Guest blog post by Science Educator Dana Colihan
11 boys and instructor Parker Gassett washed ashore on Hurricane Island’s granite coast ready for adventure. They came as a part of the Penobscot Bay Leadership Collaborative, a pilot program between the Hurricane Island Foundation, the Apprentice Shop, and Hurricane Island Outward Bound. The 11 students were all local boys going into 8th and 9th Grade from the Penobscot Bay. Some of the boys had been to the island before, for others it was their very first time, but they were all excited to experience this place anew as a team. Parker Gassett, a current graduate student at UMaine, dynamically led the group.
This was a program of firsts: our first collaboration as a tribe of organizations, as well as our first all-boys' program. Something that you should know about the Hurricane Island Staff, is that it mostly made up women. 77% of our year round and seasonal staff are women. Bringing 11 boys out to Hurricane Island? A lot could go wrong.
However, as they stepped onto the island and passed each other their gear from the boat with grins on their faces and twinkles in their eyes, I immediately fell in love with this program.
What so impressed me about this group of boys was their camaraderie, engagement, and endless energy. This group of students was a seamless cohort. They all enjoyed being together and approached individual challenges as a team. As members of the group took on climbing the rock wall, their peers supported them with cheers, hoots, and hollers. They were genuinely engaged and curious about the island and environment they were in--asking questions about the artifacts we discovered on our walks, the plankton we observed under the microscopes, and the wild edibles we found while foraging. Finally, the Penobscot Bay Boys were versatile. They were energetic and innovative in the Raft Challenge (creating some of the most ingenious and structurally sound vessels I have ever seen), to being thoughtful, contemplative, and considerate during solo time.
While a group of 11 teenage boys might theoretically seem like a recipe for disaster, the Penobscot Bay Boys, my teaching assistant, Lilla Fortunoff, and I had an incredible four days together on Hurricane Island. I believe each participant went home knowing more about wooden boats, more about sailing, and more about Hurricane Island’s unique coastal marine ecology. Most importantly, each went home having shared a transformative experience with 10 other peers, comrades, and partners in crime. I am so incredibly excited to see the environmental stewards these 11 boys become.