Island Updates

First Impressions

Guest blog post by Science Educator Alex Griffith

Upon reflection, it’s remarkable that only 16 days have passed since I arrived on Hurricane Island, but in that brief time, my excitement for the summer to really kick off has only increased.  Having spent most of my April at home down in North Carolina, the cold weather was at first a shock, but after moving into Flywheel cabin I find myself incredibly busy and already a part of the strong community here on Hurricane.

In the short two weeks or so since I first set foot on this island, I’ve already experienced a wide range of programs, from a board meeting to a volunteer day to two school programs.  St. George Elementary was here for a day trip with a focus on history, and after a history hike around the island and a timeline and archaeology activity, they left with a solid grip of the fascinating human history of the island.  Gould, on the other hand, was here with a focus on team-building, so I got to really use my prior experience working in experiential education to help them work through the raft challenge, some rock climbing, and the polar plunge.  

  Above:  some of the artifacts and resources used to teach St. George Elementary School students about the granite quarry and history of the island.

Above:  some of the artifacts and resources used to teach St. George Elementary School students about the granite quarry and history of the island.

Working with Gould students in the raft challenge has definitely been the most challenging and educational part of my time here so far.  Since I’d never led this activity before, I took a very hands-off approach to see how the kids would organize themselves to get across the Ice Pond, with occasional bits of advice.  When they started to get crabby with one another, I gradually started taking away their supplies to increase the pressure—a tactic which, of course, only made them more frustrated with me.  At our post-activity reflection, I made sure to tell them that I had learned as much from the challenge as they had, and would be sure to appropriately adjust my approach to leading the challenge in the future.  Through these first two school programs, I’ve learned more than staring at lesson plans could ever teach me, and I look forward to continuing to grow as an educator throughout this summer and fall.

  Above: looking out over the raft challenge supplies and Ice Pond, site of a great deal of learning for both students and instructors.

Above: looking out over the raft challenge supplies and Ice Pond, site of a great deal of learning for both students and instructors.

I’ve greatly enjoyed—and adjusted to—living on Hurricane in these first two weeks as well.  I’m slowly getting used to not showering every day (or even every other day), and I already know that the weather and I are going to be locked in a constant struggle until October as my southeastern soul longs for 90 degree days.  Regardless, it’s more than balanced out by the incredible community here and friends I’ve already made on this beautiful island. I can’t wait for more programs to arrive and to get even more into the swing of things than I am already.  

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Beetles Leadership Institute: Immersed in professional development

“Immersive” is a word we often use to inform future participants about their upcoming  experience on Hurricane Island. It’s hard not to be immersed in the Hurricane community when coming to the island. Our island schedule impacts people’s time, and during prescribed meal times, participants eat the delicious food our chefs prepare. Participants disconnect from technology, relying on the present community for all social interaction. Rustic housing and outdoor showers with sunrise views solidify the place-based experience, and people bond over the natural beauty that surrounds them.

As staff members living on Hurricane for the season, we have such a long time to adjust to the lifestyle that it becomes familiar, and sometimes we forget how the immersive environment may feel to the participants who join us for the first time. In December, Director of Education Dr. Jenn Page and I were reminded of the participant perspective as we experienced it ourselves. We traveled to Petaluma, California for a week of learning with the Beetles Leadership Institute at the Walker Creek Ranch.

Beetles, short for Better Environmental Education, Teaching, Learning, and Expertise Sharing, is a research-based project out of Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, providing resources to outdoor science programs. During our week of learning, Jenn and I were two of ~50 program leaders focused on strategies to train field instructors, considering both curricular approaches and organization-level protocols to improve science teaching and learning.

In California, we were the participants, dependent on our hosts to feel safe, nourished, and rested. I am grateful to the staff at Walker Creek for providing many delicious meals and snacks, while accommodating a diverse array of dietary restrictions. The Beetles staff had so much content to cover during the week, and I appreciate that they provided both intentional reflection time and a bit of unscheduled free time each day. One of the biggest takeaways for me was the value of continual reflection to improve practice. As such, Jenn and I are planning to incorporate reflection opportunities for our staff this season.

During our free time, some days, I prioritized a power nap, while other days, I explored the area around the ranch or bonded with fellow participants. I relied on them for humor and as conversation partners to process the experience. We grew our personal and professional networks, and I hope we keep in touch and cross paths again. One morning, a number of us woke up early for a guided sunrise hike up to Walker Peak. This hike, as we set out in the dark, reminded me of the night hike we do with students on Hurricane. Instead of leading the hike on trails I’ve walked hundreds of times like I do on Hurricane, I was unfamiliar with my surroundings and put my full trust in our guide George and my headlamp. This hike connected me to the natural beauty of Petaluma, as I watched the pink sunrise over the hills, and noticed frost crystals on the grass as we hiked down to breakfast.

Overall, having a week dedicated to learning in the Beetles environment, largely free of distractions from other aspects of life, allowed for so much attention to the community and the topics. We were continually able to build upon insights from previous sessions and days. Jenn and I have brainstormed numerous ways to incorporate some of our Beetles learnings into the Hurricane Island experience. We recognize how the immersive environment at the Beetles Leadership Institute allowed for productive growth. Fully submerged, I felt the transformative power of being in an intentional environment for a week. I hope our participants on Hurricane similarly feel the positive impacts of our immersive environment when they join our community.

 California sunrise

California sunrise

 Hiking crew: early morning smiles after watching the sunrise from Walker Peak!

Hiking crew: early morning smiles after watching the sunrise from Walker Peak!

 Jenn (center) and Robin (right) snap a selfie with Michigan-based participant Ben (left).

Jenn (center) and Robin (right) snap a selfie with Michigan-based participant Ben (left).

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Making connections at RootSkills Conference

Between the end of November and the beginning of January many people are in a holiday 'blur', so it is understandable if you attributed that surge of positivity and global hope you felt at the beginning of December purely to the cheer of the season. What you were really feeling on December 1st and 2nd was the emotional glow generated by over 300 community organizers, funders, nonprofits, and sustainable businesses gathering together in Manchester, New Hampshire for the 2017 RootSkills Conference put on by the New England Grassroots Environment Fund. The conference itself was formed to 'bridge the divide between social and environmental justice' and even though it was centered in New England it drew in people from as far away as California to join us.

 Robin and Jenn participating in the 2017 Emerging Changemakers group - Photo from MEEA's website

Robin and Jenn participating in the 2017 Emerging Changemakers group - Photo from MEEA's website

From the visionary keynote presentations given by Vien Truong (CEO of Dream Corps), San Juana Olivares (President of the Genesee County Hispanic/Latino Collaborative), and Rev. Mariama White-Hammond (Minister for Ecological Justice, Bethel AME Church), to the workshop tracks that spanned everything from Local Food to Youth Activism, the entire conference was inspirational beyond words. Among the many sessions I attended was one delivered by members of the Maine Environmental Education Association. Hearing how MEEA has worked so hard to eliminate power dynamics within their organization based on age was a highlight of the conference for me, especially when it was being presented by the youth representatives themselves. It made me proud that Hurricane is part of MEEA's Environmental Changemaker's Network and even more energized to help empower and support youth on Hurricane Island and in our communities as the change-makers of our collective future.

 Placing our opportunities and challenges on the path to great results!

Placing our opportunities and challenges on the path to great results!

The activity we participated in at RootSkills in the MEEA session had us all thinking about the opportunities and challenges we all face in helping youth have an equal voice on any playing field but particularly around environmental issues. We brainstormed and discussed our ideas in small groups while we wrote the opportunities on colorful paper fish and the challenges on small 'boulders'. We then came back together as a group and all shared what we came up with and placed our fish and boulders on a paper 'river', with all the fish moving towards the end result: empowering young people from all communities who are passionate about the environment.

Through every session we participated in, Phoebe, Robin and myself made more connections to other people and organizations and grew our mental networks as much as we grew our professional networks.  We all left the conference vibrating with new ideas and positive energy and we are riding that momentum into our 2018 season.  On that note.... we would love to have other passionate individuals join us on that journey so if you know of someone who would like to work on the island this summer please send them our way! :)

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"To Sail Beyond the Sunset": Not a Review, but a Reflection

Susan St. John, a Trustee of the Hurricane Island Foundation and a long time friend to the island and its various tenants, has just published her book about the years that Outward Bound was on Hurricane Island, entitled "To Sail Beyond the Sunset." To celebrate the book release, and to kick off the task of distributing pre-ordered copies, Susan hosted a gathering at the Apprenticeshop in Rockland. Bo Hoppin, Robin Chernow, and I attended, representing the Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership. I arrived close to the scheduled start time and found a room already crammed full of joyful faces, and I had a marvelous evening. I took our copy home and have been picking away at the stories over the past few weeks, and I've been reflecting on how I have come to feel a part of the Hurricane Island community.

   
  
   
  
    
  
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   Volunteer Day, 2012: One of the the first times I went ashore to Hurricane. My kids were so young!

Volunteer Day, 2012: One of the the first times I went ashore to Hurricane. My kids were so young!

I'm not an easy sell on sentimentality but generally can keep an open mind. (The first time I went ashore the reportedly magical Brimstone Island, I was disappointed. "It's just a bunch of rocks!" I wailed.) I had lived on an island, year-round, and was very happy to be settled in Rockland, where I could drive where I wished and go to the movies without seeing anyone I knew. So the first time I set foot on Hurricane, it was another island to me: infrastructure, facilities, windswept ledges, the remnants of the quarrying era scattered around the campus. I looked with an analytical eye and not a shred of sentimentality. It was early in the formation of the Hurricane Island Foundation, before a tremendous gift paved the way for us to rebuild the broken down buildings and get operations off the ground.

   
  
   
  
    
  
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   Sam and I (at left), along with other staff and board, greet guests on Hurricane Island at Outward Bound's 50th reunion, August 2014.

Sam and I (at left), along with other staff and board, greet guests on Hurricane Island at Outward Bound's 50th reunion, August 2014.

I came into my position managing the development effort for the Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership knowing almost nothing about Outward Bound. I can't think of a single person I knew in high school or college who went on an Outward Bound course. People strongly associated Hurricane Island with Outward Bound, understandably since they had used it as a base for programming for 40 years! At the newly organized Hurricane Island, we were struggling to clarify what this new chapter on the island was trying to accomplish. "STEM ... hands-on experiences ... community ... implication for action ... leadership training ... making science relevant to students ..." Phrases bumped around in my thoughts as I tried to wrap my head around what we were going to become good at, what was unique, and how we would communicate this to donors, foundations, prospective program participants, other organizations.

Many of our board members had Outward Bound DNA. I didn't quite know how to take them. They were warm, they were welcoming, they were supportive. They were smart, they were worldly, they were fun, and they were connected with each other in a way that seemed to transcend the passage of time. I could have been uptight about integrating myself into this community that existed way before I came around, but instead I relaxed and enjoyed the people around me. The conviviality was a bright spot in some tough early years as we got things going.

   
  
   
  
    
  
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     July 2016: Staff, board, and friends bid farewell to guests from the dock. Photo Credit: Michael Hawley.

July 2016: Staff, board, and friends bid farewell to guests from the dock. Photo Credit: Michael Hawley.

But for me, Hurricane the Place was still a lot like Brimstone--lovely island with an interesting history and great charm, but not exactly magic. That changed for me when we opened up the island in August 2014 to host Outward Bound's 50th reunion. Our operations staff --quite small!-- scrambled to get the island ready; there were so many details that had to come together. Outward Bound's staff worked its tail off, too. It was a huge task, putting something like this together, having a 2-day event on an island for hundreds of people. A band! Lobster bake! Port-a-potties! Dozens of boats! A ferry cancellation!

My role was to be present, to be available, to host. I had the luxury of spending that day in the Mess Hall with fellow staffer Alyson Graham, 5 months pregnant. I adored her and the team of help she had assembled. It was fun. Time slowed down. We made cookies to share with the guests using recipes that the Vinalhaven Historical Society had assembled from the quarrying era. People from various eras of Outward Bound history came in and out, seeing old friends, making new, feeling the flood of memories and the happiness of connection. It was utterly inspiring. A dinner line that lasted an hour was no problem--more time to get to know each other. A dance in the big tent on the South End lent an air of ecstasy to the night. We tipped the band; we begged them to play more. When there was no more dancing, there was a hike to the high Cliffs on trails I barely knew. I trusted myself in the hands of the people who had come before me. On that moonless night as we sat on those smooth, freshly varnished benches, it seemed we could see Portugal, or Brazil, way off, over there. And for the first time, I felt the magic; I fell in love.

I'm not an Outward Bound alumnae, but maybe I'm an adopted daughter. Maybe I can help represent the bridging of the extraordinary connection found in the Hurricane Island community from the past era to the present. Many, many of the people whom we at the Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership consider to be part of our community were also part of the Outward Bound community when it was on Hurricane Island. Others who are new to Hurricane Island also fall truly and deeply in love with the place and the community. They can, and do, connect with the past community. And although we'll still identify people from time to time as "someone with a HIOBS background" or "someone new to the island," I think we're all part of one larger community.

   
  
   
  
    
  
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     February 5, 2016: staff trip to Hurricane. 

February 5, 2016: staff trip to Hurricane. 

The publication of Susan St. John's  book To Sail Beyond the Sunset captures many of the stories that describe this connection. And to me, walking into her book release event last month exemplified the meaning of community as something that transcends place and time. I didn't know more than a couple of her guests before I started working for this organization six years ago, but when I entered that room, I found myself continuously gasping with elation at seeing each of those faces. The next morning I wrote down a list of names of the people I connected with. It was long. Really long. And it was full of friends--not just people I know but people I love. Susan's book synthesizes what a blessing it is to be a part of this community.

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Volunteers Make the Island Go Round

Volunteers are part of the life blood of Hurricane. Three times each year, we put the call out for volunteers to help us open the Island in the Spring, get projects done in the early Summer, and then help us put the Island to bed for the winter. Kind of a cycle of life on the Island J Each time we have amazing volunteers who brave the elements, put on their work gloves, and journey out to the Island with smiles on their faces. Some of these folks have been volunteering with us for years, others are brand new, some are octogenarians, some are still in the single digits! No matter when folks choose to join the family of Hurricane Island, they are welcome and we are so thankful for them.

 Our Science Educators, Isabelle Holt and Robin Chernow, lead the effort on our last Volunteer Day of 2017. 

Our Science Educators, Isabelle Holt and Robin Chernow, lead the effort on our last Volunteer Day of 2017. 

It seems like we’re always going through transition – re-shingling the roof, replacing a solar panel, expanding the garden, hiring new people to join the team – and just like a family, our volunteers show up every time to support us through the years. Many of these volunteers have been connected to Hurricane long before I came along and before many of us came along. They share memories and stories that continue the connection to the community that has existed on Hurricane in the past and the new connection that we’re creating with HICSL. This connection only strengthens over the years and makes us stronger as a community and as an organization. For those that are new to Hurricane, they learn from others about the magic of Hurricane and dig right in to help us maintain and improve our rocky island classroom with joy and determination.

 There's our stalwart single digit Volunteer, Julian Deliso, making sure everyone stays on task and safe while we de-shingle the roof.

There's our stalwart single digit Volunteer, Julian Deliso, making sure everyone stays on task and safe while we de-shingle the roof.

 Ruth in the lead in the garden and outlasting us all...no one else makes sure our garden gets planted like Ruth does!

Ruth in the lead in the garden and outlasting us all...no one else makes sure our garden gets planted like Ruth does!

 Ruth also taking the lead in showing us how to appreciate a much-deserved break :)

Ruth also taking the lead in showing us how to appreciate a much-deserved break :)

As we end our Island season and move into the winter season, we want to recognize our Volunteers and say thank you for all that they do for us. It’s not just the get dirty part of the Volunteering on the Island…they show up at events, follow us on social media, put us in touch with people, stop by the office and just say hi and laugh a little. All of these amazing gestures mean more to us than our volunteers will ever know. It is these simple things, these little things that keep us connected to the broader community of Hurricane and help us to grow it and nurture it. We LOVE our volunteers and can’t wait to see them next time!

If you’re interested in learning how to get involved with Hurricane, visit our website Volunteer Page. Our 2018 Volunteer Days are posted and you can register for the Day of your choice by filling out the form at the bottom of the page. There are other ways to get involved..reach out to us at info@hurricaneisland.net, call our mainland office at 207-867-6050, or just stop by the office and say hello to learn more. Thank you thank you and we’ll see you on Hurricane!

 Albert Kolodji, as usual, getting EVERYTHING done. Albert has been volunteering with us since the beginning and we would not be where we are without him. 

Albert Kolodji, as usual, getting EVERYTHING done. Albert has been volunteering with us since the beginning and we would not be where we are without him. 

 Our new Executive Director, Bo Hoppin, might be covering more ground than his crew :)

Our new Executive Director, Bo Hoppin, might be covering more ground than his crew :)

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Endings and Beginnings: Oak Hill High School

Guest blog post by Science Educator Isabelle Holt

  Enjoying the views from Gibbons

Enjoying the views from Gibbons

For the first time ever Oak Hill High School joined us on Hurricane for their very own island experience. While it was Oak Hill’s first time on Hurricane, it was our last on-island program as a staff this season. Together we bookended each other’s experiences. The energy and excitement Oak Hill’s first year class brought to the island was the perfect note on which to end a long, eventful, and wonderful season.

 School leaders enjoying the time on Hurricane!

School leaders enjoying the time on Hurricane!

The first year class was split in half and each half, the A and B teams, spent 25 hours on the island, which meant that we had to pack a lot into the little time we had together. One singular and wonderful thing about the Oak Hill program was that we were not only joined by teachers from the school, we were also joined by the Oak Hill High principal, Marco Aliberti, and vice principal, Laurie Catanese. It is not often that we get to dig around in the intertidal with both students and their administrators alike These school leaders mirrored the excitement shown by their students at finding crabs and uncovering dog whelk eggs.

  (Raft) challenge accepted!

(Raft) challenge accepted!

Oak Hill is trying to shift the culture of the school towards being more field trip orientated and the school’s trip to Hurricane was an important first step towards that goal. Many students and parents were initially nervous about the trip and fewer students than expected attended the first round in team A. However, by the time team B came out to the island the word had spread about the magic of this place and more than the expected number of students were in attendance.

  High cliffs hangout. 

High cliffs hangout. 

One common theme among the feedback received from the Oak Hill students was how much fun it was to be able to learn science while out of doors and explore the island. All the Hurricane island classics were observed, from the raft challenge, to learning about scallops, and from the history hike, to squeezing through the “cracks.” As an educator it was a joy to have such an enthusiastic and adventurous group of students for my last program. There is something about sharing the Hurricane island experience with others that truly brings it alive for one’s self. I will dearly miss hearing my students’ exclamations, questions, comments, and even complaints as we learn and discover together. On Hurricane each day, each group, and each student make our community stronger as it grows and changes from season to season. Here’s looking forward to next year!

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Watershed School: Challenge by Choice

Guest blog post by Science Educator Dana Colihan

 Some laughs at the rock wall

Some laughs at the rock wall

Earlier this fall, Watershed School came to Hurricane Island for their orientation trip. Watershed is a small alternative high school that centers innovative teaching and project based learning. While at Hurricane Island, Watershed focused on growing their community and team building exercises. As an entire high school, students went rock climbing, rowing, built rafts, as well as participated in intentional debriefing time together. During these activities, Watershed faculty and students explored one of Hurricane Island’s core values, “challenge by choice.”

 Student's belaying their classmates

Student's belaying their classmates

Our Lead Science Educator, Robin Chernow, has a favorite quote, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” Just outside your comfort zone is your growth zone, but if you don’t leave your comfort zone, you will never be challenged to grow. We believe that we should lean into our discomfort. Being uncomfortable is usually a sign that learning is occurring! However, just beyond your growth zone is your danger zone. At Hurricane Island, we will not put students into their danger zones. We will never make a student do something they don’t want to do, but will encourage them to challenge themselves. What’s really important to realize about this is that we all have different comfort, growth, and danger zones. Some students can climb all the way up to the top of the rockwall unphased, but for others stepping on a boat and staying on an island is difficult.

 A wave from the top!

A wave from the top!

On their last night at Hurricane Island, Watershed faculty led a reflection at a campfire about these concepts. Students and staff shared something that had been challenging for them on the trip, a way that they could push themselves tomorrow, and how they would bring these strategies back to Watershed. A few students shared that physically being on an island and certain activities really put them outside of their comfort zones. A couple other students said that some of the activities weren’t challenging for them, but being at a new school or trying to make new friends pushed them a lot. It was powerful to see so many students openly share about things that were difficult for them. I was impressed at the level to which these students could openly talk about their feelings. It is an important skill that not everyone has and not all schools teach.

 Leap of faith!

Leap of faith!

The next day, students who hadn’t felt particularly challenged yet pushed themselves out of their comfort zones in different ways. Some decided to take the polar plunge, while others sat with new people at breakfast. Throughout this program, I enjoyed seeing how Watershed engaged with this concept so intentionally. As individuals challenged themselves personally with the support of their peers, the school grew together as a community.

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A Newsworthy Visit

I remember the last Earth Day vividly. On Saturday April 22, 2017, Rockland faced heavy rains and cold, 40 degree F weather. April 22 was also the date of Hurricane’s Annual Free Teacher Day.  Due to the unpleasant weather and the imminent early morning boat ride across the bay, my colleagues Jenn, Phoebe, and I were not expecting a big turnout. However, we met an eager crew of teachers in our Rockland office, before a wet boat ride out to Hurricane.

Two of those teachers had traveled all the way from Lexington, Massachusetts. Paula and Helena are teachers at the Waldorf School of Lexington and they wanted to scope out Hurricane as a field trip destination for their 7th and 8th grade students.

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Waldorf School of Lexington students explore Hurricane's intertidal zone.

This fall, we welcomed 30 students from the Massachusetts school. With an emphasis on getting to know classmates, being outside of one’s comfort zone, and hands-on science, the program featured many Hurricane favorites: intertidal explorations, the raft-building challenge, rock climbing, lobstering, scallop aquaculture, campfire, and hiking to the crack.

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Checking out critters!

With so many “classics” during the program, and so many energetic, open-minded middle school students, these four days were an opportune time span for a visit from CBS 13 news reporter Adam Epstein. He and his cameraman visited Hurricane for a day, interviewing staff, students, and teachers alike, aiming to share the happenings of Hurricane Island with a public audience. The final film aired on an evening newscast on Thursday Sept 14, and can be viewed online here.

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Fun at the climbing wall!

Thank you to the Waldorf School of Lexington teachers and students for being a part of our Hurricane community, and for helping us share that with others.

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