Island Updates


Brookwood School 6th Grade

Sixth grade students from Brookwood School in Manchester, MA joined us on Hurricane for a fun-filled 24-hour program (September 17-18, 2015) that helped students kick off their school year as new members of the upper school. We enjoyed showing students some of our favorite parts of the Island and also took advantage of early fall by harvesting apples from Hurricanes trees to make cider.

Other highlights from the program involved a full-group exploration of the low tide area between Hurricane Island and Two Bush Island. Students left few places unexplored and found all sorts of exciting invertebrates including baby lobsters, sea urchins, tunicates, and we also found some lumpfish!

We spent the rest of the program with students in smaller groups rotating to different stations where they learned about maps, the forest ecosystem, Maine’s lobster fishery, and how Hurricane operates off the grid.

At the mapping station, students learned the parts of a map and how different maps communicate different messages. Making their own maps of their advisors classroom, students learned the importance of clear symbols, legends and scale bars in painting a picture of a foreign land. Students then collaborated and got creative as they worked to create a map of their Journey to Hurricane. This activity gave the students a chance to think about where their journey started, what were important landmarks and how best to communicate what this journey meant to them and they did it as a team!

Students also explored Hurricane's forest ecosystem starting with granite.  They learned about primary succession and how soil came to be on Hurricane.  Then we talked about how different types of plants would have arrived to Hurricane and how we can learn about a lot about a forest through tree rings.  After that, we discussed ways wildlife impact the forest and looked for wildlife tracks and scats. Finally, we created a Hurricane forest food web as a team and connected common species of Hurricane to each other based on habitat and diet requirements.  Each student was a different species and became directly or indirectly connected to one another through the web so that when one student moved, everyone moved.

During our lobster explorations, students were challenged to draw lobsters only from hearing their classmates describe them. We then talked about how important the lobster industry is to the State of Maine, making up 78% of Maine’s fisheries income last year and how different fisheries have been important to Maine historically. Students took a look at the collapse of the cod industry, and got a snapshot of how global ocean warming and acidification will impact the Gulf of Maine. Students also had a chance to go see our recreational lobster traps get hauled up and more about the mechanics of lobster fishing. There was also some time for students to jig for fish off the dock—where we caught and released a few pollock and mackerel.

At the sustainability stations, we learned about Hurricane’s off-the-grid campus and students also had a chance to really think about what sustainability means. In ecology, sustainability is the capacity to endure; it is how biological systems remain diverse and productive indefinitely. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations. Part of understanding sustainability involves looking at how previous communities on Hurricane functioned: students learned about the human history on the island, form the quarrying era, to Outward Bound and then to our current use of the island. We talked about how each community acquired essential needs (food, water, energy, and shelter) and how we can learn from the past about how we want to live and operate on Hurricane. We also discussed our water system and how we pump and distribute water and where the water ends up after it is goes down the drain, then we talked about food and the cycle of growing food to eating and composting. Some students helped plant beds of hearty spinach and kale in Hurricanes garden that we will enjoy as the season gets chillier out on the island. We finished by talking about solar electricity and the solar thermal system, and the difference between using generators run by fossil fuels vs. photovoltaic panels and the different between the inputs of materials for each.

We had a great time with Brookwood and we hope to see students and classes back out on Hurricane in the future!

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Strengthening Coastal Partnerships

It has been a busy time for collaborative meetings!  In the spirit of being super efficient, Alice and I managed to fit in three major meetings over the course of four epic days off the island last week.  The first two days were spent at the Island Institute in Rockland meeting first with Education Director Yvonne Thomas about our joint efforts to develop aquaculture curriculum and secondly with Yvonne and a host of other movers and shakers with the Eastern Maine Skippers Program.  Hurricane recently received a grant from EPSCoR’s Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture Network (SEANET) program to develop three aquaculture sites on the island: first for sugar kelp and later for oysters and scallops.  More specifically, we have money for students to set up these sites.  The goal of the program is to work with local schools and other local partners, such as the Island Institute and Herring Gut Learning Center, to bring aquaculture education and real life management of aquaculture sites into the hands of middle and high school students.  We are ramping up to develop and pilot our curriculum this upcoming school year with a plan to get students to put their own sugar kelp aquaculture site in the water in the spring.  These will be sites that students can monitor and modify for years to come, enabling students to not only cultivate these areas, but also collect data that can be widely distributed to any students, fishermen, or researchers who have an interest.

Students during the 2014  Eastern Maine Skippers kickoff event spent time in Hurricane's intertidal doing green crab research.

After some great conversations with Yvonne, we launched into a full day meeting at the Institute with a variety of educators and other stakeholders associated with the Eastern Maine Skippers Program (EMSP). This program an amazing effort to bring project based learning into local high schools to help strengthen student engagement, specifically around topics and training critical to Maine’s coastal economy. Penobscot East Resource Center (PERC) based out of Stonington is spearheading the effort and Deer Isle-Stonington High School (DISHS) is one of the high schools pioneering the curriculum with a full in-school program.  Many other high schools up and down the coast of Maine in fishing Zone C (North Haven to Eastport) participate as part of an extended regional program and adapt the curriculum as it fits within their own school structure. Some schools implement the program as an after-school component, some as a full class, and some integrate material into existing classes, but all students associated with EMSP get an opportunity to learn broader skills and knowledge associated with the fishing industry. The program has a three pronged approach, giving students the skills they need to operate on the water, at the table with other stakeholders, and in the office as they manage their own assets. This comprehensive view of what it takes to be a successful fisherman or to understand the complexities of the fishing industry in general is one of the greatest assets of the program and what makes it so appealing to students as well as community partners looking to develop and support coastal youth as true stakeholders in their futures.

Hurricane Island will host the second kickoff event (read about last years event here) for EMSP students and teachers at the beginning of the school year, allowing all participants to meet and get to know each other in addition to laying the foundation for the year long project that they are about to embark on.  Last year the project tackled the invasive green crab problem, this year the project looks at the lobster industry specifically asking the students: Who or what eats/buys lobster? What impact can we/I have?  The first question allows a lot of freedom for students to choose to look at lobsters from an ecological perspective or from a more purely economical perspective. The question about ‘what impact they can have’ is similarly open to student interpretation, allowing a variety of options for students to really dig into the material from a standpoint that is relevant and interesting to them.  It will be great to see what the students come up with this year for their individual projects when they come to the retreat at the beginning of October.  Check back here for updates!

Students share the marine debris art sculptures they created during the 2014 Pathways 101 program on Hurricane

Our final two days of meetings were hosted by Deer Isle-Stonington High School (DISHS) itself and we got a chance to meet with the teachers and other community partners associated with their Pathway program.  Pathways started out as a Marine Studies track for students who wanted to specialize their education in preparation for any post-secondary option dealing with marine related issues.  DISHS has also blended Pathways with EMSP using EMSP as an “honors” track that more specifically gears marine studies for students intending to pursue a commercial fishing license.  This year the Pathways program is expanding to include an Arts Pathway in addition to the Marine Studies and the goal is to add a Healthcare related track in the future.  It was amazing to hear about some of the cool classes associated with each of the tracks!  Most of the Pathways classes are team taught allowing options like Chemistry through Art or Marine Studies Health and Phys Ed., combinations that really demonstrate the relevancy of the topics to students.

I got to spend most of my time with Seth Laplant who is adapting a Biology class to the Marine Studies track and has a lot of programming planned that takes advantage of local resources.  Monitoring bacterial colonies on the shoreline, looking at green crab genetics, blood worm osmosis, and performing marine organism necropsies make this class not only super relevant but also super fun!  It was great seeing all the people who were invested in making these programs work. Island Heritage Trust, Rural Aspirations, Bowdoin College, Opera House Arts of Stonington, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, and PERC were just some of the people and organizations that were represented over the course of the two days.

Even though it was an exhausting session of meetings, we left with a much better picture of all of the wonderful collaborations going on up and down the coast and we are extremely excited to be part of them.  Over the next couple months we will be solidifying aquaculture curriculum and planning for the EMSP and Pathways kickoffs on Hurricane.  Updates on everything will show up here so keep an eye out to learn more! 

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Cambridge School of Weston 2015

After towing around a fine-mesh net to collect plankton, students spent time looking into their microscopes trying to identify the critters wiggling around in their petri dishes. 

Learning about what it takes to be a lobsterman from Jason Day

Marilyn works with students in the intertidal between Hurricane and Two Bush Island to make sure their methods are supporting their driving question

For the second year in a row (read about last year's program here), the Cambridge School of Weston came out to Hurricane Island during the lowest tide cycle of May. Seven students and two staff joined the Hurricane community, conducting independent intertidal projects as well as two group projects focused on the quarry and on identifying marine zooplankton.

Students arrived on the island with lots of ideas for their independent projects, and after the first few days exploring Hurricane's rocky intertidal environment, they worked to modify their ideas into testable questions. 

Their projects ranged from observing parental care of dog whelks over their egg patches, to determining whether different species of hermit crabs preferred to be more or less roomy in their shell, to quantifying the range of shell colors in smooth periwinkles and whether that impacted the type of brown algae they were most often associated with. 

Low tide doesn't always wait for breakfast, so students had a few early days, heading out to their study sites by 6:30am! Doing field work in the intertidal can also be challenging because there is just about an hour-long window of time to gain access to your study site before the next low-tide cycle. This meant students had to have all of their scientific gear organized, and a clear plan for their sampling strategy in order to collect the data they needed each day.

Another goal of this program was for students to learn about some of the fisheries that are core to Maine's identity. We travelled out on Vinalhaven fisherman Jason Day's lobster boat to see him haul his traps, learn about the regulations in the industry, and get a sense of the ratio of lobsters that are thrown back to 'keepers.' We also spent time talking about Maine's scallop fishery with Cait Cleaver, our director of science and research. Cait shared about the research she is coordinating to look at the effectiveness of small-scale closures in managing the scallop fishery. After learning about her project, we all helped her build spat bags, which she will deploy in the fall to collect larval scallops. If larval scallops are found in or around the closed area, these data can help Cait get a sense of whether new scallops are settling in the area.

It was a pleasuring hosting this group and I am always impressed by the observations and creative questions that students generate when they have a chance to be immersed in field work! We look forward to seeing the finished reports of the projects, and for next year's group to build on the great ideas and questions from this program!

Be sure to check out the CSW blog about their experience for more photos!

Students enjoy a great view of the sun setting across the bay

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Logan School from Denver CO

It is always a pleasure to host students and teachers on Hurricane Island who have never been to the Maine coast before, and this spring we got the chance to do so with 26 students and four chaperones from the Logan School of Creative Learning in Denver, Colorado. Their four-day stay on Hurricane Island was part of a weeklong trip to the East Coast, visiting both Massachusetts and Maine.   

Much of the programming for the Logan School students revolved around exploring the intertidal zone and understanding and identifying the sea creatures that call Hurricane’s tidal areas home. Being from Colorado, for many students this was their first experience venturing into intertidal areas. Students were enthusiastic about the diversity of life that they found and raised thoughtful questions about what it takes to live in intertidal climates. Of course, a trip to Hurricane would not be complete without a look at lobsters, and Science Educator Alice Anderson led a lesson in lobster biology as well as a discussion about the Maine lobster industry’s past, present, and future.

Students gather around fish totes to examine their invertebrate collections from the days low tide

Students gather around fish totes to examine their invertebrate collections from the days low tide

Coming from a land locked area of the United States, the Logan School students took great interest in the challenges and opportunities that come with living on a small island, and how the use of sustainable energy can meet these challenges.  They identified ways in which Hurricane uses sustainable energy and infrastructure to power the island and gave presentations on how Hurricane’s solar panels and water and compost systems help the island achieve goals in self-sufficiency. During their final reflections many students spoke of the importance that this lesson had on them, and how they will be more conscientious about their own use of energy upon their return home.

A highlight of Logan School’s time on Hurricane was doing a beach clean up along the island’s shores. Students kept track of the debris that they found on the Rozalia Project’s marine debris form that the Center for Science and Leadership will submit to The Rozalia Project to help in their continuous efforts to remove marine debris from the ocean and it’s coastlines. Thank you Logan School students for helping us keep our coastlines beautiful!

Other highlights included hikes to sunset rock, campfires, walks around the island, planting seeds, playing Frisbee, and the season’s first jumps off the pier into the ocean. Summer must be on its way!

Students enjoy a great view from sunset rock.

Students enjoy a great view from sunset rock.

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Eastern Maine Skippers Program NH/VH

Students from Vinalhaven and North Haven gathered on Hurricane in October 2013 for a two-day intensive trip as part of the Eastern Maine Skippers Program--a new curriculum thread in coastal Maine schools that is designed to make high school education more relevant for students participating in the lobster industry.  This program was focused on introducing students to different ways they can do science to improve their knowledge of lobsters at the larval, juvenile, and adult stages.

Our experiments included a transect and quadrat survey of juvenile lobsters in Hurricane's low intertidal, towing for larval lobsters and other planktonic organisms with plankton nets, deploying tethering platforms with juveniles on them to study lobster predation, and finally designing, implementing, and collecting underwater footage of modifications to three of Hurricane's demonstration traps to see if we could improve the traps ability to retain legal-sized lobsters. 

For this project, we collaborated with Noah Oppenheim, a graduate student who came to Hurricane earlier in 2013 to conduct research on juvenile lobster predation. This allowed students to learn about and replicate Noah's experiment, how scientists collect data, and how science and scientists fit into the grand scheme of managing the lobster fishery.

The skippers program (which also includes George Stevens Academy, Deer Isle Stonington High School, Harraguagus High School, and Mount Desert Island High School), is now in the process of designing and testing the viability of a trap fishery for winter flounder in Maine. You can read more about their project here.

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