Learning Healthy Habits through Aquaponics at East Lake


CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee (WDEF) – A healthy diet is not only good for your body, it’s also good for your mind. To that end, East Lake Academy is growing its own nutritious food right on campus.

Eighth Grade Science Teacher Natalie Cothran explains, “The Aquaponics system here at East Lake Academy is a program that is involving the entire East Lake community, because we are a food desert. What we are teaching the kids is the science behind Aquaponics, and how the fish form a symbiotic relationship with the food that we are growing. In case we can’t get fresh fruits and vegetables in our community.”

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Media Specialist Robin Hutchinson adds, “One of our latest projects is that we collaborated with the Steps for Families, and we helped give out 300 boxes of food to help our community. I feel like that if you are eating healthy then your brain is working better, and kids that are hungry, research has proven that they can’t learn, and so eating unhealthy, it’s not going to help fill up that hunger.”

That lesson is not lost on 8th grader Alan Simon Ambrocil.

He chips in, “In the stores we are really don’t know that they are actually cleaning it well; don’t produce it well. We don’t know where it comes from. So, that’s why they made fresh food from there so that we can know that it is from there. So we don’t eat the food that (is from) somewhere we don’t even know at all.”

Natalie Cothran takes a moment to reflect and says, “The reason why it is so important to educate our students about healthy choices, number one, it is so that they can go back and educate their own families, but the kids need to understand that if they don’t make the healthy choices now as young adults, as young children, that it’s going to call back choices later on in life. So we teach them about the importance of, of these healthy choices, and how to get these healthy choices if they are not available to purchase.”

Principal Lakesha Carlson concludes, “Most of our kids by nature or shy. They don’t want to speak up. They don’t know how to advocate for themselves. Because a lot of the kids are still learning the language in which they do not always have the language to the academic language or the terminologies that they need to advocate for themselves. So we use these programs to engage them so that the personality can surely come out, because we want our kids to shine more where ever they go.”

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Andrew Harrison is happy to be back home! He grew up in Chattanooga and is a proud graduate of East Brainerd Elementary and McCallie School. He is a longtime member of St. Martin's Episcopal Church. Andrew started as a studio camera operator at WTVC in Chattanooga, and has 25 years of experience in television. He's worked as photographer, producer, reporter and anchor. Andrew spent the last 20 years in Mississippi, the last 7 anchoring the morning news in Jackson. It's a dynamic market, with no shortage of news, but Andrew is a Tennessean at heart. He's won numerous AP awards for reporting, including Best Franchise for Large Market Mississippi Stations. He was voted the Mississippi Delta's Favorite News Personality. (in 2008) Andrew is a devoted husband and father of two. His wife, Tonya is also from Tennessee. He's a big Titans, Grizzlies and Predators fan, and when it comes to baseball, the Braves will always be number one. You can e-mail him at aharrison@wdef.com.