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Aquaponics - Feeding the Fish

What is Aquaponics? Just ask a Davidson Student. And read on for more information…

As part of the autism services for kids that Elwyn’s Davidson School provides, transition services play a big part in preparing students for life after school in their communities. Eight of these community-based transition experiences (CBTEs) are school-based, while forty others are community based. One of the school-based CBTEs utilizes a hands-on education about aquaponics.

Fish and plants together? How?

Aquaponics ProgramAquaponics is a method of growing fish and plants together in one system. The name comes from combining aquaculture, the raising of fish, with hydroponics, which is the growing of plants without soil. The system is uniquely efficient because the microbes convert fish waste to be used as fertilizer for the plants and the plants filter the water for the fish.

  • Aquaponics eliminates the drawbacks of traditional vegetable and fish farming. For example:
  • No pesticides need to be used, so the food is cleaner, safer and no toxic runoff is produced.
  • Water requirements are one tenth of traditional farming needs.
  • The system is clean and recycles itself, with no need for replacement except when water runs low.
  • Space is maximized as the vegetables and fish are grown in the same area.

Aquaponics ProgramSeveral types of aquaponic systems are available, such as raft based, media-based, nutrient film technique (NFT) and vertical.

Elwyn’s Aquaponics Program

Elwyn’s Program uses media based aquaponics, growing plants in inert media that does both the conversion of the waste and the removal of solid wastes. Students aged 14-21 are able to take part in every part of the process: planting the vegetables, feeding the fish, and harvesting the products. They also sell the product at a weekly farm stand. On Fridays at the Davidson School, the students learn how to prepare healthy and tasty meals or snacks with the fresh produce.

Aquaponics ProgramThe knowledge and experience these students acquire gives them a confidence in their abilities as well as skills that they can use in a work environment. The students also get to work outside in the sun and know the pride of being a part of making things grow. These benefits are part of our mission at Elwyn, which is: To assist each individual in developing the skills needed to transition successfully from school to adulthood through participation in a variety of school and community-based work experiences, while keeping interests, preferences, and strengths in mind.

Aquaponics ProgramAquaponics Program

Elwyn Offers Educational and Enriching Autism Services for Kids at the Davidson School

Aquaponics ProgramStudents at Elwyn’s Davidson School are offered many opportunities. For over 150 years Elwyn has provided care and customized autism services to individuals. In Media, Pennsylvania, the farming program is a highlight for our older students. Our dedicated staff is committed to fostering self-determination and independence in each individual, and our transition program helps empower all of the students to advocate for themselves and become contributing members of their communities. For more information about our programs, please reach out today: Carol Lauser, 610.891.7377, carol_lauser@elwyn.org or Ethan Brazell, 610.891.2128, ethan_brazell@elwyn.org.

autism services for kids

Oliver the Therapy Dog visits the Autism Resource Community Hub in Allentown

Elwyn provides many different autism services for kids and continues to take an active interest in all forms of children’s behavioral health. One aspect of autism services is therapy, and some families choose to make use of a therapy dog to assist their loved ones with autism. Carol Landis, one of our dedicated community volunteers, brings her trained therapy dog to Elwyn to help the children.

Oliver (Ollie) was born on April 12, 2005 in Australia.  His owners had decided that they wanted a Labradoodle to train as a Therapy Dog.  These dogs were not very well known in 2004 when they started researching them. Ollie’s owners found him at Rutland Manor in Australia, which was one of the founding breeders of Labradoodles.  These dogs were bred for a purpose: to have the work ethic of the Labrador Retriever with the non-shedding characteristic of the Poodle. Both breeds are smart and great to train.


Carol had to fill out a very extensive form about her experience with dogs: from the various dogs she had owned over many years and what training they had, to what food she provided and her vet references.  Other important factors were: would there be other children in the house; and what roles would the dog have, such as a pet, therapy or service dog. They did personality testing in order to choose just the right dog for Carol.


Because Ollie had to fly here, his owners spent many hours preparing him for the trip.  He had to be flown from Australia to Los Angeles where he was met and taken off of the plane and cared for overnight by an experienced dog person.  He then was flown to Philadelphia the next day.  Carol’s family picked him up at the airport when he was about 14 weeks old. He was as calm, cool and collected as he is today and Carol considers him a perfect match for her.


Ollie settled in with the other 3 family dogs immediately.  He received basic training and then he had extensive training to be a Therapy Dog.  He had to be comfortable with other people handling him, be around loud noises (like children who may need autism services), learn to be around crutches, wheelchairs and situations in different places.  He passed his test and became a Therapy Dog in 2007 and has visited many children in different surroundings since then. He is calm and quiet and kids love to pet, kiss and love him.  He is a feel-good boy!!


Ollie is extremely well mannered and remains cool and focused no matter what excitement is going on at the Autism Resource Community Hub (ARCH).  During Ollie’s visit, ARCH staff works with the children receiving autism services on different social and communication skills areas such as spatial awareness, impulse control, verbal and gestural communication, initiation and peer interactions.

Elwyn Provides Many Autism Services for Kids in Pennsylvania

Elwyn’s Autism Resource Community Hub (ARCH) is just one way that we provide autism services for kids in Pennsylvania. With the help of committed staff at the Davidson School and caring community volunteers, we are able to offer a variety of aids, including summer camps and summer planning. For more information about Elwyn or our autism services for kids contact us today!




Upcoming events at Elwyn’s Davidson School!

There is much happening at the Davidson School these days, Spring is a very busy time of year!

Since 1852 our commitment to Education has been the backbone of Elwyn’s mission. The Davidson School is a wonderful example of the passion and success of that commitment.

The fun activities include a concert series, Olympic games, and a Prom all leading up to the big event, Graduation Day!

The 2017 Commencement Exercise will be held on Wednesday, June 14th. This was Davidson’s 42nd Commencement activity, with special education seniors donning their caps and gowns from as many as 13 area school districts.

Most of the events are held at Elwyn’s Zier Center Gymnasium at the Davidson School facilities.

Just another example of the transformative power of an Elwyn education.




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Elwyn does not discriminate in service provision because of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, age, disability, genetic disposition or marital or veteran status.