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Henri came up out of the harbor excited.  

"I saw every single type of fish," he said.  "It was amazing.  A couple of porgies.. those are the oval flat silver ones you see in the market, you know?  Like, real silver… [but] the ones I saw were  tropical ones, sunset red, pink, orange— not from around here… Leftovers from the Gulf Stream…  I saw sea robins, black sea bass, killifish, pipefish, a flounder, a seahorse… I think I saw a striped bass, but I’m not sure.  But the craziest were the blackfish— there were just these huge blackfish, like as big as two footballs, right in the middle of the oyster condos, with their heads sticking out.  They just sit there.  I almost touched one."

"Henri knows all the fish," explained Katelyn.  "So he sees everything…"

It’s this seeing that’s extraordinary.  The SCUBA students cultivate one kind of seeing, of course: they learn to cut through the turbidity of the Harbor’s water and identify landmarks, assess risks, evaluate ecosystems and (of course) oyster reef progress.  

But the Vessel Ops students, who were the other major part of the team that made yesterday’s dive happen, have their own kind of seeing.  One student, on lookout, diligently calls the Harbor’s traffic: “Water taxi off the port bow.  Another water taxi.  Seastreak… Watch the wake!”  Anderson and some of the other vessel ops kids add their own calls: “Duck off the stern, comin’ in fast.”  This is a longer-range kind of seeing, as opposed to the SCUBA students’ detail work— which is itself not as detailed as the Marine Biology Research Program students’ microscope observations.

The Billion Oyster Project requires all different kinds of observation: Rick Lee’s Ocean Engineering Program, with its ROVs equipped with sensors, extend students’ senses further, allowing them to see and measure the environment of the Harbor’s floor.  The Aquaculture students can eyeball an oyster shell and tell you whether it’s become the nursery of a new cohort of spat.  The Marine Systems Technology students learn to diagnose sick engines, and to see, in their minds’ eyes, a finished New York Sloop based on plans retrieved from an old book.

And they learn to see each other, too— as friends, and— what’s more unusual for high school students— as colleagues.  

"You were really good on the comms, Jeffrey, by the way," Henri says, offhandedly, when he’s toweled off.  Jeffrey had been talking Henri through the dive, from the surface, based on maps and notes from previous dives: "There should be a black line coming out— follow that.  When you get to the oyster condos, let me know…"

It takes this kind of cooperation at every step of the way to get these tasks accomplished— each of the innumerable, patient steps taken (by the students) in the restoration of the harbor and (by the faculty) in the teaching of students.  

The Seniors of Harbor School’s Professional Diving CTE will be out there again soon— learning to handle themselves under the harbor, learning to take care of each other, learning to see.

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President Clinton’s recent visit to Harbor School attracted Good Morning America’s attention— and they featured a great segment on us yesterday! Check it out here.

A huge highlight of NYC Oyster Week!  Stone Street Stats:

  • BOP Volunteers: 38
  • Oysters Eaten: 25,000
  • Percentage of total oysters served that had their shells collected: 75%
  • Total Shells Collected: approx. 37,500 (that’s right: 25,000 x .75 x 2. High level #oystermath right there.)
  • That is, as Sam & Pete write, “18 full 64-gallon bins of pure east coast shell.”

Aw yeah.

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Alumnus Jeffrey Yu christening the beautiful whitehall gig Pete Seeger that he and fellow class of ‘14 grad Victoria Mahon were instrumental in building during their internship at Village Community Boathouse last year. Jeffrey’s Naval Architecture professor at SUNY Maritime told him that he was the first student he’d ever had who had already built a boat.  That’s a Harbor education!

Very cool! SCAPE, and our living, growing breakwaters, are semifinalists for this year’s Fuller Challenge award from The Buckminster Fuller Institute! (Living, growing breakwaters, you ask? That’s us: Breakwaters off the coast of Staten Island are a key element of the Billion Oyster Project! SCAPE, you ask? That’s SCAPE // Landscape Architecture, a firm that is one of BOP’s key co-conspirators and friends.

The vision of SCAPE, and the idea of the BOP, match up perfectly with the Fuller Institute’s goals for the Challenge, which has been called socially responsible design’s highest award.

From their website:

"The Fuller Challenge attracts bold, visionary, tangible initiatives focused on a well-defined need of critical importance. Winning solutions are regionally specific yet globally applicable and present a truly comprehensive, anticipatory, integrated approach to solving the world’s complex problems."

Well… YEAH. With shellfish!

SI, we’re coming atcha!

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Kind words from Aimee Bernstein of SUNY Maritime, describing yet another STEM program that Harbor students rocked this summer! 

The program went extremely well!!  I just returned from the closing presentation and ceremony and want to congratulate you on grooming such wonderful students. The feedback we got from Dr. Burke and others directly engaged with the group this week was extremely positive. They were polite, respectful and engaged.  They were very busy all week in class, driving ships on the simulator, using sextants, learning math concepts, reading charts and doing survival drills in the pool.  

For the final projects, the kids were broken down into two groups and each one of them did a wonderful job.  Each group created a very good power point presentation and delivered it very well. They were articulate and clearly understood the content.  I really enjoyed engaging with them this past week.

Dr. Burke did a great job of connecting with the students and Janae was a big help.  We heard that their favorite activity was using the full bridge simulator (not surprised). They each had an opportunity to use it on their own for their final project…

The ending ceremony was small but special.  Admiral Alfultis spoke to the kids and handed out certificates of completion.  We gathered the instructors and College administrators to watch the presentations and give them feedback.  

Thanks again for making it possible for the Harbor School students to participate in the SUNY Maritime Global STEM Academy.  We hope to be seeing some of these kids back walking around campus as freshman!!

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Fantastic video from Imagine Science Films covers Camp RESTORE’s visit to the BioBus— or was it the other way around?

BioBus is a mobile science lab that gets New York kids looking at the microscopic world using cutting-edge instrumentation.  Staffed by a passionate team of scientist-educators, it’s the perfect complement to Camp RESTORE’s exploration of the Harbor environment.

Said microbiologist Matthew Weisberg: “Hearing the roar of ‘oooh’s, and ‘there’s all that in a drop of water?’…Hearing young people’s minds expanding at a rapid pace— there’s nothing like that.” That’s just the kind of experience we want to give to the Camp RESTORE students. Thank you to Matthew and Rachel Weisberg and the rest of the BioBus team— we’re proud to work with you to introduce New York kids to their water in a new way!  This is collaborative, hands-on STEM education at its best.

Photo credit: BioBus folks.  Thanks for letting us snag the image! 

In February, 2014, eighteen seniors at Harbor School, a New York City public high school devoted to maritime careers on Governors Island, a historic military base turned national park, embarked on their first fiction writing efforts. For the next three months, their composition class, which Harbor School veteran teacher, Anna Lurie, and I taught was devoted to little else…

Read Julia Lichtblau’s account of her semester-long workshop here. The students’ work is truly extraordinary, and the reception at which they presented their magazine showcased their ability to speak articulately and thoughtfully about the creative process.  Many of the students spoke with passion about their discovery of this new kind of writing; they were also very appreciative of Julia’s and Anna’s insistence on revision, on writing as a process.

In all, fourteen seniors contributed a piece of maritime-inspired fiction; subjects and genres ranged from the historical to the fanciful, from personal realism to swashbuckling adventure.

The magazine’s design is also a triumph.  As Julia describes it,

The Ship Log benefitted from an unusual amount of serendipity. Vera Naughton, an art director with thirty years of experience (and a fellow alumna of BusinessWeek Magazine) offered her design services and sent out an all-points bulletin to illustrators around the world. Randy PollackAnita KunzOlaf HajekHanna BarczykEdel RodriguezErrata CarmonaBeady Eyes, and Alistar responded, donating the original images in the magazine. Kirkwood Printing New York donated the printing.

The generosity of these artists and other professionals reflects the enthusiasm that they have for the work of the Harbor School students.  We’re so grateful for the time and effort they put in to this project.  Here’s to next year’s edition!  

Click on the image below to read The Ship Log.

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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