Green

Category contains 21 blog entries contributed to teamblogs

By Emily Hart

In the last week of sailing school, we explored different fishing strategies and their effects on fish populations. We had a great time playing games! For example, to investigate hook and line fishing (pole fishing) our “fisherman” threw a very soft ball into a sea of students who were either tuna, turtles or dolphins. We also investigated gillnetting, long-lining and bottom trawling through different simulations with ropes and beads.

We explored the concept of bycatch through these games, which is unwanted fish or other marine creatures that are unintentionally caught during fishing. The bycatch issue was first brought to light in the 1960s when high numbers of dolphins began to be caught in tuna nets. A successful campaign ensued and most canned tuna in stores is now “dolphin safe”. More recently, bottom trawling for shrimp has extremely high bycatch rates, with the highest found to be 20 bycatch organisms for every one shrimp. We kept track of our bycatch rates during our fishing simulations and found that hook and line fishing has the lowest rates of bycatch, in comparison to gillnetting, long-lining and trawling.

At the end of our sessions, I talked with the students about choosing sustainable seafood. Each student received a copy of the Seafood Watch guide produced by the Monterey Bay Aquarium to help them and their families make seafood choices. Check out the website, print out a pocket guide or download their free app: http://www.seafoodwatch.org. The New England Aquarium also has excellent programs in fisheries conservation and bycatch, check them out: http://www.neaq.org/conservation_and_research/projects/fisheries_bycatch_aquaculture/bycatch/index.php

in Green

By Emily Hart

The summer is starting to wind down here at Courageous and this past week was our last with the Summer Learning Project. This week we pulled up the lobster traps to see Asian shore crabs (an invasive species), rock crabs, sea stars, a rock gunnel and our usual friends: blue mussels, barnacles and a variety of tunicates. I love seeing some of our students holding a crab or sea star for the very first time!

This week we also pressed seaweeds; just as you can dry and press flowers, you can also press seaweeds. I was excited to try it with the students and they really enjoyed arranging different types of seaweeds into artistic creations. I found that the easiest to press was sea lettuce because it’s so thin. The students took home their seaweeds to continue the pressing process and I’m excited for them to have reminders of their summer here.

In the process of picking seaweeds for pressing, I discovered one of my favorite activities here at Courageous: laying stomach-down on the dock with my head over the edge, checking out everything living on the side of the dock. Barnacles feeding, seaweeds swaying, mussels filtering water with their siphons, tiny anemones clustered together, and further down, orange sponges. It’s incredible! So next time you’re here to sail, stop on the dock to take a peek over the edge. I promised you’ll be amazed. 

in Green

By Emily Hart

I’ve been working with the Instructors in Training (IITs) on service learning projects of their own design throughout this summer. As future sailing instructors, the IITs need to know more than just environmental facts; it’s also essential for them to practice their skills in facilitation, organization and leadership. We decided at the beginning of the summer that a multi-week project, rooted in environmental education, would encourage the development of these important skills.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to check in with the IITs about the progress of their CANdy project, where they were encouraging students to bring in redeemable cans and bottles for a candy prize (get it??). About 30 minutes into our work on the project, the group energy plummeted. It turns out that none of the IITs really supported the project, even though they developed it as a group and decided collectively to move forward. Project CANdy was subsequently canned.

During our debrief of this project, the students talked about how everyone harbored thoughts at the back of their mind about project feasibility, yet everyone voted in favor of the project. I posed the question: In another situation, perhaps with a child’s safety in your hands, will you speak up even if no one else does? What do you say when your peers are silent? Even in our rather low-stakes environment, we found ourselves addressing real world questions around leadership and limits. I am so proud of the IITs for their insight into their process and our ensuring conversations around leadership, knowing our limitations and the power of our voices.

Because I won’t let them off the hook that easily, we decided to move forward with a new project based in our learning from CANdy. I proposed a project that has been stewing in my brain all summer: a Courageous Sailing coloring book based on local Boston Harbor species. The IITs took the idea and ran (sailed?) with it. We did a storyboard, made a few prototypes and broke the work into manageable chunks for our class next week. I’m also proud of myself for releasing the idea to their creativity and letting go of what I had originally envisioned. What they have planned is so much better than what I had thought of and I can’t wait for you to see it! 

in Green

By Emily Hart

On Thursday, our Summer Learning Project students learned about fossil fuels and went coal mining to explore the effects of mining on our environment.

We simulated coal mining by mining chocolate chip cookies (the “land”) for chocolate chips (the “coal”) with only toothpicks (“very high tech mining equipment”). It was great to see so many heads down in concentration! After carefully counting the total number of chocolate chips in two different kinds of cookies, I caved to the ongoing pleads to actually eat the cookies. But before they could eat them, I told the students they needed to put their cookies back together.

Stunned silence. “I can’t put my cookie back together!!”. This activity illustrated the effects of coal mining and other extractive industries---it’s difficult and sometimes impossible to restore the land to its original condition. What followed were conversations around energy use and other options, like solar and wind, which we had learned about the previous week.

I was reflecting on this activity during a meeting the follow day with Dave, (Courageous Executive Director), Chris (a board member), Kate (Director of Youth Programs) and Rebecca (Youth Program Outreach Coordinator). It was great to talk about the environmental education program this summer and to look towards the future together. There are so many opportunities to expand the Courageously Green Initiative, from seascape murals on the boathouse walls to air dryers in the bathrooms and the elimination of paper towel waste. There is a lot of potential with the Instructors in Training (IIT) program and with staff education, in addition to continuing to refine the student curriculum. I’m keeping track of our ideas and would love to know—how do you think we can continue to be Courageously Green?

in Green

By Emily Hart

This week we had our first group of Step 1 students in the sailing school. As the youngest learners, we hope to keep them coming back for years and it’s important to get them excited about Boston Harbor! We had a great discussion about the animals they see in the harbor and played a Web of Life game to create a visual food web. We had so much fun! In our ending discussion, we talked about how all of us can help to protect the animals in the harbor. “Don’t eat the creatures!” was one of our favorite suggestions, along with picking up trash and remembering that the things we do at home can still affect the oceans.

For the next group, I’ll be adding a Boston Harbor species matching game to help students identify the species living in the harbor and a few in the northeast. Check out a great interactive website and follow us in our learning: http://www.umb.edu/academics/environment/boston_harbor_marine_ecosystem

One more thing… I recently learned that there are only about 500 North Atlantic Right Whales left in the world. These whales don’t usually join us in Boston Harbor, but they feed off of Massachusetts in the spring. North Atlantic Right Whales were plentiful here before whaling, but populations have been failing to recover because of ship strikes and entanglement with fishing nets. This year, the calf count is up to 11 in 2014—great news! Check out the New England Aquarium’s Right Whale Research Blog to learn more about local conservation efforts: http://rightwhales.neaq.org/

in Green