Island Updates

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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