Island Updates

sustainability

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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Showerhouse Renovation Project Complete!

Post by Sam Hallowell

Over the past several years we have been renovating the existing buildings and structures on Hurricane to best meet the current and future needs of our programs.  We have been fortunate to have inherited these facilities on the island as a part of our 40-year lease, but this has also proved to be challenging in identifying and prioritizing which structures should be remodeled each year to support our new programs on-island. We have a working Master Plan to help inform and direct the process of infrastructure development, and in that process we have identified several guiding factors that have helped inform our decisions: capacity and sustainability. 

We have been intentional in developing systems to support the island community that are designed with and based on the use of sustainable technologies that are scaled to meet the demand of our human capacity, and that are also capable of expanding to meet future demand. While we are expecting and hopeful for continued growth in programs, we are also conscious of growing at a sustainable rate so that all or our resources can handle the demand.

Phase 1: building the deck extension to house the showerhouse, and give enough above-ground clearance to house the composting toilet bin

Phase 1: building the deck extension to house the showerhouse, and give enough above-ground clearance to house the composting toilet bin

In looking at these factors, we identified that we needed to expand our shower and toilet facilities to be able to accommodate larger groups for a sustained period of time.  Our current use of these facilities was reaching the extent of their functionality.  We worked with GO Logic of Belfast, Maine to help design an expansion of our current shower house building to incorporate another Clivus Multurm composting toilet as well as 2 additional showers.  We contracted with the skilled craftsman of Harbor Builders based in Port Clyde, Maine to build the extension off of the existing structure.  Extending from the original structure allowed allowed enough clearance above grade to accommodate the height of the new composting toilet system, and also consolidated our toilet and shower facilities located close to the constructed wetland that manages all the greywater produced at that facility.

The Clivus Multrum M12 composting toilet systems that was installed is designed to accommodate ­­­­­­­­­­up to 30,000 uses per year.  This composting system is slightly different system than the “foam flushing” version that we installed in 2013 in our other bathroom facility closer to Main Pier.  Without the need for water, these “dry toilets” will be able to be used throughout the year when our water system in not online, but still function with the same composting principals.  (Visit Clivus Multrum for more information on these systems.)

The complete extension! (Note the outdoor showers!)

The complete extension! (Note the outdoor showers!)

The extension has been connected to the existing solar thermal system that produces hot water (roof mounted evacuated tubes:  Click here to see a description of this system that was created by a volunteer staff member Juliette Bendheim) and has also been connected to our Constructed Wetland (designed by Russel Martin of Public Health Solutions and approved as an alternative wastewater treatment of grey water by the State of Maine).  

In planning of this structure, we decided that we wanted the facility to be self-sustaining and powered by a stand-alone photovoltaic system.  To do this we contracted with Rideout Electric (based in Warren, Maine) to install 4 solar panels, charge controller, inverter, and batteries to supply power to the whole showerhouse to make this a self-sustaining facility. Until this photovoltaic system was online we had been using a portable ReGenerator Power Management System, known as the “Power Cube” (designed, developed, and donated Lyman-Morse Technologies and Reluminati, and now owned by ZeroBase) as primary source of power for the existing shower house.  The “Power Cube” also served the primary source of power for the entire building process, with limited used of a gas generator during periods of the building process with peak electrical needs.

We are excited to have this system online for all of our fall programs and to be able to start the spring season with increased ability to handle larger programs without stressing our systems.  We also are excited to use this building as an educational demonstration facility for sustainable technologies to allow people to gain an understanding of ways to mitigate the impact that we have on our environment.

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Ornithology ISLE 2014

For our first ISLE program of the season we had five boys join us for a week of ornithology themed activities including bird-house building, bird bingo, and morning bird hikes. By the end of the program students were able to identify by site and sound the top 25 birds that call Hurricane home during our summer season.

Students also enjoyed some silly moments trying on bird costumes (like the Osprey in this photo) to learn more about how different birds are adapted to the environment that they live in. 

Students also enjoyed some silly moments trying on bird costumes (like the Osprey in this photo) to learn more about how different birds are adapted to the environment that they live in. 

Some of the birds that we were able to see during the week were Cedar Waxwings, Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, and Winter Wrens. We helped students visualize bird songs by looking at spectrograms and they were challenged to come up with their own mnemonics to remember the unique songs for each bird. Some standard mnemonics that professional birders use are “witchity-witchity-witchity” for the Common Yellowthroat Warbler, and “Oh Sam peabody-peabody-peabody” for the White-Throated Sparrow.

The Red-Billed Tropicbird flies next to a Tern

The Red-Billed Tropicbird flies next to a Tern

One of the highlights of the week was a special day trip out to see offshore nesting seabird colonies on Seal Island with local naturalist and ornithologist John Drury. John took us around the perimeter of Seal Island and then we were met by Nicole, a researcher with Project Puffin, who is living on the island this summer monitoring puffin and tern chicks at their nesting sites. Birds that nest on Seal Island during the summer include Razorbills, Puffins, Great Cormorants, Common and Arctic Terns, Eider Ducks, and Black Guillemots. We were also lucky enough to see a Red-Billed Tropicbird, an out-of-range visitor to the area, which usually is found along the Baja Peninsula on the West Coast of Mexico.  John Drury believes that this bird followed some Terns and has been happily nesting in the area since.

On our final evening we enjoyed a cookout on the south end of the island and a spectacular view of the full moon rising over the water. It was really fun to watch these students get excited about birding and become talented amateur ornithologists!

Students enjoy a quiet moment as the full moon rises over Heron's Neck lighthouse

Students enjoy a quiet moment as the full moon rises over Heron's Neck lighthouse

Register for our 2015 Ornithology ISLE program here! 

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How do our gardens grow?

Post by Josie Gates

It is with great enthusiasm that we are pushing forward with growing more of our own food on Hurricane Island this summer. Along with some in-ground beds and above-ground planters we are testing our green thumb by trying a straw bale garden in an old granite foundation that is close to the galley. The bales are a great above-ground option for growing vegetables and flowers, and you can grow almost anything in them! On Hurricane we are interested in comparing how our food grows in the bales compared to our in ground plots. Here are some things we have learned about straw bale gardens:

Our newly planted straw bale garden! Can you spy the nasturtiums growing out the side of the bales?

Our newly planted straw bale garden! Can you spy the nasturtiums growing out the side of the bales?

To get the straw bales to start decomposing and ready for planting you have to go through a conditioning process. For ten days we conditioned our bales by each day putting about half a cup of fertilizer high in nitrogen on top and then soaking them completely through with water. This process gets the bales to start “cooking,” by breaking down the straw and starting the decomposing process. Once the bales have started to decompose they are a great holder for plants, allowing root systems to grow down into the bale just like they would in soil.

Our garden up in the meadow past the ice pond.

Our garden up in the meadow past the ice pond.

After the bales have been conditioned you can either transplant directly into the bale or plant seeds on top. We have decided to put transplants into our straw bales. To plant transplants we carved out a spot within the soil on top of the bale for the transplant and its roots and covered it with sterile potting soil. We have then watered and cared for them as usual.  So far everything seems to be growing happily, despite some regular raccoon visits...

A special thank you to all of our community members who have donated seeds, seedlings, and flowers to our gardens this year. Your generosity is greatly appreciated!

Here’s to a fruitful season of growing food and flowers on Hurricane! 

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Vinalhaven Land Trust

Students try their hand at carving granite

Students try their hand at carving granite

In mid June seventh grade students from Vinalhaven sponsored by the Vinalhaven Land Trust came out to Hurricane for a two-day exploration of the island and its history. Educators Alice Anderson, Josie Gates, and Oakley Jackson led students in a history hike around the island, talking about different important historical spots and helping students create a picture of what quarrying looked like on Hurricane over a century ago. Despite Hurricane’s close proximity to Vinalhaven, only one student had visited the island before, but several had family members who had lived and quarried on Hurricane.

The evening on island was filled with learning about sustainable energy and how Hurricane strives to operate as its own sustainable island community. Being from Vinalhaven the students already had great insight as to the efforts, triumphs, and struggles it takes to live on a small island in Maine. Students also participated in leadership activities and games, and had possibly the best strategy the Hurricane staff has ever seen to complete the Helium Stick challenge. They executed great communication and teamwork!

VH students sit in at the foundation of the old catholic church and make observations and educated guesses about what else might have been in this area during the quarry era

VH students sit in at the foundation of the old catholic church and make observations and educated guesses about what else might have been in this area during the quarry era

After a cozy night spent in our new bunkhouse, students spent the morning learning about Leave No Trace ethics and principles. They played a game identifying proper durable surfaces to camp and hike on, practiced digging a cat hole, and made up fun skits about different LNT principles to act out for their classmates. After lunch they played a game of Island Jeopardy, which put them to the test to remember facts and information that they had learned during their time on Hurricane. They all did a great job! Thanks for joining us on Hurricane Vinalhaven seventh graders; it’s always a joy to host other islanders. Happy summer vacation!

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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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