Island Updates

Was I Born to be a Salesman? The Thrills and Chills of Summer Opportunities Fairs for One Program Manager

Blog post written by Program Manager, Teddy Simpson

I am having a lot of spiritual brainstorms recently about how to talk to people about Hurricane Island. This is coming off a few days down in greater Boston recruiting students to register for our summer programs. Actually the term that we in the biz use is “tabling,” (i.e. I tabled for Hurricane this afternoon). My sister was befuddled by my use of this term. “Tabling? What is tabling? Is that like a subgenre of planking or something?” She didn’t say that, but tossing in a quote shakes up the rhythm of the writing, I’m told. I’m here to keep you on your toes (to that end, I have a goal of including a few links in this article, so check up on your cultural competency of a term I dropped 2 sentences ago). I severely digress.

I spent Sunday at Phillips Academy in Andover, Monday at Newton South High School and Tuesday at Lexington High School, all in the great state of Massachusetts. The scene at each of these fairs is something to behold. Or at least it was for me, so you better believe I will relay it as such! I’ve definitely been to one before, but for whatever reason, it washed over me in a new way this time. Representatives from, let’s say, one hundred organizations trickle in to the cafeteria (or gymnasium or wherever the event is being held) about an hour and a half prior to the event’s official start time. They wheel their suitcases of materials over to the check-in table, where you are given your table number and the wifi password (educ@tion) and a map to the snack area. The organizers of these events really are crushing it. Laura Marks runs Teen Summer Expos, which hosted the latter two events. I love how singular her mission is - simply to put on these fairs that promote an array of summer opportunities for students - and how dedicated she is to it.

I know it’s pretty low quality, but this selfie is all I have. This was a SOLO trip, y’all!!

Soon enough, a previously bland and bare space begins to come alive. Table coverings are unfurled, banners erected, pamphlets stacked or fanned (depending on your style). Each organization curates their own little world, which, ideally, exactly embodies the spirit of the program you are promoting. Actually an interesting challenge. Each group’s table and its accoutrements are, at once, altar and portal and life-size diorama. Bear with me as I scrape the rust off my metaphor game.

The result of all these carefully set up tables is somewhat overwhelming. The room is now plastered with words meant to catch your eye, images designed to entice, and people all around who have good posture and smiling faces and who really, truly, want to talk to you in a cool and chill way (really). And everyone is right next to each other, so it’s innately comparative; there’s this underpinning of competition below the congeniality. Everyone’s trying to boost themselves above the rest. So very early on, I’m like, Maybe I shouldn’t smile? And that could set me apart? This unfortunately does not come easily to me and also I decided would end up being a worse tactic, but I seriously found myself inclined to “out-chill” everyone, to somehow draw folks in by being calm and reserved. “How’s it going? I’ll tell you as much or as little as you want,” I try saying. Some people march through with an apparent grocery list, scanning for what matches their criteria. So parents they see the word “Science” they could breeze right past, or come to a grinding halt. Marine biology, check. Some approach the table and cut right to the chase, and will knowingly prompt, “go for it, what’s your spiel?” Permission to dive in! Yes!

And the reality is, despite this strange feeling (which I am hyperbolizing) that I am trying to out-bid the people nearest me, there are so many options for these students that the process ends up being self-selecting. The only common denominator is that all of the programs happen during the summer. That’s it. Conversations at the Hurricane table do happen, genuine ones. Nobody who looks at the words “Sustainability” or “Field Experience” and thinks to themselves, yuck, is going to talk to me. And that’s great! They’re going to do some other wild thing with their summer. But then, the folks who think yum, or more likely, ok! end up stopping by. I had lovely conversations with folks who were psyched on marine biology, others who will be a part of a Hurricane school program this spring, and others still who just thought coastal Maine seemed cool. With these people, I ended up gushing about life on Hurricane Island. I tried to communicate what I know - which is that we offer really special, impactful programs. It's hard to do this in brief, but it is such a joy to remember the details of it all. A conversation that forces the specifics out of you - “there's a boat we all take together, your educator will meet you on the mainland” - really jolts you back: oh yeah, there’s the island! Remember the island? Remember walking toward the north end, after dinner, the setting sun painting the grass and spruce golden? This nostalgia has a vice grip on me now, but only after having had wonderful conversations about these programs with bright-eyed young people. How lucky we are to get to bring others to this place full of magic.

So if you’re still reading, thank you, you must be a diehard. In which case, I bet you have a lot of love for this place, too. Spread it far, spread it thick! Talk to people about what we do. Then send them back to our website, where you can register for programs, today! Sustainability is 2 weeks long this summer, people. How cool! (At the end of the day, I am a natural and prodigious salesman. I’m considering going whole hog and buying a briefcase.)

Thank you for letting me process via blog post, honestly. This has genuinely been healing.

Subscribe in a reader

Growing Hurricane Island’s (inter)national connections and impact

Alternate title: Confessions of a self proclaimed North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) Groupie

Hurricane Island with other 2018 ULIEA winners

Hurricane Island with other 2018 ULIEA winners

It all started with an application to a joint program between Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and NAAEE.  I still remember sitting in a local coffee shop for several days working on Hurricane’s application to be a UL Innovative Education Award winner and feeling such pride in where I worked and what we had been able to accomplish up to that point in our existence. Now two full years later, not only was Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership selected as a 2017 Tier II award winner with ULIEA, I have personally fallen down the rabbit hole and become a full fledged NAAEE groupie (complete with a profile on NAAEE’s eePRO platform and a subscription to their Imagine If podcast).  While we were well on our way to having national impact previously, our involvement with NAAEE has sped up that process by leaps and bounds.

One measure of that impact is through the amazing collaborative opportunities that came directly out of the connections we made through the ULIEA network.  One such collaboration with the Chicago Eco House (another 2017 ULIEA winner) was highlighted on the ULIEA blog recently, outlining the work we are doing with HAWX Open Ocean and the Islseboro Central School to improve an innovative new device called a Sea Rocket. The students from both programs will be working on improving the sustainability of the device and the Islesboro students will be testing the newly engineered solutions and using the Sea Rocket to collect data in Penobscot Bay.

Nayeli Perez (WINS student) holding a juvenile lobster on Hurricane Island

Nayeli Perez (WINS student) holding a juvenile lobster on Hurricane Island

Another collaboration is with the Women in Natural Sciences (WINS) program (2015 ULIEA winner), an amazing and intensive after school and summer science enrichment program through the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. The young women in this program progress through two major phases, the second of which expands their career horizons and gives them experiences outside of Philadelphia. One of these young women, Nayeli Perez, came to Hurricane Island on a scholarship and wrote an amazing piece about her time on Hurricane for the most recent WINS newsletter.  I teared up (and laughed out loud) reading her narrative so I highly suggest you read it yourself as an amazingly honest view of how impactful the whole experience was for her on multiple levels.

The 2018 ee360 Community Fellows being very ‘serious’

The 2018 ee360 Community Fellows being very ‘serious’

Apparently not content with what we already had accomplished through our work with NAAEE, I threw my hat back in the ring in 2018 and was selected as one of 32 international ee360 Community Fellows.  These fellows were selected from as far away as Nepal, New Zealand, India and China, and as close by as a fellow Mainer and everyone was joined by our desire to address environmental challenges and build community resilience. The connections with these amazing individuals has already impacted me beyond measure and I am bringing that energy and new knowledge into my work at Hurricane Island. My action project is specifically designed to support a cohort of teachers to implement place-based education projects with their own classrooms and communities, kicking off with a joint retreat this August on Hurricane Island.

Hurricane continues to grow its impact and we have an incredible year round and seasonal staff that are pushing the work forward. To say that I feel privileged to work for this organization is an understatement and I similarly cannot fully express how grateful I am (and we are) to NAAEE and all the programs mentioned for recognizing the work we do and helping us to expand our reach to more individuals, more organizations, and more communities. You can be sure we will continue our work in 2019 so check back often for updates on all our endeavors and we would love to hear about any other connections you want to send our way!

Subscribe in a reader

Root Skills Conference Reflections

Exhausted. Energized. These words seem to contradict each other, yet, after full days at conferences rich with thoughtful discussion, workshops, and colleagues, I feel simultaneously exhausted and energized. Exhausted because the days are long, my mind has been actively engaged, I’ve been traveling, and I am meeting people and conversing all day. Energized because these conversations and workshops are so stimulating and inspiring, and I am invigorated thinking about all the possibilities; how will I incorporate my learnings and leverage new contacts?

The Root Skills Conference earlier this month provided me exactly the combination of exhaustion and energy that I have come to expect at conferences, and the quality of the conference far exceeded my expectations. The conference, hosted annually by the New England Grassroots Environment Fund, builds equity within the environmental sector, reducing barriers for participation by offering sliding scale conference rates, free on site child care, and language translation services. The two-day conference also offers a combination of content learning and skill building, with Day 1 focusing on themes such as Land, Water, Food Systems, and Energy, while Day 2 focuses on Equity, Youth Empowerment, Resilience, and Grassroots Fundraising, for example.

In my workshops, I learned about Wabanaki history in Maine, urban community gardens and health programs, and explored equity and race. I also valued the conference’s “Catalyst Conversations” each morning as a warm up hour. We talked in table groups about topics like renewable energy solutions and obstacles, and shared our own work and experiences with other conference participants.  

Reconstructing a map of Maine after the  Wabanaki REACH  workshop.

Reconstructing a map of Maine after the Wabanaki REACH workshop.

I enjoyed attending with colleagues and having people to check in with throughout the two days. Hurricane Program Manager Teddy Simpson and I kept our wheels turning as we discussed some of our takeaways and impressions. We also reflected (and socialized!) with many of our environmental education colleagues from Maine, particularly through the Maine Environmental Changemakers Network.

I am grateful to have learned more about the Wabanaki history of Maine and how indigenous lands were continually stolen. I value the time spent examining my own identity in the context of the environmental sector. I appreciate connecting with colleagues and impassioned changemakers of all ages. I met incredible individuals doing amazing work, and I hope to keep in touch and keep energizing each other.

Teddy (back left), Robin (back row, fourth from left), and Maine Changemakers pause for a photo-op at the conference. Photo courtesy of  Future Focus Media Co-op .

Teddy (back left), Robin (back row, fourth from left), and Maine Changemakers pause for a photo-op at the conference. Photo courtesy of Future Focus Media Co-op.

Subscribe in a reader


Seasons, I’ve been thinking about seasons. Pretty hard not to when you live and work in a region that is ruled by the seasons, in a town that is influenced strongly by the seasons, with a waterfront that ebbs and flows with the seasonal migration of a marine species, on an island that is only open for 6 months of the year. A lot of us get asked “what do you do in the off season?” Funny thing is, there is no off season, just an off-island season :) So, here’s a little layout of what happens the rest of the year when we’re not actually on the Island.


Teddy hard at work.

Teddy hard at work.

Come May, our mainland office really does clear out as most of us migrate out to the Island with the start of the season. Ask Julie, she gets nervous when all of her “chickens” leave the roost that time of year and she can’t keep tabs on us. We’ve had 2019 on the brain since the middle of the summer and start booking programs for the following year while we’re still enjoying life on the Island. Almost all of the logistical plans that make the island roll - what school is coming when with how many people – are planned this time of year. We still head out to the Island to keep tabs on our aquaculture site, the research we’re doing, and make sure that the Island stays tucked in tight through the cold and storms. We’re attending a lot of conferences for research, education, and development work and spreading the good work of who we are and what we do on Hurricane. Jenn even made it out to the Teton Science School in November! The Facilities team is scheming new sustainable ways to keep our island growing and thriving. We spend a lot of time in meetings together visioning for the future, reflecting on the season, creating new opportunities and partnerships, and enjoying working together as the creative, innovative, thoughtful, enthusiastic team that we are.


Our view of the harbor.

Our view of the harbor.

Right now the big excitement in the office is that we’re gearing up for our annual office cleaning day, followed quickly by our annual holiday party. Yes, we do a very serious clean of the mainland office once a year…is that too much?! The holiday party is always a fun time to learn about food traditions of our year-round staff, NOT talk business, and exchange gifts that are really things that we just want to unload on someone else as part of our Yankee swap. One year Sam was sad he did not walk away with a singing Taylor Swift Christmas ornament and Caitlin got a new dive tank…you just never know what you’re going to get.


If you’ve never been to our mainland office, you should definitely stop by. We’re down here in Journey’s End Marina, on the water and listening to the wind in the rigging of all of the boats put to bed for the winter season. We have a full and beautiful view of Rockland Harbor, keeping us in time with the tides and a wary eye on the changing weather. Some of my favorite mornings are those wicked cold mornings when the whole harbor is socked in with the sea smoke rising up from the water. So, even though we’re off the Island, we still mark time by the same measures here in the office. The off-Island season is a time for all of us to be together. It sounds corny, but it’s true. Our organization is made up of people who really enjoy their time together, there is A LOT of laughing that happens in this place…it’s pretty much on par with the amount of work we do! Again, please come and say hi and see what the off-Island season is like :)

- Written by Phoebe Jekielek, Program Director

Mid-morning light.

Mid-morning light.

Subscribe in a reader

An Evening at Alnoba

Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents.

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors;

We borrow it from our children.”

- Native American saying

This past October, I was invited to the Alnoba Leadership Awards at the Lewis Family Foundation’s brand new state of the art facility in Kensington, New Hampshire. On October 17, Phoebe, Bo, Kelly and I walked beneath cloudy skies on a winding dirt path lined with granite pillars inscribed with quotes from famous people. As we entered the building we were amazed by the tall ceilings and beautiful wooden beams supporting the structure. We arrived just in time to listen to the conversation moderated by David Conover, a board member for HICSL, between the President and Forester for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, Jane Difley, Executive Director of Shoals Marine Laboratory, Jennifer Seavey, and Founder of Lubicon Solar, Melina Laboucan-Massimo.

After a beautiful farm to table dinner, we were surprised with an impromptu performance and led in group song, which was perhaps the best part of the night. I forgot his name, but he told us his project is called “Make America Sing Again”. After listening to his beat-boxing warm up, he led us in our own rendition of an African song. Then we sang “Lean on Me” in three rounds. If he can get a room of complete strangers to be able to sing with one another, he said, anything is possible.

Then the awards were given out. The CEO Environmental Responsibility Award for $10,000 was given to ReVision Energy Leadership Team including Phil Coupe, Bill Behrens, Fortunat Mueller, and Dan Clapp for their work with solar energy throughout New England. The ReVision leadership team donated $5,000 to the Conservation Law Foundation and $5,000 to Citizens Count. The Emerging Leader Award for $10,000 was given to Alex Freid, Founder and Co-Director for the Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN). The Moral Courage in Leadership Award for $25,000 was given to Jane Difley, President/Forester for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

At the end of the day, we were thrilled to see the brand new facilities at Alnoba and honored to be a part of this amazing group of environmental leaders.

Written by Marketing & Stewardship Coordinator, Caroline Albertson

Pictures courtesy of

Subscribe in a reader

Oak Hill’s October Adventure

The first week of October was busy on Hurricane! We enjoyed lots of energy and curiosity from the 50+ Oak Hill freshmen who joined us. For the second year in a row, Maine’s Oak Hill High School has offered a freshman trip to Hurricane. Due to a large freshman class, the students were split into two groups, visiting either Monday to Wednesday or Wednesday to Friday, and in both groups, there were students experiencing their first boat rides as we journeyed across Penobscot Bay!

Chilly weather didn’t get in the way of a refreshing ocean dip!

Chilly weather didn’t get in the way of a refreshing ocean dip!

The first group experienced lots of cold and rainy weather, yet spirits remained high. Many students reflected that a highlight of the trip was our perimeter hike and sit spot at Gibbons Point - during chilly wet weather with high winds! It added a sense of adventure and common experience to the occasion. The second group enjoyed warmer, sunnier weather for activities like the raft building challenge and our exploration of the intertidal zone.

Teams discuss their approaches to the raft building challenge!

Teams discuss their approaches to the raft building challenge!

One of the goals of the trip was to build cohesion and community among the freshman class. Students laughed through numerous team challenges, and several students shared that by the end of the trip, they felt more comfortable around their peers, especially those outside their friend groups.

They also delved into some marine science while they were on Hurricane. Investigating intertidal organisms, students unsurprisingly were excited to find crabs of varying sizes and colors. Several students sacrificed their dry pants and socks to search for urchins too. On campus, they embraced learning about aquaculture and plankton as they held our baby scallops and identified plankton under the microscope. Personally I enjoyed sharing our ocean setting with these students who spend most of their time inland. Several expressed an interest in returning, so I hope to see them back on Hurricane in 2019!

An urchin under observation by Oak Hill students.

An urchin under observation by Oak Hill students.

Subscribe in a reader

Back to school on Hurricane

These past few weeks, students around the country have filled their backpacks with notebooks and pencils and have gone back to school, getting to know new classmates and teachers. Two local midcoast Maine schools joined us on Hurricane for back-to-school days full of island exploring, teamwork, and tone-setting for the year to come.

On Tuesday, the Camden-Rockport Elementary School sent its 1st and 2nd graders from the multiage classroom out to Hurricane for the day. This was our third year in a row spending the first day of school with the multiage group, and what a great way to spend the day! Their teachers had worked with us over the summer to plan the curriculum - launching into their first science unit about the sun! We explored shadow shapes, created art on solar paper, investigated temperature on different colored surfaces, hiked to see Hurricane’s different solar panels, and more! Of course we took advantage of low tide to visit the intertidal zone - these students are experts after their rocky coast unit last year in school. The final challenge of the day was structure building: can you design a structure to shade and cool a metal bowl of water? The students were creative, curious, and attentive, and I enjoyed spending the day with these younger learners. What a fun first day of school!

Multiage students present their shade structure at the end of a sunny day on Hurricane!

Multiage students present their shade structure at the end of a sunny day on Hurricane!

On Wednesday we experienced the first day of school AGAIN! Camden-based Watershed School brought their 20 high school students for three days on Hurricane, also for the third consecutive year. This trip was focused on leadership, being outside, and establishing school culture and values. Highlights included the team communication and structure-building challenge “looker-runner-builder,” rock climbing and rappelling, pier jumps, and rowing. Some of us even rowed all the way around Hurricane! I enjoyed seeing seniors befriend freshmen and observing students push their comfort zones in different environments. It was also fun to see the many returning students from this group, and to appreciate how they have grown over the past few years.

Watershed students hone their rowing rhythm.

Watershed students hone their rowing rhythm.

Thanks to both Camden-Rockport Elementary and Watershed School students for joining us during your first week of school! We wish you a wonderful school year and we hope to see you back on Hurricane soon!

Subscribe in a reader

Moving about the kitchen cooking for community

Guest blog post from Kitchen Assistant Teagan Wu

When asked if I wanted to participate in the High School Sustainability Leadership week, I immediately lit up with a smile and proposed a sauerkraut making workshop. I imagined each student creating their own jar of ginger carrots and working together to chop red and green cabbage. After much anticipation, I greeted a group of students eager to learn. In our opening circle, I was struck by each student’s openness to try a new activity and expand their understanding of fermented foods.


In my opinion, no sauerkraut workshop is complete without a snack, so we began by tasting different kinds of hummus; beet, roasted carrot parsley, and black bean. We also tasted some red cabbage, beet, garlic, and ginger sauerkraut that was ready after fermenting for about a week. This sparked curiosity and excitement among the students. I spoke about how eating sauerkraut provides our gut with beneficial bacteria thereby supporting the whole body. In my experience, it is necessary to take action in order to connect with food and care about health benefits.


As a group, we dove right into chopping carrots and slicing garlic and ginger, tasting along the way. We started sauerkraut by first massaging the slices of cabbage with a small amount of sea salt in order for the fibers to release moisture and create a brine. I remember making sauerkraut for the first time in my college fermented foods class this past winter. I got to feel with all my senses how the cabbage went from dry to wet, crunchy to soft and salty. I was reminded of these surprises as the students joined their hands together to massage the cabbage, creating a squeaky sounding music.


I got to smile and laugh with the students throughout the process. We marveled at the bright purple cabbage packed inside the jar, shimmering in the light. With three quart jars of sauerkraut beginning to ferment, we gathered in a circle once more to conclude. This felt more like a beginning than an ending. Each person got to check in about their experience and share their observations, feelings, and hopes. Several remarked on how simple the process was and others expressed how they wished to try making fermented foods at home. I looked around the circle and felt a wave of gratitude for getting to share the activity with them.


Working here in the kitchen at Hurricane Island this summer has ignited my creativity and enthusiasm for cooking. By immersing myself in preparing meals each day, I discover a rich and expansive world of possibilities. I get the opportunity to collaborate with the kitchen team to transform leftovers into new dishes. Black bean soups have become burgers with just a few added ingredients and frittatas have evolved into egg salads. I am often surprised at the recipes that take shape in the moment. I have felt energized to make sauerkraut, trusting my senses to combine beets, fennel, and carrots into colorful blends. In the kitchen one afternoon, I immersed myself in the process of chopping cabbage, listening to silence and occasionally looking out through the windows to the ocean. These experiences cooking deepen who I am and allow me to stand grounded. As we gather in a circle as community before each dinner, I feel how I am connected to others. Together we feel our relationship to place and all that sustains us.

Each day is a gift to move about the kitchen as a team cooking for community. Making meals for others and myself asks that I engage with a sense of purpose and love for the greater whole. I keep returning to how food is connected with our hearts and minds, not only our bodies.


I learn every time I say yes to cooking. I listen to natural movements that guide me to try new salads or arrange a platter of vegetables in a certain way. I delight in beauty. I arrive again and again to gratitude; breathing in the salty air on my walk to the kitchen, stirring onions and garlic, building a plate of colorful vegetables and greens from the garden, sitting at the table experiencing textures and flavors. In these moments, I relax into the present, full and aware of sensation. At the same time, I begin imagining the next meal or sauerkraut project.


It is now time to start on dinner and see what awaits in the kitchen. I wish you all nourishment of body, heart, mind, and spirit.



Subscribe in a reader