Island Updates

Moving about the kitchen cooking for community

Guest blog post from Kitchen Assistant Teagan Wu

When asked if I wanted to participate in the High School Sustainability Leadership week, I immediately lit up with a smile and proposed a sauerkraut making workshop. I imagined each student creating their own jar of ginger carrots and working together to chop red and green cabbage. After much anticipation, I greeted a group of students eager to learn. In our opening circle, I was struck by each student’s openness to try a new activity and expand their understanding of fermented foods.

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In my opinion, no sauerkraut workshop is complete without a snack, so we began by tasting different kinds of hummus; beet, roasted carrot parsley, and black bean. We also tasted some red cabbage, beet, garlic, and ginger sauerkraut that was ready after fermenting for about a week. This sparked curiosity and excitement among the students. I spoke about how eating sauerkraut provides our gut with beneficial bacteria thereby supporting the whole body. In my experience, it is necessary to take action in order to connect with food and care about health benefits.

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As a group, we dove right into chopping carrots and slicing garlic and ginger, tasting along the way. We started sauerkraut by first massaging the slices of cabbage with a small amount of sea salt in order for the fibers to release moisture and create a brine. I remember making sauerkraut for the first time in my college fermented foods class this past winter. I got to feel with all my senses how the cabbage went from dry to wet, crunchy to soft and salty. I was reminded of these surprises as the students joined their hands together to massage the cabbage, creating a squeaky sounding music.

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I got to smile and laugh with the students throughout the process. We marveled at the bright purple cabbage packed inside the jar, shimmering in the light. With three quart jars of sauerkraut beginning to ferment, we gathered in a circle once more to conclude. This felt more like a beginning than an ending. Each person got to check in about their experience and share their observations, feelings, and hopes. Several remarked on how simple the process was and others expressed how they wished to try making fermented foods at home. I looked around the circle and felt a wave of gratitude for getting to share the activity with them.

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Working here in the kitchen at Hurricane Island this summer has ignited my creativity and enthusiasm for cooking. By immersing myself in preparing meals each day, I discover a rich and expansive world of possibilities. I get the opportunity to collaborate with the kitchen team to transform leftovers into new dishes. Black bean soups have become burgers with just a few added ingredients and frittatas have evolved into egg salads. I am often surprised at the recipes that take shape in the moment. I have felt energized to make sauerkraut, trusting my senses to combine beets, fennel, and carrots into colorful blends. In the kitchen one afternoon, I immersed myself in the process of chopping cabbage, listening to silence and occasionally looking out through the windows to the ocean. These experiences cooking deepen who I am and allow me to stand grounded. As we gather in a circle as community before each dinner, I feel how I am connected to others. Together we feel our relationship to place and all that sustains us.

Each day is a gift to move about the kitchen as a team cooking for community. Making meals for others and myself asks that I engage with a sense of purpose and love for the greater whole. I keep returning to how food is connected with our hearts and minds, not only our bodies.

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I learn every time I say yes to cooking. I listen to natural movements that guide me to try new salads or arrange a platter of vegetables in a certain way. I delight in beauty. I arrive again and again to gratitude; breathing in the salty air on my walk to the kitchen, stirring onions and garlic, building a plate of colorful vegetables and greens from the garden, sitting at the table experiencing textures and flavors. In these moments, I relax into the present, full and aware of sensation. At the same time, I begin imagining the next meal or sauerkraut project.

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It is now time to start on dinner and see what awaits in the kitchen. I wish you all nourishment of body, heart, mind, and spirit.

-Teagan

 

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Memories from High School Marine Biology

Guest blog post by Teaching Assistant Ari Katz

Living here for two months, it’s easy to get lost in routine. Wake up at 6:45. Morning meeting at 7:30. Breakfast at 8:00. And so it goes. Once the novelty of living on an island dissipated, simple reminders to take my gaze off the ground became invaluable. So, I’d like to give a HUGE thank you to High School Marine Biology for pushing me to live in a constant state of wonderment. You gifted me fresh eyes and whole lot of fun times. As I’ve reflected on the week, I think the most meaningful thing I can share are the small moments where I was reminded to look up. So, with that, here’s my highlight reel:

Sunday: First days are always awkward. No matter how you try to spin it, throwing together a group of people who are mostly unfamiliar with each other is a recipe for drawn out silences and unsolicited staring contests. Most of the first day was very structured which didn’t allow for too much down time, but as soon as we sat down for our first nightly meeting it very quickly became quiet. Alex (my co-educator) was grabbing something from the office, so I had time to kill before the meeting started. My go-to in these situations is to ask for jokes or puns, which either turns out great or evokes an even more uncomfortable silence. Without hesitation hands shot up and eyes brightened (thank goodness) and nightly pun time was born. For a solid half hour, students took turns sharing puns and getting stumped. I think this was the moment the group really meshed together, and I remember sitting there grateful for the laughter and excited for the days (and puns) to come.

Monday: We tasked the students with creating their own research questions for three days of intertidal exploration. This was my first time doing research with a group, and I was pretty curious about what the students would be curious about. One project that really stuck out to me was looking at how long it took periwinkles to re-attach to rocks. I expected questions about biodiversity, about how species population varies with substrate, and while those are all valid and interesting, the fact that the students took something they were doing for fun – plucking periwinkle off rocks – and turned it into a research question is pretty admirable. Even the most mundane can still hold mysteries to uncover.

 Students doing intertidal zone research.

Students doing intertidal zone research.

Tuesday: Today was a good day, I promise!

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 I told you Tuesday was fun! We went lobstering and rowing in the afternoon.

I told you Tuesday was fun! We went lobstering and rowing in the afternoon.

Wednesday: Puddin’ time! Today we brought marine biology into the kitchen and made Irish Moss pudding. I know teenage me would have been pretty grossed out at the thought of eating seaweed pudding, so the fact that everyone was so excited to try it was awesome in and of itself. We listened to some tunes and had a mini dance party in the kitchen while cooking, and after 20 minutes of double boiling milk and seaweed and a whole lot of straining, it turned out great! We had our pudding for dessert after dinner along with donuts courtesy of Joel. A fantastic food day.

Thursday: The raft challenge is a Hurricane Island classic. Groups are split up into teams and are given a few giant plastic barrels, some wooden planks, and a handful of ropes with the goal of building a raft that will carry their team from one end of the Ice Pond and back. I’ve experienced a 50/50 success rate; one group makes a totally sturdy raft, and the other group makes a raft that falls apart the second it touches water. As I expected, HSMB was 50/50, but the miraculous thing was that nobody gave up. The team with the less sturdy raft just kept on going, testing out new ideas, trying new designs, all while the other team was chartering teammates back and forth right next to them. If that’s not optimism I don’t know what is. (For the record, their raft never did get across the Ice Pond, but they were offered rides from the other team, and some just decided to swim.)

 The raft challenge juxtaposition.

The raft challenge juxtaposition.

Friday: Today’s lesson was on climate justice, and we began by playing a couple games that involved communication (or lack thereof). One of these games is called the No Rules Game. The rules are pretty simple: one student gets sent out of the room while the rest of the students think up a task for that student to perform once they come back. The student then figures out the task by walking around the room and pointing to objects or moving in a certain direction, and the rest of the students give positive or negative affirmations (“mhm” or “uh uh” were popular ones) in response. No words allowed! As you can imagine, the game devolves into laughter pretty quickly. We decided to begin with easy tasks. The first student had to put an empty ketchup jar on her head. The next had to grab an eye lens and look at someone through it. The next had to flip over some stools and lay on them. Then the tasks got more complicated. One student had to go up to the whiteboard and draw a caricature of Alex while also getting him to cry on command (he’s pretty proud of this skill). For the final task, the group came up with a three-pronged challenge: have the student put a pair of rain boots on his hands, grab a butterfly net from the wall, and go outside and pick up his water bottle that had been placed outside with the net, with the boots still on their hands. There were a few of us in tears from laughing so much. Picture a group of 13 people following a student with boots on his hands and a butterfly net in between outside while chanting “mhm!” on repeat. Not your average climate justice lesson, I’d imagine.

 Me crying, boots on hands, a butterfly net, and Alex on the whiteboard.

Me crying, boots on hands, a butterfly net, and Alex on the whiteboard.

Saturday: It was our last day, and Alex wanted to end the week with a bang. This entailed letting the students cover him in lobsters. The picture does this justice more than I can with words.

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Women of the Sea Students Dive in to Research Projects on Hurricane Island

Guest blog post by Science Educator Allison Hren

For two weeks, the Women of the Sea participants have been collecting data about the intertidal zone on Hurricane Island, and on July 28th, they presented their research at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. Divided into two groups (splitting time between Hurricane Island and aboard a schooner), they developed a research question and hypothesis. 

 Desiree shares her research investigating green crab populations on different substrates in the intertidal.

Desiree shares her research investigating green crab populations on different substrates in the intertidal.

 Audra and Emma going through scallop spat bags for their research on species diversity within them

Audra and Emma going through scallop spat bags for their research on species diversity within them

In-between data collection and analysis, the students spent time learning about the ecology of the ocean around them. They went lobstering and learned about Hurricane Island’s scallop aquaculture. From rock climbing to hiking, the students learned a great deal about our island ecosystem. We even got to check out what was on the sea floor, when we snorkeled together!

 Coming back from a successful morning spent lobstering!

Coming back from a successful morning spent lobstering!

 Women of the Sea, right after snorkeling, doing a diving sign, letting us know they are "O.K."'

Women of the Sea, right after snorkeling, doing a diving sign, letting us know they are "O.K."'

On the Vela (captained and owned by Havilah Hawkins), the students worked together to help steer and direct the boat, as well as taking part in boat chores, singing on the deck and watching the stars.

 The first half of the group to sail aboard the Vela, enjoying a beautiful sunset.

The first half of the group to sail aboard the Vela, enjoying a beautiful sunset.

Watching the students grow as young scientists was inspiring! In a relatively short period of time they brought their own skills to the table and helped each other produce incredibly well done research that was clearly presented. We had so much fun with the Women of the Sea, and hope they bring their incredible enthusiasm for the natural world everywhere they go!

 Heading out to collect data for their research projects. At this point they were experts. :)

Heading out to collect data for their research projects. At this point they were experts. :)

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Connecting to Hurricane via Nature Journals

Guest blog post by Science Educator Emily Buckner

It was a foggy week for the twelve students who came to Hurricane for the Middle School Island Ecology program; but without the ability to see past our own shoreline came the opportunity to truly focus in on this unique place. The week’s main goal was to become better naturalists, individuals who were observant, curious about the world around them, and asking thoughtful questions. One of the main ways we cultivated these skills was by creating and utilizing nature journals, a space where we could record our own thoughts, observations and learning, in the style that best suited our thought process, such as writing, drawing, poetry, lists, etc. (and often a combination of several of those things).

 Finding something special in the intertidal zone.

Finding something special in the intertidal zone.

Nature journaling is a great way to develop a sense of place and connection to nature. Forcing you to slow down and really notice your surroundings, journaling can help you track environmental and seasonal changes and allow you to start making connections and see patterns. Thinking about how things are connected is the basis of ecology and environmental stewardship and the ability to recognize patterns is an essential component to being a scientist, making the practice of nature journaling a truly interdisciplinary skill. We were thrilled to see all these things play out over the course of the week with such a wonderful group of middle schoolers.

 Last day on Hurricane!

Last day on Hurricane!

By the end of the program each students’ journal was full of notes, drawings, pressed flowers and leaves, in addition to goals for how to live a more sustainable lifestyle, a daily ‘rose, bud, thorn’, and some ideas for future research projects they would like to do on Hurricane. In addition to the journals, the group also created a visual representation of their experience on the island, putting their observations and memories into drawings and placing them on a physical map of Hurricane. This map was proudly presented to the rest of the island community and now sits in the galley as one more example of how people who visit this place can truly make it their own.

 Nature journals and group map on display!

Nature journals and group map on display!

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Part of something bigger in Penobscot Bay

Guest blog post by Science Educator Alex Griffith

At this point in the season, I’ve seen a lot of different groups come through, and each has aspects that make the time I spend with them—be it for a day or a week—unique and special.

The four days I spent with the Penobscot Bay Leadership Collaborative last week were the epitome of this.  For four days, I had the privilege of working with eight boys and their continuity instructor, Sockeye, as part of a team effort with The Apprenticeshop and Hurricane Island Outward Bound School to give local midcoast Maine boys a closer look at the wonderful natural environment they find themselves in.  For the four days I was with them, we learned about some of the marine and island ecology of Hurricane Island, and worked on team-building through the signature raft challenge and the climbing wall.

  Facilities director and climbing guru Sam Hallowell looks on as the boys rock climb and belay.

Facilities director and climbing guru Sam Hallowell looks on as the boys rock climb and belay.

What made this group so much fun was the fact that they already had gained some rapport with one another and would continue to do so after I left, so their time on Hurricane was not a one-off experience.  The boys came in with some inside jokes, and, unsurprisingly given the way middle school boys function, left with many more, but more importantly gained a greater understanding of how to function as a group.  

Another great part was the fact that I got to introduce them to the scientific component of their trip, which entailed collecting basic marine data (temperature, pH, and turbidity) and then comparing what they noticed on Hurricane to what they recorded when they were in open water in Penobscot Bay.  To be their lead scientific contact over their two weeks in the Bay was a new role for me, and the boys were so enthusiastic that I had no doubt that they would be able to continue their research over the remaining week of their journey on their sailboat.

  Several PBLC boys look into a refractometer to test water salinity of the Hurricane Island floating dock.

Several PBLC boys look into a refractometer to test water salinity of the Hurricane Island floating dock.

Getting the boys to slow down a little bit every day for reflection every day was probably the best part.  Most of the reflection was designed to help the boys gain a greater appreciation for their surroundings through observation, and they were always willing to take a step back and think about what they had done that day and what they’d noticed the most.  Our conversations were free-flowing (except for the rare time when the energy got a little too high), which is a real pleasure to have with students, and the boys were genuinely invested in their experience in a way that indicated that they really wanted to be there.

On Monday, when the boys left, they invited me out to their boat for a few minutes of rowing before they shoved off to sea in the fog.  It was bittersweet having the group leave (I was sad to see them go, but at the same time, they left me exhausted), but after experiencing them as a group for the previous few days I knew they were more than ready to live on a tiny boat together for five nights.  The PBLC program is special, and it was great to feel like the boys knew it just as much as their other instructors and I did.

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Kelp is key in Vinalhaven partnership

This spring we concluded a year-long program in the Vinalhaven School, primarily focused on kelp aquaculture. These efforts included growing kelp from spores in classroom tanks and experimenting with kelp growth and seaweed product design. The fall programming involved a trip to Hurricane to deploy the kelp in Penobscot Bay, and students came back to Hurricane in the spring to harvest their kelp. All year, we worked with the middle and high school science teachers to incorporate the kelp into the science curriculum, and the Vinalhaven Land Trust provided financial and logistical support.

 These 7th grade kelp experts take a moment to enjoy the view from Sunset Rock.

These 7th grade kelp experts take a moment to enjoy the view from Sunset Rock.

To wrap up the year-long effort, students presented their kelp projects and products as part of the school’s Community Kelp Night in May. Check out the Island Institute’s coverage of Kelp Night and learn more about our work with the Vinalhaven school and community!

 Data collection time! Students measure the length of a kelp blade from our aquaculture site.

Data collection time! Students measure the length of a kelp blade from our aquaculture site.

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Salty Queens Rule the Island: Penobscot Bay Leadership Collaborative’s First All-Female Contingent Comes to Hurricane

Guest blog post by Science Educator Allison Hren

Each morning, at 6:45, they rolled out of bed, changed into their swimsuits and jumped eight feet down into Penobscot Bay. This was not the first sign that these girls were tough. From acquiring a film of ocean water all over their bodies and hair (the inspiration behind their name, the Salty Queens) to handling lobsters with their bare hands or divvying up tasks and collecting qualitative data about the ocean, they rose to the occasion. Many of the activities they participated in were far beyond their comfort zone, but they pushed through.

 An afternoon spent on our climbing wall

An afternoon spent on our climbing wall

Because this was a local program, it was amazing to see the connections the participants had with each other. Every single girl knew at least one of the others, and most knew a few. They were also very connected to the region and came in to the program knowing a great deal about the ecosystem we were studying.  Because of their past experiences with science, they quickly began to teach each other how to use the scientific instruments and it was a joy to watch them take charge and be the leaders in the lab and in the field.

 Observing and identifying plankton

Observing and identifying plankton

From helping our research staff measure and sort scallops in our aquaculture project to making “pulling boat pudding” with Irish moss for dessert, the wide variety of activities and busy schedule on Hurricane Island never stopped them from asking questions and making connections with everything around them. Each time we learned about a new topic, such as buoyancy, they would apply it to, for example, making raft structures in our raft challenge, or thinking about where to find plankton in our plankton tow.

 Learning about HICSL’s aquaculture research and the life of a scallop

Learning about HICSL’s aquaculture research and the life of a scallop

As an educator who often only interacts with a group of students for a few days or weeks at a time, it’s my goal to make sure they are given the tools to figure out problems and answer questions on their own. The PBLC girls took everything I gave them and ran with it, reminding me to continue to ask questions in my everyday life, both at work, or simply when I want to know what plants are surrounding me on a walk around town. I have no doubt they will continue to investigate the world with great enthusiasm.

 Watching the sunset from Gibbon’s Point

Watching the sunset from Gibbon’s Point

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"Endersession" Success

Innovation Academy is a public charter school in Tyngsboro, Mass. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the school is its “Endersession” program. Each year in June, one week is dedicated not to classes, but to a weeklong end of year session or endersession of the students’ choice. Teachers propose endersessions and then students sign up. Some of these sessions involve road trips and off campus excursions, while others are based on campus for cooking classes and daily museum visits. For this first time this year, one of the endersessions visited Hurricane Island and we had a great week.

 Scenic rowing in Penobscot Bay

Scenic rowing in Penobscot Bay

Of the ten Innovation students on Hurricane, some selected the Hurricane trip due to their love of science, while others pursued our trip for their love of the outdoors. Many of them were eager to embrace new experiences in a different setting, and some of them were out of their comfort zones.

My two favorite experiences of the week were our sessions around scallop aquaculture and when we went lobstering. During our scallop aquaculture discussion, students were actively participating and thinking critically about fisheries and aquaculture opportunities. We went down to the dock to pull up the lantern net holding our scallops, something I have done dozens of times, and the students immediately expressed their excitement and interest in the clapping, squirting critters. Sometimes I forget how profound an impact the scallops can have on first impression so I appreciated experiencing the fun again with Innovation students.

 Students examine these lobsters and determine they are too small to keep.

Students examine these lobsters and determine they are too small to keep.

Later in the week, we went lobstering, and the students were so animated, curious, and excited as we hauled traps and held the lobsters, examining their anatomy and assessed whether they were legal size. As we progressed through the lobstering and scallop aquaculture sessions, the students’ positive energy fueled me and I had fun as an educator and a facilitator. Innovation’s endersession took place during our last week of school programs before we kicked off our summer season, and I am grateful for the curiosity and positivity with which we ended our own school year.

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