Lincoln International High School – Minneapolis, MN

“EWB is bringing me good news”


This year, the EWB-USA UMN Guatemala Program worked simultaneously on two projects: an international project (Chirijuyu) and a local project. The aim of the local project was to supplement an assessment year, where the design work is low. However, the outcomes of this project were far greater than expected; we have developed a strong relationship with the local school, expanded the breadth of our design work, and set a precedent for EWB-USA UMN in future years to come.

Our Partner

Lincoln International High School (LIHS) is a local 9-12 high school located in Minneapolis that serves a diverse population of students, most of whom are recent immigrants and refugees. Students come from various countries, including Ethiopia, Djibouti, Togo, Uganda, Iraq, Kuwait, Somalia, Mexico, and Ecuador. About 93% of students are black, and 6.4% of students are from Hispanic origins. Out of these students, 88.5% are learning to speak English, so the school provides language support and translation in Somali, Amharic, Oromo, Spanish, Arabic, French, Swahili, Japanese and Korean. The diverse population of LIHS provides students the unique opportunity to become global citizens in our increasingly diverse society. As a charter school, LIHS does not receive the same proportion of funding as typical public schools, while a high percentage of their students are on free and reduced lunch. The graduation rate in 2018 was 34.4% and has not been above 60% in the 5 years the high school has been open.

Our Work

Aquaponics is a novel farming method that uses both fish and plants, which each provide nutrients for the other’s growth. These systems require specific chemical and ecological conditions to be met in order to succeed, making them a valuable teaching tool across multiple scientific fields. LIHS science teachers recommended this system as a project to provide experiential learning opportunities to students and increase their engagement in learning to improve academic outcomes. We’ve worked closely with LIHS teachers and students to design a system that best suits their needs. They are looking for a strong system that requires little to no maintenance so that no one has to come in on the weekends. In order to have a control for experiments, more than one module is required. Having more than one module also allows for the teachers and students to study different fish and plants.  In order to ensure an optimum outcome, we worked to develop the curriculum directly with teachers. 

The aquaponics system we designed and prototyped is 6 feet tall, includes a 70 gallon fish tank, and has three grow beds for plants. It is fully automated with timed UV lights, an automatic water pump, and fish feeder. During the prototyping session, three LIHS students came to help build the system. It was a great opportunity for UMN students and LIHS students to get to know each other better and have fun over learning how to use power tools.

In order to offset the electricity costs that the aquaponics system will bring, EWB-USA UMN organized an energy audit to find energy inefficiencies in the building. They studied lighting, gas, electricity, etc. The energy audit proposed changes that would save $8,000 per year. The audit also revealed that LIHS was eligible for a one-time, $5,000 tax refund. The project team is working with LIHS administration to conduct these changes.

 As soon as LIHS returns to in-person teaching, EWB-USA UMN plans to turn over three fully built aquaponic modules along with a plan to integrate the systems into existing curriculum, a website to remotely monitor system status, and an operations and maintenance manual for the school to maintain the system in the future.

Where We Are