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Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean the work stops!  Pete Malinowski and Sam Janis and the rest of the Billion Oyster Project team have been continuing the year-round work of operating the MAST center oyster hatchery, and various groups of students have joined them:  rising 9th graders, doing their Indock orientation to Harbor School, have had brief oyster-growing boot camps, and the middle schoolers from Good Shepherd Services who are participating in Camp RESTORE have also been introduced to basic concepts in aquaculture.

Some snapshots from Camp RESTORE:

Hatchery:

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Sam: “What are they called before they’re spat?”

Boy:  ”Plankton!”  

[Pause]

Sam: “No, that’s a different animal altogether.”

Boy, looking at the tanks of algae culture: “That’s dirty!!”

Sam: “What’s dirty?  It’s absolutely not dirty.  It’s filtered down to two microns.  I don’t even know what dirty means.  You could get a cup and drink some; it’s a superfood.  I’m just kidding.  Kinda.  We don’t use it to drink: what animal do we need to feed in this room?”

Kids: “Us!  Oysters!”

Sam:  ”Right, oysters.  We use this to supplement the naturally occurring algae in the harbor water.  So why is it that color? What is that?”

Girl:  ”Plankton?”

Sam:  ”What kind of plankton?”  

The kids consult each other, trying to remember what they’ve been taught, and finally come up with: “Phyto?”

Sam: “Phyto.  Phytoplankton.  Means ‘plant plankton.’”

Back out in the hall where the blow-ups of posters for all five phases of the Billion Oyster Project are, he points them out to the students:  

Sam:  ”See that?  Phase one.  You just walked into phase one.”

The students are intrigued:  they examine the posters carefully, now that they realize that these printed pictures actually relate to physical reality, to a room full of plankton culture and remote setting tanks and real live oysters.  Sam has them divide up, study the posters, and give summaries of what goes on in each phase.  After several minutes of child-herding, making sure the kids stay on task, Sam finds himself talking through one particular aspect of the process with a twelve-year-old called LeAndra.

Sam:  ”If you grow a million of ‘em, and ten to forty percent set properly, that’s how many oysters that set?”

LeAndra is silent, trying to work this out.

Sam:  ”OK, a hundred is ten percent of what?”

LeAndra, confidently: “A thousand.”

Sam: “And a thousand is ten percent of what?”

LeAndra: “Ten thousand.  So ten thousand would be ten percent of a hundred thousand—”

Sam: “—and a hundred thousand is ten percent of…”

LeAndra: “…a million!”

Sam: “OK, so that’s ten percent.  What’s forty percent?”

LeAndra, thinking: “a hundred thousand… so… four hundred thousand?”

Sam, happily: “You got it!”

LeAndra glows.

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Shell Recycling:

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Sam: “OK, so where do the shells come from?”

Girl: “They wash up on a beach!”

Sam, diplomatically: “Well, that’s one way you could get them, but it would take a long time.”

Sarah, Sam’s intern: “Where do you eat oysters?”

Boy: “I eat ‘em on a farm!”

Sam:  ”… and the farms sell them to restaurants.  And without us collecting the shells, where would they go?”

Everyone, enthusiastically: “GARBAGE!”

Sam: “Yes, landfill.  In Virginia.  A LONG way away.”

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…to be continued!  Look for Shellfish for Summer STEM Education, Episode 2, coming soon!

A photo album from InDock 2014.  More to come!

Three days and two nights aboard SSV Lettie G. Howard is a dramatic way for any student to enter high school— but Harbor’s ninth graders are rising to the occasion.  

Photographs: Cullen Palicka, Harbor 2014, and his Instagram filters.

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Big Red, Lettie's dinghy. And, oh yeah, the NY/NJ skyline…

Climbing the ratlines.

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Safety first!  Chef Luis, Harbor grad and Lettie galley chef, apparently felt the need for a safety harness belowdecks. Um.  OK.  Hey, is that pie in the background? 

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Sunset on Lettie with the Class of 2018

This summer, Harbor School Marine Biology Research Program head Mauricio Gonzalez took time away from working with his high school marine science scholars to bring marine biology to the middle grades. These younger kids have learned to start to think about the Harbor around them as a home for a whole ecosystem’s worth of living creatures.  

They’re participants in New York Harbor Foundation's Camp RESTORE, which the Foundation runs in partnership with Good Shepherd Services. The Camp is basically Harbor School in miniature, adjusted for the youth of the students.  From water quality testing to aquaculture (they learn about and help out with the Billion Oyster Project, of course!) to marine robotics, the Camp, now in its second year, is a feast of STEM subjects for summer fun and learning.

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From Captain Aaron Singh, head of Harbor’s Vessel Operations program and captain of Lettie G. Howard:

The Lettie G. Howard crew wishes safe travels to Paola R, NYHS alumna on her training cruise this summer on T/V Empire State. Great job getting Lettie running and we can’t wait to have you back sailing this fall (between classes of course.)

Paola’s time on Lettie is a perfect example of Harbor’s STEM-focused maritime education, combining CTE and college preparation.  Paola’s on her training cruise on another vessel, preparatory to entering SUNY Maritime in the fall.  Aaron’s Vessel Ops program prepared Paola in the technical aspects future career, and her time on Lettie (owned by the South Street Seaport Museum) and on Harbor’s own vessels provided vital hands-on experience implementing her classroom learning.  She is more prepared than most to start her course at SUNY, working towards a BS in Marine Transportation.

This is how it works: sail training as STEM education, and CTE tightly integrated with college prep.  We’re so proud of Paola, and of so many others:  you guys have grabbed hold of Harbor’s opportunities with passion and commitment.  Bon voyage!  Don’t forget this Harbor where you launched…

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Jade, class of 2015, showing off an aquatic ecosystem model. At the end of next year, she will be passing the torch— or the microscope?— to students like Shania, who will be officially eligible to join the Marine Bio Career and Technical Education Program her sophomore year.  Photograph: Mauricio Gonzàlez. 

The first group of students have gone through Indock— orientation and a brief intro to Harbor on Governors Island on Monday, followed by three days of intensive sail training and team building aboard Lettie G. Howard.

These kids are motivated: none of them ended up at Harbor by accident.  Shania, on her way over to the Island on the ferry for the first time as an officially-enrolled Harbor student, explained her path: “I’ve always had an interest in water and fish, and I’ve wanted to be a marine biologist since I was in third grade.  All the other kids were watching regular shows; I was watching documentaries.  I’ve done fishing and a little bit of sailing, so I’m kind of comfortable on the water.”   

She also, just a few months ago, found out that by going to Harbor, she’ll be continuing a family tradition. She described the scene: her aunt was visiting from Trinidad, and Shania was, in anticipation of starting at Harbor and moving towards her goal, trying to find out more about what the job of a working scientist actually looks like. “I don’t know why this happens, but when I get interested in something I just ask about it, I ask a lot of questions.  And she heard me asking and said that actually she was a marine biologist.  And I said, how come you didn’t tell me before?  She said she didn’t know I was interested.”  Once Shania starts work with Mauricio González and the Marine Biology Research Program, she and her aunt will be speaking as colleagues.  

There’s a hunger in so many of these kids to learn STEM subjects: it’s not something their teachers create— but it is something that the educators at Harbor School know exactly how to cultivate.

Sun on the skyline; friends and family on deck.

Furling the foresail.  You have never appreciated lazy jacks until you’ve done this.  

Cullen, Harbor ‘14, as first mate on Lettie.

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Happy Birthday (one day late) to Theodore Hudson, ship’s boy aboard SSV Lettie G. Howard!  One year old and more sea time than most New Yorkers ever get.  Many happy returns, Theo! 

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A highlight:

Talking with a nine year old Brooklyn girl and her parents.  She was dazzled by Lettie— which happens, of course, when you are nine and on a schooner.  

Her favorite subject in school is math, and one of Lettie’s volunteers explained to her about a special kind of math, which helps you find your way at sea.  

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She also learned why the wheel’s at the stern rather than the bow.  She learned that on a boat, the bathrooms are called heads.  She learned— she figured it out by herself, with a few prompting questions— that in 1893, when Lettie was built, boats didn’t have electric lights on them, and that’s one of the advantages to the skylight positioned right over the nav table in the Captain’s cabin.  

Results: there’s one mom in Brooklyn who’s gotten very interested in Harbor’s commitment to girls curious about STEM subjects… and one girl in Brooklyn for whom learning trig will seem like the prelude to a nautical adventure.   

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Your program for tomorrow: 

Events on Governors Island run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Ferry information is here, and a map is here.  You’ll find Harbor people at various places around the Island:

  • Come down to Yankee Pier to say hi to Aaron and students aboard Lettie G. Howard, 2 p.m.-4 p.m.
  • Mauricio’s Harbor SEALS will be doing water quality testing at two locations on GI, one behind the school and the other at Pier 101.
  • Rick will conduct a free fishing clinic, on Pier 101, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Perfect your putting and enjoy the Billion Oyster Project-inspired scene at the hole designed by Jen Primosch and Harbor art students in what’s got to be the world’s most high-concept minigolf course ever.  
  • Head over to Earth Matter to see our oyster shells curing and visit the chickens.

And much more!  See you on the Island!

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A must read: Check out this Business Insider piece by Dina Spector on Paul Greenberg’s new seafood paradigm, as described in his newly-released book, American Catch— which features a chapter covering Harbor’s Billion Oyster Project.  

This article makes it clear why BOP was such a natural illustration of Greenberg’s prescription for a healthy fisheries sector. As Spector writes,

Traditional fisheries and aquaculture…are built around large predatory fish, such as tuna and salmon.  

Greenberg…says we need to reorganize our “seafood pyramid” to promote filter-feeders such as seaweed and shellfish, which are easy to harvest, fast-growing, and help to clean the ocean by sucking up harmful pollutants. 

Because of this, aquaculture’s future lies in

moving away from large-scale aquaculture systems that pollute the open ocean and instead farming animals and plants that do well in small plots of ocean. That includes bivalves like clams, mussels, and oysters… 

"If aquaculture were organized around this principle, then it would be good for the country," says Greenberg.

Brin Smith, our colleague at Thimble Island Oyster Company, has, Spector writes, “pioneered an aquaculture system that ‘restores rather than depletes the ocean.’”  

This is, of course, a huge element of the Billion Oyster Project vision: while we’re not at the moment raising oysters to eat, aquaculture program head Pete Malinowski and others are teaching students sustainable oyster-farming practices in the context of raising oysters specifically for the purpose of restoration.  

This is essentially the biological version of what William McDonough and Michael Braungart have called The Upcycle: it is biological design for abundance. Traditional aquaculture has— as the BI piece notes— a bad environmental reputation.  With the BOP, by contrast, the more “oyster condos” go in the Harbor, the cleaner the water will be.  

An excellent piece, and a great intro to Greenberg’s visionary work.  To learn more, and to see where Harbor fits in to this “diet for a Blue Ocean,” go buy the book!  

By getting to Amazon by clicking through this link, you’ll even be benefiting the New York Harbor Foundation.  Once you click, you’ll be prompted to select a charitable organization. Choose New York Harbor Foundation, pick up your copy of American Catch, and with no extra cost to you, a small percentage of your purchase price will go to support the BOP!