New podcast ep: Building an eco-machine at The Edge


Essex 7th graders partnering with UVM on food sustainability project

The 21st Century Classroom podcast by the Tarrant InstituteJust before the holiday break, we got the chance to talk with some of the students on The Edge team at Essex Middle School, in Essex Junction, Vermont, about the progress of their year-long inquiry projects.

In the first of three installments, we talk with a trio of 7th graders who are building a living machine, with the help of their community partner, the University of Vermont.


On December 18th, The Edge team opened their doors to the community in one of their regularly scheduled exhibitions of learning. This “Peek Through the Window” allowed community members to find out what students have chosen as their year-long research projects.

building an eco-machine
The living machine team at The Edge in Essex.

We were lucky enough to sit down with Isabella, Elizabeth and Lily — three of the four members of the ecological design team — who explained what an “eco-machine” (also known as a “living machine”) is, along with some of the challenges in building one to support food sustainability for the entire school.

How does one go about building an eco-machine, and who do you ask to partner with you in the learning? And what about all that fish poop? These questions and more get answered, in this week’s episode of The 21st Century Classroom.

If you’d like to learn more about eco-machines in general, check out this video featuring the very large, complex and green one in the George D. Aiken Center on the University of Vermont campus, as explained by the Edge ecological design team’s research partner, Matt Beam.



(Next week: the play’s the thing! Unless it’s the musical. Or the novel. Hear from three very busy middle school authors, and find out how long it takes to crank out one full book in 7th grade.)

Audrey Homan

Audrey Homan is a Vermont-based digital media producer, and producer of The 21st Century Classroom podcast. She's worked in non-profit communications for more than a decade, and in her spare time writes tiny video games and mucks about with augmented reality and arduinos, ably assisted by five dogs. Interviewing students and yelling in PHP are the best parts of her job.

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