Island Updates


Pathways 101 Deer Isle-Stonington High School

We had a great time working with students from Deer Isle-Stonington High School’s Pathways 101 program: an introductory course that is focused on developing core skills so students understand the project-based learning principles that guide the Marine Studies Pathway and the Arts Pathway programs at the high school.

Students started the program with a discussion about how they operate in groups and the constructive and destructive behaviors that individuals can bring to the table to hold group work back or help group work move forward.

Students then took on two small design challenges where they competed to build the tallest tower using just 1 meter of tape, 10 pieces of spaghetti, and a marshmallow. They also worked as a group to design aluminum foil boats to hold the most rocks while still remaining buoyant in a tub of water. Both of these activities were an opportunity for students to learn how to work as a group towards a common goal, and figure out their individual strengths within the group.

Afterwards we shifted gears to talk about the issue of marine debris in our oceans. We discussed the sources of marine debris, how long it takes to degrade in the marine environment, and how marine debris can harm marine organisms through ingestion and entanglement.

The group then split into two teams, and we recorded data on marine debris we collected from along Hurricane’s shoreline. Between the two groups we collected over 400 pieces of trash ranging from pieces of fishing debris (buoys, line, and bait strapping ties) to household waste like plastic bottles and food wrappers. One group even returned with a full tire!

The next challenge was for the groups to design a sculpture using the marine debris they collected to communicate a message about some aspect of why marine debris is a problem. Students got inspired by looking at examples of how other artists have tackled the problem including Chris Jordan and Angela Pozzi.

After planning their art projects to include the materials they would use, the message they were trying to communicate, and the design they were planning to implement, students spent the whole morning on the second day working as a group to develop their marine debris sculptures.

One group chose to make a lobster that was choked up with fishing debris, showing that trash generated by the lobster industry can impact the health of the resource it is trying to harvest. The other group built a series of marine organisms entangled in marine debris including some fish made out of plastic bottles with a comb for a dorsal fin, and a seagull made out of bottles and a Styrofoam cup.

We enjoyed working with students to complete their projects and were impressed by how quickly they learned to work together as a team. This program is part of their formative assessment on group work, and we look forward to seeing the product from their summative assessment! We also appreciate their enthusiasm and dedication to help us keep Hurricane’s coastline clean!

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Eastern Maine Skippers at the Fishermen's Forum

Every year March rolls around and fishermen, marine scientists, and industry members from along the coast of Maine gather in Rockland at the annual Fishermen's Forum. This is the 40th year this event has been running, and it is a great opportunity for everyone to connect about the major challenges and innovative ideas to address changes in Maine's fisheries.

After the fall kickoff event on Hurricane Island, the Eastern Maine Skippers Program students have been busy developing green crab project plans to implement this spring. The Fishermen's Forum was a great opportunity for all of the school groups to gather and share their project updates to the broader community. Student's from all of the schools (North Haven, Vinalhaven, Deer Isle Stonington, George Stevens Academy, Narraguagus, and Jonesport-Beals) presented on their project ideas, and the whole group will be giving a final presentation about their approach to a green crab solution on May 28th at the Grand Auditorium in Ellsworth. Below is a summary of the range of project ideas that students presented on during their slot at the forum:

North Haven students have proposed two main projects around creating fertilizer from green crabs: one group is going to determine the best ratio of green crab meal to soil for optimal growing, and the other group is going to be looking at the opportunity of green crabs as being a natural nematode suppressant and will be comparing the quantity and quality of the produce grown from corn, beans, and tomatoes that are grown with green crab added to the soil vs. their control.

Vinalhaven students have focused their efforts on testing the efficiency of traps and bait in capturing green crabs, and also on developing creative cooking ideas to make green crabs a new tasty menu item. One of the student groups is going to trial a trap used by Unity College students at a variety of depths and trying different types of bait to determine the most efficient way to harvest green crabs. Another group is attempting a new cooking method which involves a two-part process of softening the crab shell first in a vinegar brine, flavoring with teriyaki, and then smoking the crabs whole. Part of the cooking challenge will be for students to determine if there is a preferable size for the crabs which results in a soft shell and positive taste results. 

Deer Isle-Stonington High School students are banding together to assess the real impacts of green crabs by asking "How do green crabs affect the lobster industry in the waters around Deer Isle?" Students will be documenting where and in what densities they are finding green crabs, determining if green crabs eat lobsters and between what size range, if green crabs and lobsters are competing for the same food, and whether the local lobster settlement is lower because of green crabs. Students plan to collect their data using permitted ventless traps, and looking at the population ratio of green crabs to juvenile lobsters within their survey area.

George Stevens Academy students are planning to see if crushed green crab powder can be added to grass fertilizer and marketed to local golf courses like the Blue Hill Country Club. They will be testing nutrient levels in the soil with the addition of green crabs, and, if their project succeeds, look into larger distribution opportunities with their product. First, they are in the market for a dehydrator, and are waiting for the snow to melt so they can set their traps!

Narraguagus High School is planning to test three different green crab traps to determine the most cost effective and efficient design-- one used by the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) in a 1950s green crab survey, one triangular trap design, and one design they are still working on. With the help of donated supplies from Brooks Trap Mill they are going to be fishing these traps and comparing which fishes best. These students have also been surveying local community members, including wormers, clamdiggers, and gathering testimonials about the scope of the green crab problem, and its potential long-term impacts on important coastal industries.

Jonesport-Beals High School students have also been exploring compost and food opportunities for green crabs. A few highlight ideas include developing green crab rangoon, green crab cakes, green crab sushi, and a specialty green crab spice which could flavor seafood and soups--the spice would be produced by cooking, dehydrating, and grinding up green crabs into a powder! 

We were impressed with the quality of the presentations from students-- their project ideas have matured so much from the fall, and students delivered a polished presentation to a packed room! We wish the Skippers the best of luck as they launch into their projects, and hope that there will be a taste-testing opportunity during the May event to sample green crab recipes!

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Pathways 101

29 students from Deer Isle-Stonington High School's pathways 101 program came out to Hurricane September 29-30, 2014, for an art-science integrated program focusing on collaboration and group work. Students first spent some time learning about the impact of trash in the marine environment--how marine debris can harm animals through entanglement and ingestion, and how long different types of marine debris can persist in the environment. We then went out to clean up Hurricane's coastline, quantifying what we found by using a cleanup form created by the Rozalia Project. We have been doing beach cleanups regularly this season, but students still found 627 pieces of trash in just over an hour!

After collecting and sorting the trash, we split students into three teams to brainstorm how they were going to visually communicate the problem of marine debris. Inspired by artists like Chris Jordan, Kim Preston, and Angela Haseltine Pozzi, students spent time in their groups determining the materials they wanted to use, the location for their art piece, and the premise behind what they were making. We worked with them to think critically about how their art could be designed to intentionally make a statement about marine debris, and their final projects reflected the time they had taken to be creative and have a clear message.

The first team created a lobster made out of lobster buoys and spindles, and set it crawling in the intertidal, which they said made sense because most of the trash we find on Hurricane's shores is related to the lobster industry. Underneath the buoys that made up the lobster's tail, students wrote out facts about the number of traps Stonington fishermen lose every year and the statistics about lobster debris that has been found on Hurricane Island.

A student reads one of the marine debris facts written under the buoy lobster tail

The second team created a piece that featured a green crab made out of an old boogie board found during their beach cleanup. Because students in this program had also participated in our Eastern Maine Skippers kickoff program, green crabs, an invasive species to Maine, were on their mind. These students recognized that marine debris could also be considered an invader to Maine's coastline--despite our best efforts bringing students out to clean up Hurricane's shores this summer, these students found only 10 fewer pieces of trash than our first group, the Logan School, who came out in May--and trash is ubiquitous in Maine's intertidal, like green crabs.

The third group opted for a more abstract sculpture of the marine debris they collected, and they built it near an old navigation tower at the South end of the island. They wanted to show that marine debris, like this man-made tower, will persist in the environment for hundreds of years. The whole team sat, connected to their work as they presented, to symbolize that they all have contributed to the problem.

We appreciate all of the students help in keeping Hurricane's coastlines clean, and for their creative energy around these trash-art installations!

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Eastern Maine Skippers kickoff green crab project

Students gather on the high cliffs

Students gather on the high cliffs

On September 28th and 29th, forty-one students from six Maine coastal and island high schools (Deer Isle-Stonington, George Stevens Academy, Vinalhaven, North Haven, Narraguagus, and Mount Desert Island) gathered on Hurricane Island in Penobscot Bay to kickoff the second year of the Eastern Maine Skippers Program (EMSP) and their collaborative, year-long project addressing the question, “How can the impact of the green crab population be controlled in a way that conserves the marine ecosystem and encourages new industry?” The day and a half program was organized and hosted by Hurricane Island with additional staff support from Penobscot East Resource Center (PERC) and the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR). The event introduced students to the green crab issue in Maine and was jam-packed with hands-on activities from learning about field sampling techniques to developing a marketable product made from green crabs to discussing elements underlying effective group work and communication. 

Skippers collecting data in the field.

Skippers collecting data in the field.

This event provided students with an opportunity to connect in-person, fostering a generation of fishermen who know how to collaborate and communicate with each other despite being from different homeports. Before beginning fieldwork, students worked with Alice, HIF Science Educator, Noah Oppenheim, a graduate student at the University of Maine, School of Marine Sciences, Carla Guenther, Senior Scientist at PERC and Les White from the Maine DMR to identify different sampling techniques that could be used in assessing green crab abundance in the intertidal zone. After much deliberation and discussion, each group of students generated a scientific question about green crabs and identified an appropriate sampling method to test their question during low tide on Monday morning. After collecting data in the intertidal zone, students reflected on the process and discussed the pros and cons of their approach, analyzed data collected, and presented their findings to the larger group.

"I liked that we could go in the field and gather data for a project we designed instead of using somebody else's data from a textbook.  Doing hands-on learning makes you want to do the work more," said Elliott Nevells, a 9th grade student at Deer Isle-Stonington High School and EMSP participant.

Cooking with green crabs

Cooking with green crabs

On Sunday afternoon, students worked with peers from other schools to create an edible dish from green crabs. This activity provided students the opportunity to explore the potential for developing marketable products made from green crabs. Prior to the taste-testing contest, each group delivered a pitch describing their product, how it was made, who they were marketing it to, and the asking price. A panel of judges, made up of teachers, voted on their favorite dish.  The Hurricane Island Chowder dish won “Best Taste”, while the Green Crab Mac & Cheese dish won “Best Pitch,” and the Fried Green Crab & Dip was awarded “Most Creative Dish.”

"Events like this that bring students and future fishermen together from six coastal high schools are a great way to leverage the traditional knowledge and expertise that exists in our fishing communities in a way that will help our students learn the skills needed for any option they choose after high school- both college and career,” said Todd West, the Deer Isle-Stonington High School Principal. West has been leading the formation of the Eastern Maine Skippers Program, working with teachers and community partners to create the year-long curriculum for this network of schools and students.

Throughout the remainder of the school year, students will continue their investigation of green crabs in their own schools.  The green crab project will provide students the opportunity to learn and practice important skills such as active citizenship, public speaking, interpreting and using data, and applied science and engineering that will prepare them for modern fishing careers as well as post-secondary education. The project has further application beyond their high school education, however, as students are conducting real-world research that researchers and regulators can use as they seek to sustain fisheries as a viable component of our coastal economy, which is critical to Downeast communities.

We are grateful for the generous contribution from our bank, The First, for supporting Maine students and helping make this program possible.

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