Island Updates

Having (an) Epiphany on Hurricane Island

Written by Teaching Assistant, Anna Fischer

It was a Monday afternoon when 19 students and 3 chaperones from Epiphany School arrived on the Equinox, bringing beautiful sunny skies to end our 3-day streak of rainy weather. Coming all the way from Dorchester, MA this was the school’s second trip to Hurricane Island, however most students were first-time visitors. The staff were greeted with an abundance of energy as soon as the students got off the Equinox. The energy of this group had no lapses from arrival until the time they left 6 days later. At the beginning of the program nerves were flying - both from the education staff and the Epiphany school group. It was the Teaching Assistants' first program of students this season. The TAs had only being here for a few weeks and were still as much in awe of the beauty of this island as the students were. However, time spent with these students helped solidify their love of teaching and demonstrated the wonders and magic of place-based education, especially in a place like Hurricane. 

All were attentive learners and although they proved very loud in their evening games of baseball, moments of discovery were usually followed with moments of particular calmness as they deepened their understanding of the lessons and of the island itself.

They built teamwork and communication skills during rowing and raft building, developed an appreciation for the wonderful marine life we have at hurricane island by exploring the intertidal zone, lobstering, scallops and aquaculture, and focused their efforts as budding environmental stewards during marine debris cleanup. 

Although they weren’t from this neck of the woods, they jumped into every activity they were presented with, pushing themselves and their comfort zones by participating in Hurricane Island classics. For instance, although many started this excursion by saying they would never hold a lobster, once they stepped onto “Fifth Generation”(our small lobster boat) and learned about these bottom-dwelling critters, they needed no prompting to pick one up (carefully) and learn about its anatomy.

The Epiphany students weren’t the only ones in on the fun, Mr. Penny (Assistant Principal), Mr. Deleveaux (Lead Teacher), Ms. Ventricelli and Ms. Destrade (Teaching Fellows) tackled the ropes courses with as much enthusiasm as the students, providing excellent examples of what it means to climb to new heights and push your boundaries. Something really memorable was watching the relationships between the students and their teachers. It’s rare to witness such dedication and passion as the teachers and assistant principal had for educating and mentoring their students. 

Hurricane has a way of teaching people things that they didn’t expect, whether it be where the best place to find crabs in the intertidal is, how to jump and scale over rocks, hold yourself accountable for the health of the environment, or simply how to gain confidence in yourself, we are confident this group learned a lot from their experience at hurricane, because we know we learned a lot from them. 

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Dancing on Hurricane Granite

Written by HICSL Executive Director, Bo Hoppin

What happens when you bring 15 young leaders from around the world for a week at the Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership? Well, how about big ideas for environmental sustainability and a shared understanding for humanity that transcends borders, race, and income? It is likely the most important outcome was the sharing of cultures as we all came together for raucous dance under the stars on Hurricane granite.

Hurricane Island is partnering with United People Global (UPG) to engage young sustainability leaders from around the globe to plan initiatives benefiting their home communities. The first cohort of leaders, ages 18-31 years old, arrived June 16th for the weeklong course on Hurricane. They came from Brazil, Chile, Spain, El Salvador, Singapore, Mauritius, Cameroon, Romania, and corners of the United States to learn from one another and live in our sustainable island community in Penobscot Bay. Two additional cohorts will be arriving in August and September.

I had the great fortune to spend the week with this first cohort as one of two course facilitators. I planned the course curriculum with my colleagues Theo Richardson-Gool from UPG, independent consultant Delia Clark, and our Director of Education Jenn Page. Program participants focused on creating a sustainability initiative for their home communities that addressed the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and UPG’s four pillars. Both documents served as guideposts for project planning where participants connected their project work to at least one SDG and one of UPG’s four pillars.

The week was rich with ideas and conversation about environmental, economic, and social issues. We used the island rowing gigs and raft building challenges to build a stronger understanding of the leadership skills needed to tackle difficult issues. The participants dug into the island’s aquatic ecosystems to more fully connect nature’s ebbs and flows as it works toward equilibrium. Our aquaculture work served as a model for how we can develop resilient technologies to both restore ecosystems and create diverse economic models for those in the fishing industry. We applied the island’s expansive capacity for hands-on immersion in sustainable systems to each participant’s sustainability initiative for their home community.

The initiatives these young leaders came up with include reducing food waste, addressing women’s reproductive health, reducing urban reliance on cars, providing ocean-based environmental education, developing trainings to positively address sustainability and climate change, initiating residential composting programs, and building a database connecting high schools students to internships and jobs.

The week culminated with presentations by each course participant. The high stakes audience included island staff, other course participants, visiting adult leaders from our local communities, and Maine’s Governor Janet Mills. The celebratory atmosphere and follow up questions validated the work of each participant while providing them an opportunity to practice their “pitch” before returning home.

My personal epiphany came with our opening activity. We asked participants to share stories about people who have been very influential in their lives. It was a moving opening as we all learned about people who sent us on these collective journeys. Later that evening Theo commented to me, “You know, it is remarkable. We come from all corners of the world and we all have the same individuals that have made us who we are. Our grandparents, parents, teachers, and friends are who inspire us.” The blaring headlines coerce us toward placing other nations and cultures as competitive foes. Our collective humanity has shared dreams, aspirations, and mentors who motivate each of us to make our communities strong. 

This Sustainability Leadership Initiative, run in partnership with United People Global, is Hurricane’s opportunity to bring the world together to dance on a small island in Penobscot Bay for a bright and positive future. We are so grateful.

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School's out for summer! (but this spring was pretty rad)

As I’ve been enjoying the first few weeks of summer, I have been reflecting on this past school year. For me, a definite highlight was working with the Vinalhaven School for the third year. I collaborated with the middle and high school science teachers and visited the classroom twelve times over the course of the year, in addition to having the students out to Hurricane in the fall and spring. 

The Vinalhaven students are rock stars, and the May and June end of year programming with them was no different. Recently the high school earth science class had been studying sea level rise, so we examined maps of Vinalhaven with sea level rise projections. During their day trip to Hurricane, they used stadia rods to map sea level rise around Hurricane. They thoughtfully considered their visual data as we discussed mitigation and resilience tactics occurring locally and globally.

Vinalhaven high school students use stadia rods to map sea level rise projections on Hurricane.

Vinalhaven high school students use stadia rods to map sea level rise projections on Hurricane.

6th graders are psyched about their seaweed harvest!

6th graders are psyched about their seaweed harvest!

When the 6th grade science class came to Hurricane for their end of year field trip, we eagerly boated out to the kelp aquaculture site and harvested some mature kelp that they had started growing from spores in their classroom last fall. After deploying the kelp off Hurricane’s shores last October, we enjoyed seeing how much it had grown, and we especially enjoyed preparing and cooking our seaweed. Kelp chips are a new favorite! Add lemon juice, garlic, hot pepper, or flavors of your choice before loading into the oven and baking to a crisp.

Kelp chip prep zone

Kelp chip prep zone

Finally in June, the 7th grade class came to Hurricane for the annual three day, two night field trip. A trip that has incorporated middle school leadership preparation and Leave No Trace practice before their fall trip to Katahdin, this trip also included science work throughout and presentations on the third day. Several girls who hadn’t been interested in rowing tried it and then begged to go rowing again on the trip, even talking about starting a rowing team on Vinalhaven. The 7th graders also shared their Leave No Trace hand symbols at dinner circle, and eagerly shared their learning with another teacher later on the trip. 

Microscope time! What types of plankton did we find?

Microscope time! What types of plankton did we find?

On day three, the 8th graders joined us on Hurricane, along with a few teachers and guests from the Vinalhaven Land Trust. The 7-8th grade science classes had been studying kelp all year, from tank maintenance and water quality in the fall, to kelp line design engineering, to product possibilities using seaweed. Throughout the year, we experimented with seaweed-based products and researched product design after a video call with Josh Rogers, owner of Portland’s Heritage Seaweed store. The final day of the Hurricane trip was a chance for the 7-8th graders to present their own products, explaining their revision process, marketing tactics, and sale opportunities. We taste tested seaweed spice blends (great over popcorn!), ranked our favorite seaweed bioplastic air fresheners, saw bioplastic keychains and jewelry, and tried on some seaweed-based body scrubs and beauty products. 

Vinalhaven Land Trust and Hurricane staff members convene for the 7-8th grade product presentations.

Vinalhaven Land Trust and Hurricane staff members convene for the 7-8th grade product presentations.

During the presentations, our guests from the Land Trust, in addition to other Hurricane staff, Vinalhaven teachers, and I were so impressed with the students and their creativity, their ability to describe their iterative product design processes, and their understanding of ecological and economic opportunities and concerns with seaweed. Earlier in the trip as we hiked by Hurricane’s large garden, students recalled how last fall, they had loaded kelp onto the soil to provide nutrients as fertilizer.

I am grateful that the students were able to share their work with so many Hurricane Island staff members and Vinalhaven community members. After a morning of presentations, we were able to explore Hurricane, offering some awesome activity choices (students ranked their top three activities out of Scallops, Lobstering, Facilities/Trail Work, Hiking, and Rowing on the gigs). Everyone was able to participate in 2x45 minute sessions of their top two activities, thanks to staff support and flexibility. I observed many happy, curious students and it was great to see all the students excited about their final activities on Hurricane for the year.

Thank you to the Hurricane Island staff for your commitment to offering high quality, fun, collaborative programming. Special shout out to the kitchen staff for being accommodating and providing delicious food. Thank you to the Vinalhaven Land Trust for your continued financial and logistical support of the Vinalhaven-Hurricane programming. And a big thank you to the Vinalhaven teachers and students. Ms. Baker, Ms. Applegate, and Ms. Cohn, these programs would not be possible without your flexibility, humor, and hard work.

Fresh kelp anyone?!

Fresh kelp anyone?!

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Back with a Bang

Written by island educator, Kat Duvall

The Eaglebrook schedule was packed full of exciting activities, from the moment I met the boys on the dock as they scrambled off the boat to the time they re-boarded the boat for their journey back to the mainland. While some students went lobstering for the first time (and even came back with a few keepers- rare this early in the season!), some students tested their prowess at rock climbing and practiced teamwork through belaying. Hiking was a frequent activity- a favorite included shimmying through “The Crack” as well as “The Other Crack”; two narrow fissures in the granite! All students were given the opportunity to learn about our aquaculture projects on Hurricane. They got to handle the scallops, and asked an immeasurable number of questions about them, including but not limited to: how scallops spawn, how old they get, where and how they live in the wild, what parts get eaten and why, and why we choose to focus on them for our work. Later, I was floored as I watched student teams successfully design, build, and navigate never-seen-before raft models across the Ice Pond. Finishing up the program, we conducted an inspirational marine debris pick-up. I accompanied two students who took it upon themselves to drag an enormous piece of plywood they found at the north end of the island almost a half mile back to our trash facility. Although it took a while, and there was occasional grumbling, the boys were proud to have accomplished such a feat.

I never anticipated having so much fun teaching and exploring during my second program back this season, but the Eaglebrook students were a phenomenal bunch. I was incredibly stunned by the energy they exuded seemingly around the clock, and the ability they had to tackle new adventures and experiences with the zest and enthusiasm of youth. They made my transition back into island life and education as laughter-filled and energizing as it could have been. Looking forward to many more programs like this!

Cole moves through “The Crack”.

Sam learns the ropes on our climbing wall.

Sam learns the ropes on our climbing wall.

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Trash to Treasure

Written by island educator, Isabelle Holt.

Having Portland High School out as a school group was another first for us this spring season! While we have had several Portland High students out as participants in our summer programs it was great to have a cohesive group of students (including one returner who was on the island two summers ago) and teachers together for a wonderful three days of education and fun.

In a program full of highlights something that stood out for me was being able to have students engage with marine debris solutions through making art with the objects we found. Each student made their own mobile using an old wire coat hanger and whatever marine trash they had found. Together we strung up our mobiles into a gallery of sorts that represented the different kinds of tash we find washed up on Hurricane’s shores. In addition to making visual art we also had an impromptu jam session, making music together with whatever rhythms we could coax out of our marine debris.

We spent a lot of time talking about sustainability and Hurricane Island’s sustainable off the grid systems while Portland High was on island. After which they had the rather unfortunate experience of what it’s like when you overuse a resource on Hurricane. Some overly long showers used up all of the water that had been pumped up into the water holding takes from the quarry that day, which led to a great conversation about where our water comes from and how we can reduce water consumption even when we are on the mainland.

The energy and enthusiasm the Portland High students brought to everything they did on the island - from games of Uno with the Cambridge School of Weston students who were also on the island at the time to some seriously quality kitchen dance parties while doing dishes -  will be sorely missed.

Come back soon Portland High!


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A Sublime Dive into this Hurricane Season with The Cambridge School of Weston

Written by island educator, Lilla Fortunoff.

2019 is the 6th year that Marilyn DelDonno and Steve Scrimshaw have brought a group of students from the Cambridge School of Weston (CSW) to the Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership. This year is my 3rd season working as an educator on Hurricane Island, but it is my first Spring here and my first time working with school programs. I am in awe of the community and commitment that has been fostered here by students who come to the island acquaintances and leave as great friends.

It requires energy and care to wake up every day and choose to be a positive force in this community. This choice is one I rejoice in and have made again and again since June 2017. Seeing the way that the students continued to make this choice despite 5:00 am wake ups to catch low tide before breakfast and taking only two showers in eight days was inspiring. Seeing them make the choice because of the knowledge that the students had each other’s backs and the idea that curiosity is cool made me happier than I can describe. They supported each other unconditionally during the raft challenge, rock climbing, and in times of learning new information. They put energy and care into taking time to laugh, sing, and dance. The dove fully into bringing out the most in each other and in their Hurricane experience. To hold silliness and focused responsibility in cohabitation within one self is a challenge to which the CSW group rose joyfully.


This year, not only did the group initiate original marine biology and ecology research projects (such as attempting to quantify the fecundity of Fucus vesiculosus (a species of intertidal algae), and counting and measuring the zooplankton found at different times of day and at different ocean depths), but Marilyn also added an environmental history component to the course. This included studying the lives of Penobscot and Wabanaki indigenous peoples who lived around Penobscot Bay and Hurricane Island as early as 5,000 years ago (though, indigenous peoples have lived in Maine since at least 11,000 years ago) and studying the experiences and lives of European immigrants who worked for the Hurricane Island Granite Company and their families in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The final class project for the students will be to answer the question “What role has the lobster fishery had on the communities of Penobscot Bay?”. In order to help with this project, the students are reading The Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson and over the course of the week on Hurricane, we went lobstering to see how the magic happens and get a bit of an understanding of what lobstering entails. Additionally, we were able to connect the students to three members of the fishing community of Penobscot Bay: Yvonne Thomas who works for the Island Institute in Rockland and is the mother of lobstermen, Rick Wahle who is a marine scientist specializing in lobster at the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center, and Kathleen Reardon who works for the Department of Marine Resources as the lobster biologist for the state of Maine. The students became deeply immersed in all things lobster industry and asked extremely thoughtful and pressing questions of our guest speakers regarding the future of the lobster industry in Maine, the social dynamics of the people involved in lobstering communities, and whether or not our guests ate lobster themselves (yes). This week in mid-May was chilly, foggy, and rainy, but the students from CSW showed me the power in loving Spring on Hurricane.

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Short, Sweet, and Sunny

Fun in the intertidal.

Fun in the intertidal.

Written by one of our island educators, Isabelle Holt.

It was such a pleasure having the Lewiston Middle School after school program out on Hurricane for the day earlier this month. This was Lewiston’s first time coming out to the Island and it was a day packed full of fun and adventure. In a spring marked by so much rain and fog that at times our solar battery bank was running low, Lewiston brought the sunshine in more ways than one.

Exploring two-bush island.

Exploring two-bush island.

After a raucous ride over on the Equinox with the one and only Captain John Morin we put our boots on and got right out into the intertidal zone for some exploration. In a school system where more than 30 different languages are spoken by its students, translation by students for students was key to student engagement and enthusiasm. Helping someone else understand a new concept is a great way of ensuring that you yourself are comfortable with material and it was so great to see the connections the Lewiston students were making with one another and the place around them while on the island.

Scallop show and tell.

Scallop show and tell.

In the afternoon we were able to build on the students pre-existing knowledge about aquaculture from the 4H after school programing that they had been doing. It was great being able to get our hands on our Hurricane grown scallops that are finally getting close to eatable size - due to many years of careful care from our research team! Not only did we get to hold some scallops, students were also able to learn more about what they eat by doing plankton tows and examining what they found under the microscope.

All too soon it was time to take the boat back to Rockland after this short, sweet, and sunny day! On the ride back Captain John remarked that Lewiston was the “happiest group of kids” he’d had on his boat this season. Here’s to many more days of sun and smiles on Hurricane this season!

Scallop show and tell.

Scallop show and tell.

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The Whispering Waves of Hurricane

Post written by Bridget Morton, Seasonal Island Director. Pictures by Ella MacVeagh, assistant cook.

Recently, I greeted a member of the Pen Bay Stewards to Hurricane Island, just as he stepped of the boat. He gazed at spruce trees overhead and eyed great blocks of granite. Eventually he spoke: “You can feel the spirituality here.”  

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Yes.  You can.  From its craggy shores to the highest trees, Hurricane sings sustaining joy to anyone who takes the time to listen.  For some of us, the island seems to have a soul, a soul that informs and supports our small community, so dedicated to scientific learning and growth.  

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One little pocket of peace is the island churchyard. Consecrated as holy ground by a Catholic bishop in quarrying days, it was shared by Hurricane’s Catholics at the turn of the twentieth century, and for a while there were multiple services every Sunday in that island church.  Sometimes, heading up to the ice pond or the garden, I imagine quarrymen, their wives and children, walking, on their only day of rest, up the same path to pray. During Outward Bound’s summers on the island, sweet weddings and christenings were held inside that small, grassy rectangle; every Sunday, rain or shine, the entire community migrated to the churchyard for morning meeting. Perhaps the first Sunday I spent on Hurricane Island, 45 years ago, my watchmate Chicky played ‘Morning Has Broken’ on her flute, while the rest of us listened rapt, rain dripping from our yellow slickers.  Today only the granite foundation and a small altar remain.

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I headed up that hill on a Friday evening in May with the students of Cambridge School of Weston. These nine young women and their chaperones had already brought energy and delight to their marine science studies here on Hurricane.  That Friday evening they held a Shabbat, possibly the first ever, in Hurricane’s churchyard. A couple of the teenagers explained for the rest us this ritual of their faith. They lit two tiny candles and invited us to wave in smoke and then hide our eyes from the light.  They led us in song, broke bread, shared water from a plastic bottle. They wanted us to understand that we were praying for peace, for community. They said we had prayed shalom and salaam in a single prayer, prayed for peace in Hebrew and Arabic. Everyone was smiling, laughing, singing.  I caught the joy in the girls’ faces and felt it mirrored in my own. And I remembered Meister Eckhart, the medieval German mystic’s reminder, “If the only prayer you ever said in your entire life was Thank You, that would be enough.”

Yes.  Thank you, CSW!  Thank you, sweet Hurricane!  Today, that is enough. And the waves whisper: Amen.


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