Island Updates

Under Pressure: Hurricane Island Cider Pressing with Ocean Passages

Guest blog post by Science Educator Isabelle Holt

  Students reach to gather apples along what used to be the main street of the Hurricane Island quarry town.

Students reach to gather apples along what used to be the main street of the Hurricane Island quarry town.

We had Ocean Passages’ gap year students out on Hurricane for the weekend. This is the beginning of a semester-long adventure for these six students, during which they will be sailing down the East Coast to Cuba. Before setting off on the Harvey Gamage,  the Ocean Passages students got a taste of what living in a small, intentional, community feels like through their time on Hurricane.

Fall has arrived on Hurricane Island, with its thick fogs, and longer, colder nights. With the fall comes a time honored, New England tradition: apple cider pressing. We frequently incorporate foraging for edible plants on the island into our programming. As fall has brought a scarcity of wild edibles we have turned our attention to the ripening apples on the trees that are most likely descendants of those left behind by the quarrymen when they left the island more than 100 years ago.

  Students operate the cider press!

Students operate the cider press!

We gathered two milk crates worth of apples from the trees along Main Street to press in our very own Sam Hallowell's antique cider press. A cider press is the perfect example of how a complex system can be made by combining a few simple mechanical parts. The apples were fed one-by-one into the fruit grinder, an example of a wheel and axle, until the barrel below was full. The pomace (the ground apples) were then moved to the actual press portion of the apparatus, which is functionally just a giant screw that places pressure on the apples themselves, where the Ocean Passages students cranked with gusto. As pressure was applied via the screw mechanism, the inclined plane of the bottom of the press allowed the freshly squeezed juice to flow through a filter and into our pitchers. 

Not only was this a lesson in simple machinery, this was the first time most of the students had made their own apple cider and the fruits of their labors were enjoyed by the whole Hurricane community. 

  Taking a breather during an island perimeter hike to commune with the granite and take in the views.

Taking a breather during an island perimeter hike to commune with the granite and take in the views.

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Hurricane Island and Hurricane Harvey--High School Marine Biology learns about Climate Change

Guest blog post by Science Educator Dana Colihan

This year High School Marine Biology set out to do what no program has ever done before--assess the effect of sea level rise on Hurricane Island.

 HSMB students taking a break from their work at Sandy Beach

HSMB students taking a break from their work at Sandy Beach

What does Climate Change have to do with Marine Biology? Well, a good heckuva lot. With increasing global temperatures, seas are warming and rising at an exponential rate. NOAA explains the two major causes of sea level rise are the melting of land glaciers and thermal expansion of the oceans. Because water has a higher heat capacity than air, the oceans are absorbing 80 - 90 % of heat from global warming. Warming waters are particularly concerning for Maine’s lobstering industry, potentially driving lobsters further north in search of colder temperatures. Increasing CO2 is also causing ocean acidification. This is concerning for crustaceans, which will have less calcium carbonate available for them to build their shells. While some species might not feel the effects of this for years to come, others have already experienced ocean acidification. The first physical evidence of this was reported in 2012 in the Antarctic with the observation of sea butterflies shells’ dissolving.

High School Marine Biology began their week on Hurricane Island learning about these concepts surrounding the effects of climate change on our oceans. With this knowledge under our belt, we sought to address how climate change could affect Hurricane Island. Using stadia rods, we went to three different sites around the island to map the distance of shoreline lost with two meters of sea level rise. Looking at Valley Cove, two meters of sea level rise would be enough to submerge the perimeter trail. High School Marine Biology calculated that Hurricane Island wouldn’t experience this for another 909 years using the current average rate of sea-level rise in Maine at 2.2 mm/yr. However, using the EPA’s high estimate of future predicted sea level rise, 29 mm/year, the Valley Cove perimeter trail would be submerged in just 69 years.

 HSMB students ready to collect data with stadia rods and quadrats

HSMB students ready to collect data with stadia rods and quadrats

It is important to put this in perspective. While Hurricane Island might not experience extreme shoreline lost anywhere from 69 to 909 years, different communities around the United States are already experiencing the effects of climate change today. High School Marine Biology looked at case studies of a Inupiaq village in Alaska, the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw people on Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, the Wabanaki Confederacy in Maine, as well as communities in Miami, Florida. Many indigenous communities have already been forced to leave their homes and relocate because of sea level rise, and they stand to experience a disproportionate burden of the effects of climate change. In this, High School Marine Biology learned about the injustices of climate change and about concepts of climate justice, the equitable distribution of the burdens of global warming and appropriate involvement of people being affected by climate change in the decision making process.

Focusing on climate change has felt particularly pertinent since the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and Irma. Michael E Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University, argues in his article in the Guardian, that while climate change did not “cause” Hurricane Harvey, climate change exacerbated the damage of the storm.

 Students in action in the field!

Students in action in the field!

Climate justice issues are present here too. Dr. Robert Bullard, known as the father of environmental justice, explains in an interview on Democracy Now! that communities of color in Houston have been unequally affected by Hurricane Harvey and climate change. He explains, “…the best predictor of health and well-being in our society, and including Houston, is ZIP Code… Houston’s people of color communities historically have borne the burden for environmental pollution, and also the impact of flooding…this flood in Houston is exacerbating existing disparities…” Dr. Bullard continues, arguing that beyond the flooding, that cleanup and recovery efforts must intentionally include environmental justice, or they will reestablish injustices.

It is imperative to teach students to think about the social impacts of scientific issues because are there are intensely intertwined. Beyond the environmental impacts themselves, who is being affected? Is everyone being affected equally? Is everyone’s voice being heard? While the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and Irma occurred after High School Marine Biology left the Hurricane Island, I am grateful to know that there are 12 incredibly thoughtful, kind, fun, energetic students out there critically thinking about the impacts of global warming on our oceans as well as the injustices of climate change.

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Sea, Sail, Science, Strong

Hurricane Island proudly closed out the summer with a new two week program called Women of the Sea. This program, for high school girls from Maine, was created in collaboration with the Boothbay Sea and Science Center  to provide an opportunity for young women to experience and understand the sea from both sailing and island-based perspectives. In order to study marine science and oceanography throughout the program, the the two weeks had 4 phases: 5 days of sailing and data collection on Vela; 2 days of leadership and teamwork on Hurricane; 5 days of independent research projects on Hurricane; and a day in Boothbay, preparing for community presentations at Bigelow Labs.

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Island research...sorting baby scallops from our spat bags!

I enjoyed working with the girls during their time on Hurricane. They were observant and inquisitive as we traversed the island’s rocky intertidal zone. Their explorations led to research projects investigating the relationship between coralline algae cover and limpet population, the correlation between sea urchin size and number of decorations, the effect of tunicate presence on surrounding organisms, in addition to several questions about green crabs: how often do crabs of different sizes and sexes interact? How does intertidal substrate affect the size or sex of crabs found?  

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Soaring through the raft challenge.

When I reflect on the nine participants in the program, one of the first words that comes to mind is STRONG. These young women were open-minded about their varied experiences, and they embraced new people throughout the course of the two weeks. They were resilient in their response to challenges, and they were supportive of each other. They built up each other’s self-esteem, reminding each other of their own strengths. I feel lucky to have worked with each of the individuals in the cohort this summer, and I hope we can offer this program in years to come.

Thank you to each of our inaugural women of the sea, and good luck this school year!

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Women of the Sea on Vela in Hurricane Sound.

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Integrating standards with authentic learning

The hallmark of everything we do on Hurricane Island comes down to education and research that are place-based and meaningful to our students and our communities regardless of the subjects we explore.  We work with schools to customize programming tailored to their student's needs, which frequently center around standards or other learning expectations that the students must meet during the course of that semester or school year.  My experience working with these teachers, and my own experience teaching in public school, is that standards that are more prescriptive become very straightforward in regards to both the learning target and how students are expected to demonstrate that learning. This can be very helpful for new teachers and often a relief for more experienced teachers who have weathered many changes in education. The sentiment of those teacher becomes, "if they are going to change it on us again, at least they are telling us exactly what they want". On the other hand, when standards become too narrow and prescriptive it can make it harder to fit more place-based, authentic science opportunities into traditional school systems.

We are fully in the midst of one of these sweeping shifts in education as most states have adopted the Common Core State Standards for both their English language arts and math standards and many have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards as well.  I recently was part of a small group who submitted comments to the Maine Department of Education about their proposed revision of the Maine Learning Results for Science and Technology. These comments, in collaboration with Bill Zoellick (Schoodic Insitutute) and Yvonne Thomas (Island Institute), are posted on Bill's blog, Thinking About Schools. We are looking forward to continuing to think about the ways we can move forward with the positive aspects of standards based education while avoiding some of the pitfalls that happen when things get too prescriptive.

https://thinkingaboutschools.wordpress.com/2017/09/11/ngss-its-not-so-simple/

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Expanding Horizons in Advanced Marine Biology

Blog post written in collaboration with Teaching Assistant Sammi Clark.

This summer, Hurricane welcomed the high school students of our Advanced Marine Biology program. These students spent two weeks on Hurricane, designing their own research projects and exploring the island. We began by reviewing the scientific process, and jumped right into an initial step: observation. Whether we were noticing sea stars and sea urchins in the intertidal, hauling lobsters from the island traps, scallops from spat bags off the dock, or kelp from the aquaculture site, students naturally began to move on to the next phase of the scientific process: asking questions. Where does rockweed grow best? Do urchin tube feet strengthen with age? What sorts of habitats do tunicates prefer? Where will we find the highest concentration of green crabs or periwinkles? These questions led to hypotheses and data collection throughout Hurricane’s intertidal zones.

Before dinner one evening, our staff challenged students to sit with scientists visiting the island. One student embraced this by exclaiming, “Expand your horizons!” For the remainder of the program, this mantra was incorporated into social interactions as well as data collection and team challenge activities. The mantra encouraged students to push past their comfort zones and grow. Luna, a typically quiet student, expanded her horizons by socializing so much with students, staff, and visitors, that she lost her voice!  The mantra really came in handy during rock climbing; Kayla inspired everyone with her relentless determination as she spent thirty minutes attempting a tough section of the rock.

Students expanded their horizons in their data collection as well. They focused on details in the intertidal zone to put their hypotheses to the test. Anna, who was studying rockweed, found a 17 year old specimen - older than she was!

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Happy to see so much rockweed!

On the last full day of the program, the island community gathered for the Advanced Marine Biology project presentations. The captivating presentations displayed not only the students’ understanding of the scientific process, but also their creativity. Rowan, who studied how urchins decorate themselves with rocks and seaweed, made a poster complete with urchin-shaped pie charts and the title “Extreme Makeover Urchin Addition.” Lauren, who studied periwinkles and their preferred cardinal direction, collected a bucketful of periwinkles as an additional visual aid, and was lighthearted and flexible when they started to escape during her presentation!

Seeing students excel outside of their comfort zones was rewarding to us as educators. Each evening, our group gathered on the pier to review the highlights of the day.  Sitting among the afterglow of sunlight on the expansive horizon, we reflected on our students’ continuous efforts to expand their own horizons for the duration of this two week program.

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Rocking it!

Guest blog post by Science Educator Isabelle Holt

  Hurricane resident, daughter of chef Julie, and avid young scientist Clementine passes down her knowledge about crabs.

Hurricane resident, daughter of chef Julie, and avid young scientist Clementine passes down her knowledge about crabs.

Last week we had the immense pleasure of having the Camden-Rockport multiage class out on Hurricane where they learned about the rocky shores of the coast of Maine. 23 first and second graders piled on to the Equinox in our newly acquired bright-orange child-size life jackets. Excitement was high as we moved off the coast and even higher when we arrived on Hurricane and began to explore all that the island has to offer.

  Algae says HOLDFAST!! Students clutch their feet to mimic the root-like structure that allows kelp to stay anchored in the buffeting waves.

Algae says HOLDFAST!! Students clutch their feet to mimic the root-like structure that allows kelp to stay anchored in the buffeting waves.

The curiosity, optimism, and enthusiasm of these young scientists was the perfect way to wrap up the end of our long summer season and dive into fall programming. Not only was it our official first day of fall on Hurricane it was also Camden-Rockport’s first day of school! Without wasting time we got right down into the intertidal to find some of the marine organisms that call Maine’s rocky coasts their home. Streaks and shouts of excitement that most likely could be heard all the way on Vinalhaven were uttered as students learned how to identify and sex crabs, how to tell the age of a piece of rock weed, and how to hum so periwinkles would put out their antennae and start moving across their hands.

  Students commune with the granite that makes up the vast majority of the island.

Students commune with the granite that makes up the vast majority of the island.

After lunch students were given the opportunity to reflect on how the different organisms they had just discovered were specifically adapted to the environment in which they live. After which we played some vigorous rounds of “Algae Says,” where students act out the different primary parts of a piece of algae, and “Sharks and Minnows,” a game designed to help children think about predator-prey relationships. By connecting these games to what the students had just seen in the field, we were able to make theoretical ecology just a little bit more concrete for these young scientists.

  Students make the climb up some boulders on the way to Gibbons Point.

Students make the climb up some boulders on the way to Gibbons Point.

We wrapped up our day on Hurricane with a hike to Gibbons Point where we got to explore a different kind of rocky shore, the whaleback geologic formations, giant gently curved masses of granite that look like the back of a behemoth rising from the depths. After what was a long hike for small feet, we returned to the pier just in time to have a snack and catch the boat back to the mainland. Camden-Rockport Multiage came to Hurricane to learn about the rocky coast and in the process these lovely students thoroughly rocked it!

  Students explore the 'whalebacks' at Gibbons. 

Students explore the 'whalebacks' at Gibbons. 

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Forage ahead

Guest blog post by Science Educator Isabelle Holt

(MSIE) this year focused on the uses, contents, and creation of field guides. This allowed students to engage and create real materials that real scientists use. By the end of the week students had explored what makes and plant a plant and created separate field guides for both the many algae as well as lichen species that can be found here on Hurricane complete with title pages, dedications, works cited and indexes.

In order to get comfortable with using field guides before we attempted making our own we spent time in the intertidal zone exploring and identifying organisms as well as dip netting in the ice pond and identifying the freshwater macroinvertebrates that live there.

  The fruits of our foraging before being prepared for dinner.

The fruits of our foraging before being prepared for dinner.

Our field guide was a crowd favorite, however, was the afternoon we spent using foraging for wild edibles and cooking dinner with what we found. Students were divided into teams and each team was given a copy of our Hurricane specific foraging field guide and sent on an adventure to find and sustainably harvest as many wild eatables as they could. The MSIE students were here at the height of the Hurricane wild raspberry, Rubus occidentalis, season and enough berries were collected to garnish the pudding that the MSIE students made for dessert using Irish Sea Moss, Chondrus crispus, a kind of alga, foraged from the intertidal zone. 

The students also prepared Ulva lactuca, Sea Lettuce, chips by searing this alga species in the oven at a high temperature with olive oil, salt, and pepper. For a beverage we had a Rosa rugosa, beach rose, rose hip and Achillea millefolium, yarrow tea. In order to get even more greens into our meal students, used beach pea, Lathyrus japonicus, leaves and pods to create a wild and Hurricane grown green salad, which they garnished with the petals of the same Rosa rugosa bush, from which the rose hips were collected.

  Our Middle School Island Ecology students preparing to pour their pudding thickened with the carrageenan boiled out of the Irish Sea Moss they had foraged into ramekins before letting it sit and set before consumption. 

Our Middle School Island Ecology students preparing to pour their pudding thickened with the carrageenan boiled out of the Irish Sea Moss they had foraged into ramekins before letting it sit and set before consumption. 

After creating their beautiful foraged meal students lead what is an honored tradition on Hurricane Island: the dinner circle. Traditionally at dinner circle whomever cooked the meal shares with the community what we will be eating for dinner and tonight it was MSIE’s turn. With their field guides in hand and their newfound ability to find and identify the eatable items in their environment, students presented each item that they had found and prepared with its common and Latin names, where on the island it could be found, what their identifying features are and how they had been prepared.

When it came time for the students to construct their own field guides to the lichens and algae found on Hurricane they produced their product with confidence, precision, care, and professionalism bolstered by their skills learned by foraging ahead for their dinner.

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Vermiculture Sculpture

Guest blog post by Science Educator by Isabelle Holt

  Team tower works on building their interchangeable bins with the precision necessary to be able to have one bin fit into another.

Team tower works on building their interchangeable bins with the precision necessary to be able to have one bin fit into another.

What a whirlwind of a week our High School Sustainability Leadership students had while they were here on Hurricane! The week kicked off with a discussion and solutions brainstorm for the worldwide problem of marine debris with our fabulous educational partners, The Rozalia Project.  After getting our creative juices flowing we jumped right in to design and build solutions to real sustainability problems today. Over the course of the week the students inoculated logs with shiitake mushrooms and designed and built their own vertical pallet gardens and vermicompost bins.

  Team big box uses a hand plane to plane their box to perfection

Team big box uses a hand plane to plane their box to perfection

  Team big box presenting their finished product to the island community

Team big box presenting their finished product to the island community

Our students for High School Sustainability Leadership were a dynamic and engaging team comprised of students from all over New England as well as six students who came to us from Alpha Educator, an international education center for students from China. Having this dynamic mix allowed students to compare how sustainability issues are being addressed in their home countries and states and learn from one another.

As we try to move more in the direction of food independence on Hurricane, being able to sustainably garden has become a more pressing concern. Because there is so little soil on Hurricane and that which does exist is relatively nutrient poor, being able to rapidly produce high-quality organic input for our gardens is key. Hence, the students learned about vermicompost and made some of their own. Vermicompost is the product of using worms to process food waste. The worms, in our case Red Wigglers, eat the organic waste and then excrete nutrient rich castings, which can be used as agricultural inputs, or fertilizers. While we try to minimize food waste as much as possible on the island, some is always inevitable and composting is a great use for food scraps.

  Team tower presenting their finished bin and demonstrating a bin exchange while showing audience members how the mesh bottoms of the bins work to filter out worm juices

Team tower presenting their finished bin and demonstrating a bin exchange while showing audience members how the mesh bottoms of the bins work to filter out worm juices

After learning about the importance of composting, the benefits of vermicompost, and what worms need to thrive, the students split into three teams to design beautiful, as well as functional, worm bins. The three designs the students ended up building could be loosely classified as a big box design, a tower design, and a bench with a removable top in which the worms would live and work. The students did the calculations of for how much lumber they would need and what other materials their bins would require and once all of the necessary materials had been acquired it was time to build.

  Team big box builds their bin in the Hurricane Island shop

Team big box builds their bin in the Hurricane Island shop

The “big box” team drilled, hammered, sanded and planed their box that was large enough to fit a human inside into existence. The bottom of this box has gentle gradient, which allows for the worm “juice,” the liquid runoff from the composting products, to run towards and collect at one end of the bin where there is a hole from which this compost tea can be collected and returned to the gardens of Hurricane. This insures that the worms don’t drown in too much liquid. As the worms work through their initial starting materials, team big box envisioned a method of casting harvesting in which the already composted material would be pushed to one end of the box and new food scraps would be added to the other end. The hungry worms will move towards the new food allowing the students to take the compost without fear of loosing their precious worker worms.

  Students sift soil to use as starting material for their worm bins

Students sift soil to use as starting material for their worm bins

  Team worm bench sits on their finished product after a long days work building

Team worm bench sits on their finished product after a long days work building

Team tower had an elegant design, which consisted of two identical boxes that fit into one another each with a mesh bottom that was wide enough to allow moisture to run from one box to another and then finally into the base, but not so large that the worms would be able to pass from layer to layer. As compost juice flows into the base of the structure one is able to harvest it through an opening in the side. Because both of the bins are interchangeable new food scraps could be added to the uppermost bin while worms continued to compost those bellow. When it comes time to harvest these casting the bins can be swapped allowing the bin that had had the newer food scraps to be moved to the bottom while the bin with the fully developed castings is dumped out on to a tarp. Because worms are photosensitive, when exposed to sunlight when dumped out on the tarp they move downward within the soil allowing the top layers to be taken and used without taking the worms with you.

Team bench scouted locations all over central campus keeping in mind sun exposure, accessibility to the galley, and where a bench was most needed and would be most frequently used by both island visitors and staff alike. After careful deliberation a site was chosen on the back deck on the wall of the infirmary because of its northwestern exposure and the fact that the raised up portion of the back deck would allow the bench to hang off the edge slightly and compost tea be collected from the bottom as needed. The bench is one open cavity inside, however, has a raised mesh bottom above the wooden bottom of the bench so that juices can flow through. 

Our High School Sustainability Leadership students left Hurricane confident in their abilities to identify the problems our world faces today and come up with creative sustainable solutions that will make the world a better place. The ability to see their ideas become a reality made what can often be an overwhelming task, living lightly on the earth, seem that much more achievable for the students of High School Sustainability Leadership 2017.

  One of the team big box students pretends to be a human sized worm inside of her finished bin

One of the team big box students pretends to be a human sized worm inside of her finished bin

  Science Educator, Isabelle, and Teaching Assistant, Lilla, sitting on the finished worm composting bench on the back deck by the galley.

Science Educator, Isabelle, and Teaching Assistant, Lilla, sitting on the finished worm composting bench on the back deck by the galley.

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