Island Updates

living on the edge

Living on the Edge Jr 2015

Post by Olivia and Jacque, Program Leads

Learning about bees with Sam, click to see the full photo gallery from the program.

Learning about bees with Sam, click to see the full photo gallery from the program.

Last Monday, our final program of the summer began. Eight middle school students stepped off the boat beaming with excitement to spend a week on Hurricane Island. The first day was spent exploring the island on a history hike and sustainable systems tour, while eating plenty of raspberries along the way. The students even practiced using a model derrick, a human-powered crane used to move blocks of granite during the quarry era. The rest of the day was spent learning about what it means to be a naturalist and learning how to use tools such as the microscope, hand lens, and binoculars.

Tuesday started off in the lab, where we discussed the basic anatomy of insects and which kinds of insects are pollinators. This led into the next portion of the morning: a field trip to the South End to see Sam’s honey bees! Sam explained to us the three types of honeybees, how the hive is built, and the steps worker bees take to produce honey. We even tried some fresh honey straight from one of the combs! After seeing the bees up close, we raced back to the lab to grab nets and jars to collect our own bugs. The students headed up to the church and shower house, where they found butterflies and a few large spiders as well as plenty of grasshoppers to chase.  Students then drew insects from our own bug collection, and used watercolor to bring the illustrations to life.  After a morning on land, we loaded up on the sailboat in the afternoon and hit the water.  While there wasn’t too much wind, there was plenty of sunshine and laughter aboard the boat. While sailing, we practiced our knots and caught a glimpse of the seals using our binoculars. The group sailed over to neighboring Greens Island to explore turtle rock and some of the beaches. After dinner that night, we took off for Gibbon’s Point to have our evening meeting while the sun set in the distance.

Wednesday morning was devoted to botany and searching the island for edible plants. Before we set out to hike the perimeter, we went over basic plant parts and ways to group plants to make them easier to identify. This prepped us to look for all the plants we could nibble on as we walked. The students learned to identify many types of trees, shrubs, flowers and ferns, and were brave enough to try any and all of the edibles that were presented to them.  Afterwards, we foraged for beach rose, red clover, and raspberries around the island. We then headed to the kitchen, where we whipped up a simple syrup and a raspberry chocolate crumble bars for a lunch time dessert. During free time, we all jumped off the pier and then went fishing off the pier. The afternoon was spent rock climbing in the quarry. Students had a blast challenging themselves to climb different routes on the main face. That night, we fished for squid off the dock (perhaps a Hurricane first!). Although we were not successful catching squid, we played with the bioluminescent plankton in the water. Certain types of plankton utilize chemicals to produce light as a defense mechanism at night. Some plankton even squirt globs of bioluminescent goo to confuse their predators. By moving the water around, you get front row seats to a magical display of lights!

Thursday began with an intertidal exploration at Two Bush Island. Back at the lab, we took a closer look at our intertidal finds, which included a tiny lobster and a very cute lumpfish. We also used delicate species of algae to make colorful seaweed art that students took home with them. Chloe joined us in the afternoon to teach us all about bird adaptations and the kinds of birds we have here on the island. The students learned how different shape and size adaptations make some birds great at swimming while others eat insects on trees! We quietly walked along the shoreline to spot a few sea birds, while also practicing our bird calls. Chloe then challenged us to build a nest that could withstand wind, water and hurricane conditions. Our last night was spent around a warm campfire, where we enjoyed s’mores and sang campfire songs.

The morning of our final day was spent painting birdhouses that were built by previous HICSL students. The students worked in teams to decorate each birdhouse, which will soon be installed around the island. Following our art activity in the morning, the students took off with Olivia and Jacque to tackle a scavenger hunt. We raced around the island in search of hidden clues that brought us to our final riddle: Boomer, our island dog! Saying goodbye to this group was tough, as their enthusiasm for exploring and love for learning was contagious. This group had us laughing, dancing, and singing all week. We hope everyone has a wonderful final stretch of summer and start to the school year!

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Living on the Edge 2015

Post by Olivia Lukacic and Chloe Tremper, Program Leads

We were living on the edge this week - exploring all that Hurricane Island has to offer with five awesome middle school students! For the week of August 9-15, we honed our naturalist skills and furthered our understanding of marine and terrestrial ecosystems through lots of art and exploration. The students arrived on a beautiful, sunny Hurricane day and were only on island for an hour or so before our first brave pier jumper took the plunge into the icy Atlantic! The rest of the day was filled with the always fun history hike with a sustainability twist as well as team building games.

Our first full day as a group started off with a bang! Chloe started the day off teaching about bird adaptations and introducing some of Hurricane’s most common bird species. We looked at what types of wings, beaks, and feet shapes would be best suitable for a variety of conditions, challenged each other to a nest building challenge to see whose nest could withstand the most weight, and played a hilarious game of "here I am, where are you." This game is all about trying to find your partner with a pre-determined call while you are both blindfolded and music is blasting all around. We realized how hard it could be for birds to communicate in their environment and how their songs may be adapted to their environment, while also entertaining some of the HIF staff and visitors. In the afternoon, we went with Jacque into the intertidal to learn about how animals and plants adapt in a constantly changing marine environment. We found amazing things at Two Bush Island including brittle stars, sea stars, hermit crabs, three varieties of other crabs, sea urchins, seas sponge, tunicates, and four lumpfish! We brought our species back to the lab to use our observation skills to draw the creatures and look at them under the microscope.

Tuesday was a botany bonanza! We started off with an island perimeter hike to learn how to identify plants in the field and we also collected plants that caught our eye. Back in the lab, we learned how to use field guides - this involved racing to identify plants using the dichotomous key in Newcomb's Wildflower Guide and a tree-detective game that challenged students to describe plants with proper botany vocabulary and match up mystery species to tress listed in The Forest Trees of Maine. The afternoon was our first day of rock climbing! The students learned how to belay and get used to climbing before moving to the big wall. Once at the big wall, the students were climbing machines – completing some of the most challenging climbs with ease!  After climbing, we stayed at the rock face for a little bit and collected lichens and mosses to take back to the lab and learn about.

Students build birdhouses. Click through for more photos from the program.

Students build birdhouses. Click through for more photos from the program.

Due to some foggy, wet, and windless weather our planned sailing day on Wednesday turned into an awesome art and building day! The students started off the day building and painting their own bird boxes. These weren’t your run of the mill bird boxes, however - these have a plexiglass back that allow the students to observe the nest building process. Each student constructed, painted, and took home their bird box.  Most of the plexiglass was painted over to give the birds’ privacy with viewing holes left unpainted.  The rest of the day was spent exploring the world of bugs and learning about the importance of pollinators.  We played a super fun pollinator game developed by Olivia and used watercolors to make observational drawings Hurricane’s bug collection.

The next day, after another morning of climbing, the students spend the afternoon with Josie Iselin.  Josie is the photographer, author, and designer of seven books all of which focus on the forms in nature we find at hand, especially those found at the beach. Some of her books include An Ocean Garden, Seashells, Heartstones, and Beach: A Book Of Treasure.  Upon her arrival, Josie gave a brief presentation to the students and our staff about herself and her work and then we headed into the intertidal with her to explore all of the different types of seaweed Hurricane’s coast has to offer.  We had a ton of fun holding different seaweeds up to the sun to admire their colorations and aging knotted rack by its bubbles!

The last full day of Living on the Edge consisted of a morning sail over to Crane Island where we picnicked and explored followed by an afternoon of individual project time! The students were given creative freedom to create a piece of art, or multiple pieces, that related to what they did and learned on Hurricane over the past week.  All the projects were AMAZING and very different from one another. Some students worked with washed up buoys from our buoy pile creating sculptures, painting them, and even decorating them with pressed flowers.  One student used leaf prints to create a backdrop for the Hurricane flag and another made a three-dimensional topographic map of Hurricane out of cardboard. 

Students finished up their projects on the final morning and then completed an island-wide scavenger hunt!  The scavenger hunt had the students running all over the island starting off near the galley, heading towards Gibbon’s Point on the north end, then back across the island to points like“the crack,” high cliffs, and the main quarry face.  The scavenger hunt ended with some HIF bumper stickers as the prize and a fun cook-out on the south end.  It was a great way to end a super fun week.  As always we hope the kids had just as much fun as we did and that we see them out on the island next year!

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