LANCASTER -- A North Texas middle school is helping children learn how to grow their food. The students are making their classroom into a garden.

At Lancaster’s Elsie Robertson Middle School, students are excited about their new Aquaponics Lab.

“This right here is the plant bed where we keep the catfish,” said seventh grader Mark Whitfield as he checked water samples in the system.

In this lab, the students are budding scientists, they spend the period producing and harvesting plant beds which are sprouting a variety of lush vegetables.

“Right here we are growing lettuce,” said Jadan Robinson. “Right here is cabbage. Right here is the cucumbers that we are growing.”

The school’s new Aquaponics lab is only four months old, but already growing great interest from students. The middle schoolers say they never imagined they could use fish to help grow food, without the use of soil and natural sunlight.

Robinson explained, “I didn’t think it was possible to use fish to grow food. Then when I came, and you see the plants grow, I was like whoa, we did this. We did this by ourselves.”

The school’s Aquaponics Lab is designed and maintained by the students as part of Lancaster ISD’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) program.

Science Master Teacher Jennifer Likely says operating the lab teaches the students critical thinking and problem solving skills.

“The excitement in one area, brings an excitement in the rest of them. If they found something, hey, this is cool, maybe even in History or Math, it starts making a little more sense," Likely said.

This type of real life experience is part of Lancaster ISD’s long-range plan. The school district is committed to making sure every student is exposed to STEM programs, from Pre-K to high school.

“This is a huge game changer for us,” said Secondary Science Specialist Kenya Wilson. “Our students have an opportunity to realize that anything that they are interested in has a STEM component.”

The students say learning to grow food is learning new ways to make their community better.