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.
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.
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.
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.
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.