Milwaukee Public Schools
Press Release

MPS aquaponics programming expanding thanks to $98,000 from AT&T, NEA Foundation

Funding will expand program in Milwaukee to 5 new schools; Farming project grows students’ interest in STEM; photo gallery link below

By - Jan 29th, 2014 03:21 pm

MILWAUKEE (January 29, 2014) — AT&T and the NEA Foundation are teaming up to increase low-income students’ interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education by supporting Milwaukee Public Schools’ Urban Schools Aquaponics initiative through a two-year contribution that  includes $98,000 that will directly impact the program.

The goal: provide more students with the skills and knowledge they’ll need for 21st century jobs and develop curriculum and instructional content that educators can use to build similar programs nationwide.

“Projects like these empower educators to develop and use proven practices to deliver rigorous, engaging learning experiences that we know excite and interest underrepresented student groups in STEM,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation.

“In order to keep our country’s economic growth and innovation engine moving, it’s critical that we develop STEM skills in our young people,” said Scott T. VanderSanden, president of AT&T Wisconsin.  “Programs like this one with the NEA Foundation ignite the interest of the next generation in the STEM skills they’ll need to succeed through exciting, real-world applications.”

MPS’ Urban Schools Aquaponics (USA) initiative was selected because of its early success in advancing STEM education among low-income and minority students. The contribution will support the expansion of the program to five new schools, reaching a total of 1,500 MPS students over two years.

It will also support the development of a cohesive, comprehensive aquaponics curriculum aligned with the newly released math and science standards that will be piloted in the participating schools. Ultimately, aquaponics coursework would be available in all MPS high schools and it would be a component of science coursework in all MPS K-8 schools, with the potential to reach all 78,500 students in the district.

“Aquaponics is a strong part of our STEM education efforts and we’re grateful and proud to be able to strengthen and grow that program,” said MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton.  “This program gives students hands-on STEM experience, and exposes them to career options in a new and growing field.”

Aquaponics is a highly efficient and sustainable form of farming in which water from aquatic animals is used to feed hydroponically grown plants. The plants filter the water, which is then re-circulated back to the fish. Aquaponics programs enable students to use and explore science, math and engineering principles in a variety of ways as they gain valuable 21st century skills and knowledge.

“Through its Aquaponics program, MPS is providing our young people with the STEM education they need to be prepared for careers in the 21st Century,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.  “We are excited this innovative program is expanding to reach even more students thanks to this public-private partnership.”

Over the last three years, MPS’ Urban Schools Aquaponics initiative has been integrated into nine new schools, thanks in part to support from the NEA Foundation and the AT&T Foundation.  This new contribution will support five new schools, for a total of 18 Milwaukee public schools.

Research indicates that underperformance in STEM education arises from a variety of complex issues: teachers with little professional support; inadequate alignment of standards and curriculum; and insufficient understanding of the relevance to students’ lives about the need to achieve in these subjects. This project will focus on providing more personal, engaging, coordinated, and consistent STEM learning.

MPS’ Aquaponics initiative is one of two contributions awarded nationally as part of a $300,000 total contribution that will also support the development of case studies and evaluation of the two programs from fall 2013 through fall 2015.  Project EATS, a program of the Active Citizens Project, in New York City, NY, was also selected.

Formative and summative evaluation will be employed throughout the funding period to assess progress in both cities, to identify areas for improvement, gather evidence of success, and enable future replication in schools across the country, with the goal of increasing high school students’ engagement, interest, and excellence in STEM.

Read more about the foundations’ STEM work in the NEA Foundation report, Harnessing the Potential of Innovative STEM Education Programs: Stories of Collaboration, Connectedness and Empowerment. Watch videos to hear from students and educators involved in the Milwaukee project.

About Philanthropy at AT&T

AT&T Inc. is committed to advancing education, strengthening communities and improving lives. Through its philanthropic initiatives, AT&T has a long history of supporting projects that create learning opportunities; promote academic and economic achievement; and address community needs. In 2012, more than $131 million was contributed through corporate-, employee- and AT&T Foundation-giving programs. © 2014 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. AT&T, the AT&T logo and all other marks contained herein are trademarks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies.
The NEA Foundation

The NEA Foundation is a public charity supported by contributions from educators’ dues, corporate sponsors, and other supporters of public education initiatives. We partner with education unions, districts, and communities to create powerful, sustainable improvements in teaching and learning. Visit for more information.
About Milwaukee Public Schools

Milwaukee Public Schools, Wisconsin’s largest school district, is expanding college and career readiness efforts and continuing to implement innovative reforms that give every student the opportunity to succeed. MPS’ high-quality school options for 3-year-olds to high school seniors feature school climates in which positive behavior is reinforced; certified, highly-trained teachers; 21st-century learning technology for students; and curriculum aligned to the rigorous Common Core State Standards, which set a clear, high bar for the topics students must master at each grade level. MPS’ Class of 2013 earned $24 million in scholarships and the district is home to some of the state’s best high schools according to the Washington Post and U.S. News and World Report. More MPS news is available at

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