The Socratic Circle

For the past three years, my math/science class has been using The Socratic Circle as a means to create an atmosphere where the discussion is focused among  the students, allowing them to develop their own ideas as well as challenge others. We have used it specifically during our aquaponics unit throughout the year and most recently, where we discuss whether or not to eat the live fish in our system…It has led to some heated debates and allowed the students to really guide the classwork and unit. You will see some of our Socratic Circles on our YouTube channel (below) and  in the Wall Street Journal, FOX and CBS coverage in pasts posts of our blog
3) I have personalized the Socratic Circle and will be giving a workshop on it at Math for America in the Fall.
Here is the blurb…
The Socratic Circle 

Early adolescence is the time when children start to develop more meaningful relationships with their peers, rather than their parents/guardians. They develop these relationships usually through conversation (and probably Facebook but let’s ignore that for now). Teachers can capitalize on this need that students have to connect, by directing their conversation to academic inquiry. The Socratic Circle is a means to allow students to develop thoughtful conversation of an academic idea as well as create meaningful relationships with each other.  It is a format where a scholarly discussion of an essential question takes place in which student opinions are shared, proven, refuted, and refined through dialogue with other students. 
Aquaponics, Captain Planet, Education, Fund for Teachers, Math for America

The Luncheon

We came, we saw, we ate.

…deal with it.

…deal with it.

Thanks to Captain Planet for the Eco Tech Grant!

Thanks to Captain Planet for the Eco Tech Grant!

This is a poem written by a Aidan in a grade 4/5 classroom.


Here is the transcription…

The Class FIsh

Why do I

Still exist here while

people laugh at

me as I try

to find my oldest

son and eat him

while swimming in a

wasteland of

gravel plastic coral

and a little light house

whose purpose is unknown

while looking in

grimy tubes for

my long lost memory

but people bang on

the glass cage

of unremitting captivity

as I live my accursed

life as a pet fish.


Some of the kids expressed this view…


Aquaponics, Captain Planet, Fund for Teachers, Math for America

The Final Decision…for now…

Click HERE for the Wall Street Journal update!!!

…deal with it.

…deal with it.

Thanks to Captain Planet for the Eco Tech Grant!

Thanks to Captain Planet for the Eco Tech Grant!

1.      How did you guys decide Pablo’s fate? Was there a formal vote? 

I (Michael) wanted a good compromise as the vote was fairly split. I didn’t want there to be a ‘victor’. A good compromise is when both parties are dissatisfied. We decided to spare Pablo’s life but not make a decision on our own tilapia till next year. I can tell you though, there is a group of fairly passionate kids clamoring for fried Pablo. There is also a growing group now that wants to jailbreak and spring all the fish in chinatown markets to bring them to optimal health and re-home them around the greater New York area.  (cue Mission Impossible music)

2.      What has the range of reactions been from the kids?

The kids who want to harvest and eat Pablo are making the most noise. It is getting little weird actually. We’ve already euthanized four 14″ tilapia (see video).

3.      What will you be eating on Wednesday instead? (as specific as possible)

The other thing that brought us over the top was that if we don’t buy supermarket tilapia and don’t kill Pablo, PETA would fully cater the entire lunch for 60 people with fishless fillets, cheese, tartar sauce and fixins. The kids went after PETA about where these fishless delicacies came from.

Did they come from a factory that destroyed a habitat? What are the actual ingredients of these fake fillets? What about all the packaging waste they came in? How many trees? etc…

Most of the kids are upset about this (again a good compromise) but we don’t have to shell out a bunch of cash. We can still use all of our awesome vegetation from the AQUAPONICS system and PETA are delivering their stuff. Also, we still have our own tilapia for next year.
Also, there is a joke that I go by when someone wants to give something for free. The joke is about a kid in a school being asked ‘who is the most important person?’ And the punchline is ‘business is business’. (look it up).
Luncheon scheduled for Wednesday June 24th
**We also made it to Seth Myers monologue last night, but then it was cut sad face.
Other Media…
IJR Review
Aquaponics, Captain Planet, Fund for Teachers, Math for America

The PETA Discussion and CBS Evening News

At school, the focus the entire year has been the edible ecosystem, and relationship of the vegetables and the fish, yet lately, perhaps sadly, the focus was on to eat or not to eat Pablo.

Check out this video to see the kids in action and the sweet system!!!


We recently took a poll on whether to harvest and eat Pablo, or donate him to OKO Farms in Bed-Stuy. Personally, I don’t feel that one side should have a “victory” over the other. I’d like them to find some sort of compromise where the kids from both sides are utterly dissatisfied…a true and noblePETA aspiration of a pure compromise.  After PETA sent us their letter offering us vegan fish fillets (see blog post 6/15/2015 ), we invited them into our class via Skype and included them in the conversation.



Here is our school on CBS June 21 – CBS News Piece CLICK HERE

Thanks to Captain Planet for the Eco Tech Grant!

Thanks to Captain Planet for the Eco Tech Grant!

…deal with it.

…deal with it.


Letter from PETA…let’s see what the kids make of it….

Letter from TeachKind to Mr. Paoli, Ella Baker School (1)

We’ll be on FOX my9 June 11th at 10pm and CBS Evening News next week! Now, heeeeeeeeerrrrrrrr’s PETA!

Dear Mr. Michael Paoli:

I’m writing from TeachKind, PETA’s humane-education division, which works with thousands of schools and teachers across the country to promote compassion for animals. We’re concerned after hearing that your seventh- and eighth-grade classes are considering killing and eating the tilapia that they’ve raised as part of a class project. I’m confident that you’re dedicated to setting a positive example and fostering empathy in your students, which is why we’re urging you to make the compassionate decision to save the tilapias’ lives by skipping the fish feast and instead offering your students a healthy cruelty-free meal for which no lives will have to be taken.

Fish are intelligent, sensitive animals, each with their own unique personality. And just like the cats and dogs we share our homes with, they do feel pain. Fish may not audibly scream when they’re impaled by hooks the way other animals might, but neurobiologists have long recognized that fish have nervous systems that comprehend and respond to pain, and scientists who study pain are in complete agreement that the fish pain response is virtually identical to that of mammals and birds. Fish communicate with each other, use tools, learn new things, have impressive long-term memories, and enjoy playing and having physical contact with other fish. These beings may not look like us, but we actually share many things in common.

Despite their cognitive abilities and capacity to feel pain, more than 6 billion fish are killed by the U.S. fish industry every single year, without any legal protection from cruel treatment. Almost half of all the fish consumed each year are raised on aquafarms—filthy, crowded enclosures where fish are forced to spend their entire lives. Many fish suffer from infections, disease, and debilitating injuries, and conditions on some farms are so horrendous that 40 percent of the fish may die before they’re killed and packaged for food. Those who do survive are starved before they’re sent to slaughter in order to reduce waste contamination of the water during transport. Then, these intelligent animals are impaled, crushed, suffocated, or cut open and gutted, all while they’re conscious.

With bullying and youth violence rampant in schools, it’s important to take advantage of every opportunity we can to teach a lesson about kindness. By letting these fish live out their lives peacefully, you could teach your students to show compassion toward animals rather than callousness. TeachKind would be happy to provide your classes with delicious vegan fishless filets for your students to enjoy at their summer barbecue in lieu of the tilapia—an option that all parties involved would feel good about. We’re also available to send along free materials, host classroom presentations via Skype, and assist you in your efforts to teach students about eating ethically and demonstrating kindness to animals in any way possible.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration. I hope to hear from you soon!


Nina Kahn

TeachKind Coordinator, PETA

Aquaponics, Captain Planet, Fund for Teachers, Math for America

Wall Street Journal Story!

The WSJ has been visiting our school and covering the aquaponics project. Thanks so much to Sophia Hollander and Jennifer Weiss!

Click to see the video and article!


Did you click the link above these words?

Where it says “WSJ STORY”? That’s where Sophia’s awesome article is.

1) Also, New York One picked it up!!!

It’s at 2:25 of this clip

2) New York Magazine (Not sure why they are so snarky towards a 12 year old)

NYMag failed to mention that the girl wants to study it for scientific purposes because she wants to be a doctor.

Thanks to Captain Planet for the Eco Tech Grant!

Thanks to Captain Planet for the Eco Tech Grant!

…deal with it.


– NBC New York

– New York Sun Times

– AOL–fish-518862783


– Yahoo!