Project Aquascope was born in the Envision Conservatory for the Humanities influenced by its predecessor project, Foldscope. Foldscope's main objective was to extend what the invention of Foldscope Instruments had sought out to do: “to solve an accessibility problem in science.” The Foldscope team (Amanda Tanaka and her brother Aaron Tanaka) began in 2016 by developing biology labs teaching content taught in standard biology courses that could not be performed without a microscope. These labs included DNA extraction, comparing plant and animal cells, and more.
Aaron Tanaka presenting Foldscope to the Minister of High School Education for the entire Republic of Panama.
Project Aquascope was born during a trip to one of the schools Foldscope worked with in Panama, Escuela Homero Ayala.
When we visited Escuela Homero Ayala and performed the standard biology labs with the children, the science teacher at the school pulled us aside to show us a project the school had started to provide fresh produce for the children at the school (many of whom suffer with issues of food scarcity). They had started a garden and wanted to incorporate the garden into the science they were learning.
This exchange encouraged the creation of Project Aquascope as we re-evaluated and shifted the focus to a type of science curriculum we felt would be more practical, beneficial, and engaging for our students (not only at Homero Ayala but to wherever we would expand). We began to research the overlap of gardens and agriculture with science (biology in particular) and stumbled upon aquaponics. Aquaponics is defined as “a system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic animals supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which in turn purify the water.” We focused our attention on the sustainable nature of aquaponics to inspire our students to think critically and creatively. Critical thinking alters the mindsets of students by allowing them to realize the impact of their actions on not only the environment but society as well: they can be changemakers.