that the place value system can be extended to tenths and hundredths. Make connections between fractions and decimal notation (ACMNA079).

Year 3 and 4 Design and Technologies:

  • Recognise the role of people in design and technologies occupations and explore factors, including sustainability that impact on the design of products, services and environments to meet community needs (ACTDEK010).
  • Generate, develop, and communicate design ideas and decisions using appropriate technical terms and graphical representation techniques (ACTDEP015).
  • Select and use materials, components, tools, equipment and techniques and use safe work practices to make designed solutions (ACTDEP016).

Year 3 English:

  • Understand that successful cooperation with others depends on shared use of social conventions, including turn-taking patterns, and forms of address that vary according to the degree of formality in social situations (ACELA1476).
  • Draw connections between personal experiences and the worlds of texts, and share responses with others (ACELT1596).
  • Listen to and contribute to conversations and discussions to share information and ideas and negotiate in collaborative situations (ACELY1676).
  • Use interaction skills, including active listening behaviours and communicate in a clear, coherent manner using a variety of everyday and learned vocabulary and appropriate tone, pace, pitch and volume (ACELY1792).
  • Plan and deliver short presentations, providing some key details in logical sequence (ACELY1677).

Year 4 English:

  • Understand that social interactions influence the way people engage with ideas and respond to others for example when exploring and clarifying the ideas of others, summarising their own views and reporting them to a larger group (ACELA1488).
  • Incorporate new vocabulary from a range of sources into students’ own texts including vocabulary encountered in research (ACELA1498).
  • Use interaction skills such as acknowledging another’s point of view and linking students’ response to the topic, using familiar and new vocabulary and a range of vocal effects such as tone, pace, pitch and volume to speak clearly and coherently (ACELY1688).
  • Plan, rehearse and deliver presentations incorporating learned content and taking into account the particular purposes and audiences (ACELY1689).

Syllabus outcomes: ST2-4WS, ST2-10LW, ST2-11LW, MA2‑1WM, MA2‑1WM, MA2‑2WM, MA2‑3WM, MA2-9MG, MA2-10MG, MA2-11MG, MA2-12MG, MA2-14MG, MA2-15MG, MA2-16MG, ST2-5WT, ST2-11LW, ST2-14BE, ST2-15I, ST2-16P, EN2-1A, EN2-6B, EN2-9B, EN2-11D.

General capabilities: Literacy, Numeracy, Critical and Creative Thinking, Ethical Understanding, Personal and Social Capability.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability

Relevant parts of Year 3 Science Achievement Standards: Students group living things based on observable features and distinguish them from non-living things. They describe how safety and fairness were considered and they use diagrams and other representations to communicate their ideas.

Relevant parts of Year 4 Science Achievement Standards: Students discuss how natural processes and human activity cause changes to Earth’s surface. They describe relationships that assist the survival of living things and sequence key stages in the life cycle of a plant or animal.

Relevant parts of Year 3 Mathematics Achievement Standards: Students recognise angles in real situations. Students use metric units for length, mass and capacity. Students make models of three-dimensional objects

Relevant parts of Year 4 Mathematical Achievement Standards: Students recognise common equivalent fractions in familiar contexts and make connections between fraction and decimal notations up to two decimal places. They recall multiplication facts to 10 x 10 and related division facts. Students use scaled instruments to measure temperatures, lengths, shapes and objects. Students create symmetrical shapes and patterns. They classify angles in relation to a right angle.

Relevant parts of Year 3 English Achievement Standards: Students select information, ideas and events in texts that relate to their own lives and to other texts. They listen to others’ views and respond appropriately using interaction skills. Students create a range of texts for familiar and unfamiliar audiences. They contribute actively to class and group discussions, asking questions, providing useful feedback and making presentations.

Relevant parts of Year 4 English Achievement Standards: Students express preferences for particular types of texts, and respond to others’ viewpoints. They listen for and share key points in discussions. They understand how to express an opinion based on information in a text. Students create structured texts to explain ideas for different audiences. They make presentations and contribute actively to class and group discussions, varying language according to context.

Relevant parts of Year 3 and 4 Design and Technologies Achievement Standards: By the end of Year 4, students describe how social, technical and sustainability factors influence the design of solutions to meet present and future needs. Students outline and define needs, opportunities or problems. Students generate and record design ideas for an audience using technical terms and graphical and non-graphical representation techniques including algorithms. They use identified criteria for success, including sustainability considerations, to judge the suitability of their ideas, solutions and processes. Students use agreed protocols when collaborating, and creating and communicating ideas, information and solutions face-to-face and online.

Topic: STEAM

Unit of work: STEAM Made Simple – Primary

Time required: 120 mins.

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – students will require support on an as needs basis when having difficulty with developing or constructing their ideas.

Resources required:

  • A variety of craft/construction supplies to create models of aquaponics systems (e.g. clay, plasticine, icy-pole sticks, balsa-wood, cardboard, tacky glue, cover paper, sticky tape, crepe paper, clear cellophane, markers, pencils)
  • Aquaponics Design Sheet (A4, back to back, for any student who may need support)
  • Aquaponics Essentials Resource (printed A3 or projected for the class to view)
  • Aquaponics Handbook (printed copy for each student and an additional copy printed A3 or projected for the class to view)
  • Aquaponics Systems Venn Diagram (printed A3 or projected with the ability to write on)
  • Device capable of presenting a video to the class
  • Plain white paper to sketch designs
  • Plant pots
  • Joining Clay Factsheet for students (if you are choosing to use clay or plasticine, consider printing this)


Keywords: STEAM, STEM, aqua, aquaponics, sustainability, gardening, symbiosis, relationship, design, construct.

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

Teacher Preparation

Learning intentions: Students will...

  • ... understand why aquaponics systems are a sustainable option.
  • ... design and construct a model of an aquaponics system.

Success criteria: Students can…

  • ... explain the importance of sustainability.
  • ... explain how an aquaponics system contributes to sustainability.
  • ... describe different types of aquaponics systems.
  • ... sketch a design idea.
  • ... create a prototype of their design.

Teacher content information:

STEAM Education

Over recent years, the importance of STEM has been heavily promoted and discussed within fields of education. This has been within the context of ensuring that the next generation of students are provided with relevant knowledge and skills for the 21st century. STEM acknowledges the importance of the interrelated nature of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and the prominence of these skills in a world of continuous technological advancement.

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