Island Updates

When teachers are supported....


Hurricane Island’s brand of teacher professional development programs reliably punctuate my work with delight each year. There is something undeniably special about connecting directly with students and sharing the island with them that will never get old… AND I feel my greatest contribution to our programming is providing opportunities for educators to be supported and be challenged, renewed and reinvented. I view this work as an exponential investment in our education systems and our global future and so it was with heartwarming joy and anticipation that I hosted a group of amazing educators for a retreat on Hurricane Island in August. 

These educators were part of an effort at least three years in the making to increase teacher capacity to implement impactful, place-based learning in their classrooms and communities with a focus on environmental sustainability.  Teachers joined us from Bucksport, Islesboro, North Haven, Vinalhaven, and St. George for a week on Hurricane Island to explore various aspects of place-based learning and how to design their year around these types of educational opportunities. Far from a one-and-done professional development opportunity, this ‘kickoff’ was just the start of Hurricane Island support throughout this school year and beyond. What made it even more special was that the kickoff program was fully funded by a grant from the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) under their ee360 Initiative, allowing us to provide teachers with stipends for their time in addition to funding the retreat itself.


The Island gave people a place to rest and recharge as we had fabulous meals prepared for us, an expansive outdoor classroom that both engaged people and invited them to pause, and real TIME to be with each other and have meaningful conversations (the beautiful weather didn’t hurt either!).  Teachers left Hurricane feeling inspired, renewed, and, most of all, supported.  They were supported by their administrators and coworkers to be there (some of them even had their administrators and coworkers present!). The time they invested was compensated. They were welcomed into a community that was excited to have them and made new connections with like minded educators. Their previous work was celebrated and they were bolstered to continue to create and innovate in their classrooms.


So what happens when teachers are supported? I could tell you about the multi-school initiatives to address questions that matter to their communities and their students (like the scallop spat bag project that will be deployed across four of the schools in lower Penobscot Bay this school year)…. but I think it is more impactful to let the teachers tell it in their own words (see below). A closing note of thanks first to all the grantors, administrators, thought partners, donors, colleagues, teachers, and others who have helped and continue to help make this program possible. We all do our best work when we feel valued and supported and your support is what makes it possible for these teachers (and others) to continually evolve their teaching practices and have an exponential impact on their students. Final thanks goes to the teachers themselves - thank you for showing up, being open, and impacting ME so deeply. You inspire me to constantly improve myself and continue to find ways to facilitate the work you do.


It was especially good to work in a team from my school so I am not “an island within an island” - I know someone else will understand where I am coming from and even help to coordinate efforts to bring high-quality, meaningful curriculum to our students.



To bring people together in this focused, common purpose is a powerful affirmation of our goals, both individually and collectively. Deep conversation, new frameworks, new resources, and the making and strengthening of collegial relationships is formative professional development that will provoke thoughtful reflection from here on in my work, and even life, with the sense that I can be successful having this support.


All the discussions and time to process really allowed me to think about my students and how best to reach them. I have always thought that science should be about connecting to, observing, and feeling the natural world. Being able to plan out my year with place-based units/activities will not only make my students better stewards of the earth, but it will allow them to use their critical thinking and observation skills. I am grateful for this experience, and my students are “unknowingly” grateful as well.

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To All Of My Fellow Engineers

Written by Sustainability Engineer, Maeve Carlson

Every night on Hurricane Island at 6:00PM there is a gathering of everyone on the island to experience the “dinner circle”. This allows visitors to get acquainted with the staff, share a moment and a quote together, and figure out what is for dinner. Some people are super into dinner circle, but I don’t identify as one of those people. I think it is nice, but I also could probably do without. One of the main reasons is that frequently staff share what their position is here on Hurricane, and for me, that proved to be fairly difficult to articulate. Usually I ended up with something along the lines of: 

“My name is Maeve & I am doing engineering stuff here”

Pretty vague, but close enough...

I came to Hurricane Island this summer as a volunteer with a degree in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of Maine. The goal was to geek out for two months over our infrastructure, including the photovoltaic system, grey water treatment, composting toilets, and especially our water system. I wanted to learn about the sustainable systems on the island because they are such unique examples of what I have studied for the past few years. However- because my position was so “made-up”, no one really knew what my role was within the organization. While I was figuring that out, I noticed was that no one really knew what being an engineer was either. I thought it was hilarious when I would get asked to do things that I had absolutely no business doing because of the stereotypes associated with my degree. 

“Can you fix the printer?” 

Probably not. 

I can’t blame others for not knowing what it is that engineers do; everyone at Hurricane always told me that the organization has never had an engineering position before. Sometimes they even claimed that they hadn’t been exposed to engineering, but whether or not they realize it, those statements are totally false. If I can say anything with confidence after my time here, it’s that 1) Hurricane Island already has extremely competent engineers employed on the staff and 2) engineering is at the core of a lot of the work being done here.  

After being in the STEM world for a while, I have decided that the difference between science and engineering is pretty simple. Science is the pursuit of knowledge to foster a deeper understanding, and engineering is the application of knowledge to actually do something.  Scientists create the theories & engineers apply them. In my mind, any project that is using science as a tool to solve a problem or improve a system should be considered engineering. Though the pillars of the Hurricane Island Foundation are Science, Education, and Leadership, I think the structural support that holds them together is engineering. I only had two months here, but you don’t even need that long to find examples:

  • The next time you sit down to enjoy a meal from the galley, look down at your plate and see if you can recognize the decisions that went into providing you a nutritious meal while minimizing food waste and environmental impact. The gardens don’t magically produce the greens that we serve daily, but the effort it takes to cultivate them is justified by the understanding that by growing food here, we are taking steps to address the global issues surrounding agricultural engineering. 

  • Ask yourself: Is our research team performing experiments and gathering information about scallop aquaculture so they can publish a paper and leave it at that? No. There is an application for the research being done; the end goal is to provide a framework for local fisherman who want to move towards a more diversified and sustainable fishery, and to help them set up their farms. 

  • All the program participants that visit the island walk away with some sort of new skill or understanding, but the hope is that it doesn’t stop there. Listen to our educators as they inspire students to take home what they’ve learned and let it fuel a project that will improve their own community. The engineering process is all about identifying a problem and working towards a solution, and is what we are teaching here. 

  • Follow the facilities team around for a day (or 20 minutes) & pay attention as they piece together solutions to all the challenges that pop up from having keep an “off the grid” island running. They don’t have the normal resources available to them out here, but it doesn’t really matter because the “wrong tool for the right job” mentality is just an example of how they engineer a solution based on what they’ve got. I know many engineers that don’t possess that ability, and don’t know many who can do it quite as well as those that I have met this summer. 

The transfer of scientific and technical knowledge within this community to encourage visitors, staff, and program participants to think critically about how to solve problems and improve the world shows how engineering is intertwined with so much of what we do here at Hurricane. It has been an absolute joy to be able to bring some engineering to this community, even though they’ve been incorporating it long before I arrived. 

So, to all of my fellow engineers:

Thank you for the work you do, and for a wonderful summer

-Maeve “Sustainability Engineer”

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Compost, Curiosity, and Community

Written by educator, Lilla Fortunoff

High School Sustainability Leadership (HSSL) was two weeks this year! Hurricane Island welcomed three students for this final hurrah of the summer season and it didn’t take long until we on Hurricane could feel and hear the joy and curiosity with which the HSSL students would enrich our community for the rest of the program. With a smaller student to educator ratio, the five of us in the program (aka the Fantastic Five) were able to take time to follow tangents that interested us and delve into connections that were critical for grasping the many theoretical and practical concepts we threw at our students. 

After breakfast, our days always started by taking the kitchen waste from the prior 24 hours up the hill to the compost pile near our vegetable garden. While this may seem like a tedious chore, our students embraced it whole-heartedly. Through this process, they became intimately aware of the amount of food by-products (carrot tops, potato skins, etc.) and food waste (food that someone had not finished eating) that the community was producing. Every evening at dinner circle, the student who was our leader of the day would share the weight of the food waste the community had produced from the day before. It was awesome to have the students be the source of this information. They asked the community to make an effort to think carefully about the food you take to eat at every meal-would you actually be able to eat it all, or would it wind up in the buckets the HSSL students would carry up the hill? From this, Carolina and I were able to discuss strategies for communicating sustainable issues with our students - how do people react to being chastised? What happens when you can give folks constructive and practical tips for changing their behavior? We discussed how even though wasting food is a waste of money and the resources it took to grow and deliver that food, by being able to compost the food we can turn that organic matter into soil for our gardens! The idea that we actually want this soil to supplement our nutrient-poor, shallow soils on our granite island is one of many paradoxes that arise in the world of sustainable systems. For the students, this exercise was a way to test the waters and learn a lot along the way. 

One of the things I love most about working for HICSL is getting to live on Hurricane Island itself. We have so many technologies and pieces of infrastructure (like our compost!) that help us use resources efficiently and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels while still living in a comfortable way with many conveniences. Carolina and I teamed up with many of our fellow HICSL staff members to provide our students with the most thorough picture of what it takes to make this scientific and educational community happen. With Garden Manager Marguerite Wiser and Garden Apprentice Alex Berry, we harvested vegetables and herbs from our garden, which we then brought to the kitchen and made a salsa, kale chips, and sun tea under the guidance of Cook, Sophia Palange, and Kitchen Assistants, Ella MacVeagh and Josiah Hansen. After lobster fishing and visiting our scallop and kelp aquaculture site with Captain Saphrona Stetson, we talked extensively with Aquaculture Manager, Jessie Batchelder about sustainable practices and limitations in the scallop aquaculture industry. We worked with Sustainability Engineer, Maeve Carlson, to calculate (and then live-action test) the buoyancy of a floating platform that will be deployed at our aquaculture site to collect temperature data from the ocean surface to sea floor. Maeve taught us about the small computer that she will attach to the platform to collect the data from the temperature probes and the solar panel system that will power it all. Facilities Manager, Silas Rogers, gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of our water system, from pump in the Quarry pond to our constructed wetland, which filters the grey water from our sinks and showers and returns it to the island’s water table. The students helped Silas to change the filters at the pump house and the storage tanks and we learned about how our solar evacuated tube hot water heater works to allow us to take fossil fuel-free hot showers on sunny days!

Another one of my favorite parts of the program was a recurring activity we called Article Club (we even came up with a theme song for it!). We dedicated five 1-hour blocks throughout the program to reading an article together as a fantastic five and then discussing it. We read about a wide range of sustainability-related topics including water access, climate refugees, and an airline that is telling people to fly less. Each student led one of the article club sessions by posing questions to the group to encourage reading closely and then facilitating a reflective discussion. We engaged in extremely thoughtful conversations that were enriched by the students’ willingness to openly share their perspectives and make connections to their personal experiences and prior knowledge.

From the program’s start to finish, Carolina and I were inspired by the passion and energy of our students. It was a though-provoking, heart-warming delight.

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WoW - What a Program

Written by educator, Isabelle Holt

It was my immense pleasure to be the educator on Women of Water (WoW) this year! An intrepid crew of ten high school aged women from up and down the east coast, a teaching assistant (Anna Bateman), and I embarked on a two week adventure that took us from exploring Hurricane Island to circumnavigating the Fox Island archipelago aboard the Boyd N. Sheppard.

Unlike most Hurricane open enrollment programs WoW is single gender - only female identifying students are accepted and enrolled. As a graduate of a women’s college I had been itching to lead an all-female trip for the past two years. I saw first hand during my undergraduate degree in Biology how transformational and empowering learning in a single gender environment - especially in fields such as STEM and nautical science that are traditionally dominated by men- can be for women. I saw this again a hundred fold in our WoW students. 

One of the highlights of our ten days on Hurricane Island was an after dinner speaker series, which we dubbed Women of Hurricane or WoH, where different female identifying members of our community came to talk to the students about their lives and paths to where they are today. Each speaker was asked to reflect on four questions: 1) Why do you do what you do? 2) How did you get here? 3) How do you think identifying as a woman has influenced your approach to your life and work?  And 4) What do you want to do when you grow up? By sharing our stories with the students, the students were able to resonate with us as well as feel more comfortable sharing their own thoughts and ambitions. 

Another exciting feature of this program was how often we were able to deploy our Sea Rocket, an underwater ocean exploration tool developed by HAWX Open Ocean. The Sea Rocket works via a fairly simple mechanism. You attach a weighted bag to the bottom of the rocket itself so that when the bag hits the bottom it is released and the rocket floats back up to the top of the water column where it can be manually retrieved. By mounting a gopro and flashlight on the bottom of the sea rocket you can see exactly what is happening on the ocean floor, what wildlife is present, and what substrate you are above. We were lucky enough to be able to use the Sea Rocket both while we were on Hurricane as well as while we were aboard the boat.  

Sailing on the Boyd N. Sheppard was truly a dream come true for me. Built in 1886 as an Oyster freighter, the Boyd N. Sheppard is a two masted, gaff rigged, schooner. While we were on the boat the students rotated through different watch stations: scullery, navigation, and deck watch. In the scullery, the students were helping our star chef, Adam, cook on an old fashioned wood fired cook stove, putting out three meals a day plus various baked treats that never ceased to amaze. The students on navigation watch were in charge of charting our course for the day using a chart of the Fox Islands and the process of dead reckoning, in which you determine your position using various fixed points such as marine navigational aids and your estimated speed over time to figure out where you are as well as where you are headed. The students on deck watch each day were in charge of actually sailing the boat: hauling anchor, setting sails, and managing all of our tacks and gybes. On our last day of sailing aboard the Boyd N. Sheppard the students ran the show completely as the educators and professional crew stepped back. Each student took the helm (steering wheel) of the boat for one nautical mile as they sailed us from Rockland back to North Haven and then back to Rockland again.

For me, WoW will remain a program to remember - the growth, determination, and openness shown by our wonderful group of students was extraordinary. Here’s to many more years of being WoWed by our wonderful young women!

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Penobscot Bay Leadership Program

Written by Carolina Hutt-Sierra

PBLP! What a GROUP! The PBLP boys were a fantastic addition to the Hurricane community and while they were only on the island for four full days, their bright and hilarious presence was felt long after they sailed away. The Penobscot Bay Leadership Program is unique in its emphasis on leadership and taking responsibility for one’s actions as well as one’s role within a larger group. Lilla and I found ourselves continuously impressed as the days passed by and we were able to watch the boys interact with each other and the Hurricane community in a mature and kind manner that far surpassed their years. In particular, I loved watching the boys step into the position of “captain of the day.” In this role an individual boy was placed in charge of leading his “crew” each day (i.e. making sure things were never left behind, keeping the group on schedule, etc.). 

The group was full of energy and spirits remained high and cheerful over the course of the four days. From rock climbing around the old quarry walls and rowing (with our eyes closed!) around the Hurricane sound to waking up early each morning to run a mile and jump into the ocean, the days were packed with activity and energy. After the long days, the PBLP crew was able to slow it down each evening before dinner when the group headed out for an hour of “sit pot.” Hiking to a different location each day, we spent the hour spread out across the island’s coast, sitting in silence and reflecting on the day while admiring the water in front of us. This time for reflection would continue later in the night, as well, when we gathered for an evening meeting in which we would discuss the highs and lows of the day as well as areas in which we were proud of ourselves and each other as well as areas in which we hoped to improve. The group sailed out of Hurricane Monday morning and we already miss their laughter and pizazz here on the island! 

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Engineers and Tinkers

Middle School Marine Biology Blog, written by Madison Maier

Middle School Marine Biology took the island by storm.  For the first half of the week, we started our days with some exploration of the rocky intertidal zone.  During that time we learned how to identify some of the more common critters and talked about their adaptations that allow them to survive in the harsh and ever-changing intertidal zone.  We then put our knowledge to the test by designing some of our own animals that are could live in the intertidal zone. 

Although Francois Jacob once described evolution as a “tinker, not an engineer” we decided to throw that concept out the window.  Many of the organisms were inspired by existing creatures (and therefore, it could be argued that they could, maybe, in some parallel universe emerge from natural selection).  But, in general, we tended to think a little larger and engineer our own original ideas that some might call “biologically improbable” (I refuse to use the word impossible, just in case I am proved wrong one day). 

Each student needed to name their creature, invent one behavioral adaptation and three physical adaptations that would allow them to live in the intertidal zone, and identify which existing intertidal creatures would be the predators and which would be the prey of the newly-designed organisms. 

On our last day, we presented our creations to a full house consisting of the staff and the Women of Water, a high school program that we were sharing the island with.  It was a rousing success. I had staff and participants coming up to me the rest of the day, complementing our work and the craftsmanship that went into each presentation.  But, I’ll let you all see for yourself.  

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Adventures in Art: Changing how we view and experience the island

It is guaranteed that things change on Hurricane island. The granite itself wears with time and tides, organisms migrate, move, grow and die, and people come and go, taking their memories with them and leaving parts of their heart behind. This year one of my favorite changes was the addition of our Middle School Adventure Art program, bringing eight vibrant young women to our shores and into the fabric of the Island’s life. The program was led by local artist and educator Laura Freeman, who helped us all see the island, its environments, and its inhabitants with new eyes and through new mediums. While the students had a variety of ‘traditional’ island experiences, they also forged new paths through print making, natural sculpture, scientific illustration, painting, and even turned their ‘art debris’ into high fashion. Their connection to this place was rooted in seeing and experiencing the island more deeply than any other group of middle school students has done before through the sheer amount of time they had to just immerse themselves in the place and notice/focus on details that most pass on by. This may make it sound like the group was reserved and demure… but of course that wouldn’t do justice to the goofy and energetic fun they brought to the island. I have never had a more surreal experience on the island than when the girls helped me find my ‘true laugh’ (if you haven’t experienced it, just google it…. doubt it… try it… and then spend the rest of your time trying to figure out a better name for it and wanting to know the science behind it - or maybe that is just my reaction!). I feel so fortunate that I got to work with these girls last week and I loved the conversations with them about what course they are coming back and doing in the future. I’m just glad Laura and I have a year to save up our energy before we do it again! Even when they come back or when we run this program again, there will be plenty of changes based on who is part of the program, adaptations we make based on feedback from the week, the shifting and deepening passions of the people involved in instructing, and of course the changes in the island itself. Despite those things, looking back on our time together there is nothing I would change for the world except getting more time with such a wonderful cohort.

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What is an Island?

Middle School Island Ecology Blog

Written by Educator Kat Duvall

Students from Middle School Island Ecology took the island by force. Their collective energy was astounding; all of it positive and some of it just a tad rowdy. As a program we participated in all of the Hurricane staples: lobstering, aquaculture lessons, rock climbing, hiking, jumping off the pier into frigid waters, and sit spots. We played games upon games; Llama Llama, Silent Football, and Where's My Chicken? Someone even brought a kazoo! It was happy mayhem, made even better by the sunny weather we enjoyed all week.

For their project, students were tasked with thinking about what it means to be an ecological island using parts of the island biogeographical theory as a baseline. We asked them to think beyond a traditional "land surrounded by water" definition of an island, and talked collectively about what it might mean to consider Central Park in New York City an island. Students paired up to choose what ecological island they wanted to focus on, think about why they considered it an island, and build the food web associated with it. They presented to the rest of the HICSL staff and the Middle School Adventure Art program on topics like Caves, Tropical Coral Reefs, Lakes, and Ice Caps. It was impressive to observe their commitment and creativity to the project, and it went as well as we could ever have hoped! This was a tremendous group of kids and we hope to see them come back in later years.

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