Saturday, August 28, 2010
I also feel very fortunate to have spent time with so many great kids this summer. They could always put a smile on my face because they were so eager to ask questions and go exploring, never complaining if it was hot or if they had to follow instructions. Working with kids has been a great experience for me; I now know that I really enjoy working with children and want to continue to do so in the future.
So although this is my last post of the summer, I hope it won't be my last post ever. Next summer I hope to be back on the Virginia C II, heading out to fly kites and look for sea glass on Spectacle Island with a whole new group of excited Bostonians. Til next summer!
Thanks for a great summer!
Friday, August 27, 2010
The lobster traps have all been pulled up, the fishing rods are all de-hooked, the sailing centers are empty, and the incredible co-workers that surrounded me all summer are heading back to school. It's bittersweet, for sure, as all goodbyes tend to be. But my overwhelming feelings, even as I said goodbye to BJ before he left for his first year of college, and even as Conor and I painstakingly organized all of our equipment for its winter hibernation, are of contentment and joy.
Thank you to everyone who welcomed me to this new home: Lindsay and Jen, thank you for your constant support and guidance. Bruce and Patty, thank you for the opportunity to be a part of our organization's amazing efforts and of this amazing group of people specifically. To my coworkers-- I've said this before, I've learned so much from you this summer -- not only about things like music and movies and frisbee, but about strength and selflessness and passion. Thank you for that. And to the children of Boston that crowded the beaches, docks, sailing centers, and boats this summer-- thank you for reminding me of the wonder only a child can possess, and for helping me discover that I want to make education a part of my life for many years to come. You were the reason we got up so early, sweated through the hot days, and shivered through the downpours... so that you could be the next generation of Harbor stewards. Thank you for exploring the Harbor with us.
I am sad to see the seasons changing and the youth programs ending, but I am grateful for the gifts this summer has given me. Surrounded by a network of both old and new friends, anxiously awaiting my move into my new Cambridge apartment on September 1st, and guided by a phenomenal summer's memories, I see a long love affair with Boston, and its Harbor, stretched out before me. Hope to see you all again along the way.
Lots of Harbor Love,
Continuing with my recent science theme, I’m going to liken my summer to a scientific experiment. It all began with an observation that I made while considering places to move to after graduation: Boston is a vibrant and diverse city, full of passionate people, with unparalleled access to nature and outdoor recreation. My hypothesis? That Boston must contain excellent opportunities to foster connections between citizens and their environment. Results: success greater than I could have ever imagined! This summer, my great post-graduation experiment with “real life,” has been an incredible experience—and I couldn’t possibly thank everyone who made this possible enough.
During our first week of training, I set some lofty goals for myself. I wanted to, for instance, learn how to catch a fish—something I had never done before. Moreover, I wanted to teach someone else how to catch their first fish, and witness the surprise and excitement on his or her face as they pulled their prized catch up from the deep. I had no idea, at the beginning of the summer, that helping Boston youths catch their first fish would almost become routine by mid-summer (which isn’t to say that it became any less enjoyable to see). After weeks of driving in tangled circles, I’ve learned how to navigate the communities that surround Boston Harbor, an achievement in and of itself for a non-native Bostonian. More important, however, are the conversations I’ve had with the kids, and adults, who make this city’s neighborhoods the lively centers that I’ve come to know and love.
Boston grew up around its harbor, from its early days as a remote colony to its ascendance as a commercial and creative capital. I’m glad to see this city turning its gaze back towards the waters that sustain it, and I’m confident that programs like Boston Harbor Explorers will continue to strengthen the relationship Bostonians share with this natural wonder.
Citizen Science is a concept that repeatedly comes up in the posts on this blog—whether we’re making ecological observations by counting crabs or testing water quality with Secchi disks, we Boston Harbor Explorers use our firsthand contact with the Harbor to gather important data. While we do provide the data we collect to Dr. Judy Pederson and her colleagues at MIT’s Sea Grant Program, there are some even larger and more ambitious programs out there that aim to collect and compare data collected by Citizen Scientists across the nation and around the world. Project NaGISA, which stands for Natural Geography In Shore Areas, is a worldwide research collaboration that takes a census of life along the coastline at 240 sampling sites in 28 different countries. Camp Harbor View is one of those 240 locations, and last Tuesday I had the pleasure of participating in their data collection firsthand.
In order to compare data collected at sites scattered across the globe, Project NaGISA has a rigorous set of standardized procedures. Greg Stoddard, Camp Harbor View’s Director of Operations, oversaw a group of Counselors-In-Training as they undertook this scientific survey to fulfill their project requirements. Staff from the New England Aquarium provided the CITs with GPS units, to record precise latitude and longitude measurements for each one-meter-square quadrat, and sections of PVC piping to mark off the habitat areas where we collected data. After assembling our equipment, we headed to the rocky coast to see what living and non-living features we could identify. Racing against the rising tides, we collected data from low, medium, and high tidal zones—providing a detailed, multi-faceted description of life along Long Island’s shoreline. Counselors and CITs alike wore expressions of intense concentration as they scrutinized each quadrat, carefully recording their observations.
Project NaGISA provided scientists around the world with detailed data on the coastal geography of our very own Boston Harbor, from the perspective of Long Island. In addition, the research process gave the young adults working at Camp Harbor View a glimpse of the rigors of field ecology, introducing them to a field that’s becoming increasingly important in our changing world. Science is all about collaboration, and I’m thrilled to have been a part of this endeavor.Cheers,
Thursday, August 26, 2010
For the two weeks I worked there, Piers Park Sailing Center in East Boston was beset by a plague—hordes of microscopic plants and animals swarmed so thickly through the water column that they noticeably reduced the water’s clarity. Emily told me that the previous week’s Secchi depth reading, a measure of water clarity, had been 3.5 to 4 meters; during the weeks I was at Piers Park, Secchi depth never exceeded 3.5 meters, and most often hovered around 3.0 meters. Half a meter might not seem like such a drastic reduction in visibility, but many algae blooms occur in the few meters below the water’s surface. The drop in Secchi depth that we observed could indicate increased concentrations of algae in the Harbor. While happy to have been able to observe such a far-reaching process in the Boston Harbor, neither our HarborExplorers nor I were happy about our hypothetical algae bloom.
Algae blooms, however, do more than just make it more difficult to see into the Harbor’s depths. Depending on the species of algae, algae blooms impart water with a slimy green or sickly, reddish-brown tinge. Blooms are unattractive and gross, even to an untrained observer. Some species of dinoflagellate algae produce toxic compounds, poisoning fish and making shellfish unsafe to eat. Fortunately, we have no evidence to suggest that the algae we observed were toxic enough to kill fish; they did, however, make the water unappealing enough to keep the fish from venturing close to our dock. Fishing in algae-infested water is pretty frustrating! Even using sea worms as bait, we only caught tiny butterfish.
Algal blooms occur when large amounts of nutrients enter the Boston Harbor, usually following a large storm. Nitrogen and phosphorous, two essential nutrients that allow algae to proliferate, wash into the harbor when rainwater dissolves fertilizers and other compounds. During extreme storms, some nutrient-containing waste enters the harbor through leaky sewer lines and combined sewage overflow pipes. Nutrient pollution in the harbor isn’t nearly as severe a problem as it was before the harbor was cleaned up, but there are still measures we can take to ensure that nutrient contamination in the harbor is kept to a minimum. Lawn fertilizers, for instance, contain exactly the mix of elements that algae need to bloom—keeping their use to a minimum, or stopping their use altogether, reduces the risk that they’ll end up polluting our harbor.
The Boston Harbor is a delicate system that human activity can easily disturb. Without human intervention, nitrogen and phosphorous move through living things in a complex and interconnected cycle. Even unintentional actions that humans undertake on land can have far-reaching consequences for marine ecosystems, and algal blooms are just one of the unpleasant side effects of our careless mistakes. I can only hope that in every year to come Boston Harbor Explorers experience a harbor that’s even cleaner than it was the year before.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Unfortunately, now that summer is coming to a close so is Save the Harbor's youth program. After working the program last summer, I did not think that it could be improved but I had too good a summer this year to compare to any other. The addition of the beaches events was great; I played (and won) my first ever game of volleyball in Quincy at Wollaston Beach. I also caught my first fish (a cunner) of my Save the Harbor career this summer at the Children's Museum. I will never forget the day we caught 18 fish there, one of which we miraculously pulled up with the crab trap. The best piece of the summer pie was all the people though. Boston seems to be filled with the most enthusiastic and interesting kids. I barely had to do any work; they did the job for me. It was not only the kids who enhanced my summer work; I was lucky enough to be with some fantastic co-workers. By the end of the summer I was able to work with everyone, including some of our office staff and I can vouch for all of them, no matter what I happen to be attesting to. Just like the kids, they just made my job easier. I really appreciate everything you all did for and with me this summer.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Throughout the summer of 2010 I had a terrific summer teaching the participants at the Boston Children's Museum about marine life in Boston Harbor, specifically the Fort Point Channel. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday the Save the Harbor staff taught over 600 participants from families to camp groups and BCM staff about marine life in the Fort Point Channel.
Some of my great memories at this site from the summer are:
- only one sea creature, LOBSTER. That was all we needed that day!
- Every child caught a fish, nothing could compare to the smiles we saw
- watching the Save the Harbor staff make strides in their teaching practices.
- passing on my knowledge to the participants around us and they then transferred it to their parents and other children!
- catching a fish in the crab trap!
- Talking with parents about the strides Boston Harbor has taken and all the exciting events in and around the harbor.
The Boston Children's Museum is a great place to meet marine life. Thank you to all the participants who helped fill our touch tank with various sea creatures.
See you next time!
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Thank you to all the staff, campers, and participants at Piers Park Sailing Center, Courageous Sailing Center, Camp Harbor View, Boston Children's Museum, Harry McDougough Sailing Center, Black's Creek in Quincy, and the Save the Harbor/Save the Bay Staff. You have all reached out to over a thousand youth throughout the city of Boston. Many of the participants of Boston Harbor Explorers, All Access Boston Harbor, and Fishing 101 were able to fish, sail, boat and explore Boston Harbor for the first time, creating life long memories.
Although I spent half of the summer in the office managing the programs, the times I spent at the sites made it all worth while and unforgettable. Every child had a smile on their face as they investigated the waterfront. From crab challenges to the first fish caught bragging rights, the summer was a success for all. This summer Save the Harbor/Save the Bay reached over a thousand youth in and around and for many it was their first time fishing, boating, and exploring the waterfront, where life long memories have been created on the Boston waterfront.
As the summer comes to a close, the memories and experiences we have all created for the families of Boston and the staff around us will be passed on. As I head back into my high school classroom, where I teach Biology, I will bring my experiences you have all helped create into the lives of many more students. I hope that you continue to spread the experiences you have had with those around you. Everyone deserves to enjoy and share the waterfront. Thank you for sharing summer 2010 with us and we hope to see you on the docks, boats or at the pier next summer.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I went SAILING.
It was also my first time going to the Courageous Sailing Center in Charlestown. After helping out at All Access in the morning and hugging Carolyn goodbye :'(, I went back to the office to go to Charlestown with Emily.
Going through many changes and using most of the different colored trains and buses in Boston, we ended up in Charlestown, ready for another exciting day. Emily gave me a quick run down of what to do and what was going to happen during the day. When I heard that we were going to go sailing at the end, my face suddenly split into a wide grin... I was going to finish all of my goals!
The kids in Step 2 were the first that we worked with and we all went down to the pier to pull up all the lobster traps. Pulling them up was really easy, but one was so stubborn! I tried to help two kids pull them up, and in the end, our efforts prevailed. We had many crabs and even a baby lobster!
That took the entire time slot with the Step 2 kids, and it was now time to get ready to sail with the Step 3 kids.
Emily told me that we were going to be on the green boat and will have a lot of attention of the two kids we were going to go out with, Gabe and Izzy. I was slightly nervous about this, but still stepped onto boat 7. Listening to the 11 year olds yelling "Jibe!" and "Tack!" made me astonished to see how mature the two were. Gabe wanted to fish off the back of the boat and left me to man the station. I quickly learned and helped them tack and jibe like a pro (hopefully). Emily talked about the Arctic terns a lot and how they came to Boston from the Arctic. Also, after talking to Gabe for a bit, I learned that he was going to go to my school in September in seventh grade! It was so much fun having my hand trailing in the cool water just inches besides me, the wind blowing on my face, the sun beating down on me, the tiller waving back and forth right above my head. This made me realize that I always want to be near the water and to go sailing as often as possible!
As always, Thi Tran
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Looking back, I've noticed that my blogging naturally reflects the focus the work we do: the kids! And I try not to embarrass the junior staff too much by singing their praises too loudly—but you can see from their own blog posts how much they do here, and I bet you can imagine how much fun they are to work with—not only that, but as the summer wears on I find (as Michelle and Jen have written), that they take on ever-more leadership and provide real support for the campers, for each other and for me. But I realize another, less visible relationship that’s critical to the work that we do: the interactions with partner organizations peppered through each day. Let me give you a few glimpses. The counselors at “Let’s Get Moving” got so into our name-games that the kids (who they have much longer-term relationships with than we do) couldn’t even begin to be shy—the result was lots of laughter, and some of the best sea-animal impressions I’ve ever seen! After helping us on the Green Boat at the beginning of the week, one sailing instructor told me she’s been passing on the knowledge she gained to the adults she teaches in the evenings—and that they are almost as interested as the campers! One stormy day this week one of the counselors at Courageous came up just to tell me how much the kids and counselors appreciate the lunch-hour harbor explorers program we run in Charlestown—he said some of the kids are as excited about exploring the marine life on the docks as they are about sailing off of them! The kids are why I come to work each morning, but the grown-ups who support them—my co-workers included—definitely brighten each day and remind me why it matters.
When we reached Spectacle Island, we all split into smaller groups. Alize, Caroly and I took a small group hiking to the top of the Island. We came back and had enough time to take a quick swim. I was having so much fun that I hadn't even noticed that it was time to go, I would not have objected to statying an extra hour, but sadly we had to leave. The boat ride back was also fun, I took the time to dry off in the sun, as I did not bring a towel. It was a very fun work day; Can't wait to go back on Thursday!
p.s. Bye, Carolyn, was fun working with you finally.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Each summer Save the Harbor / Save the Bay's gives thousands of young people from across the region a chance to spend the day in the Boston Harbor Islands National Park.
Since 2002, their free summer youth environmental education and recreation programs have connected nearly 50,000 young people aged from 7-17 – from 130 youth and community groups - to Boston Harbor, the waterfront and the harbor islands. This summer Save the Harbor has added a new twist to the program - a treasure hunt on
Spectacle Island served as a dump for municipal and household trash until 1950, and more recently as the disposal site for fill from the "Big Dig" before being transformed into a park. Today Spectacle Island is one of the most popular destinations in the Boston Harbor Islands, with a great swimming beach, walking trails, a visitor center and a terrific new snack bar - run by noted Chef Jasper White.
"There aren't any pirates on Spectacle Island today, but there is lots of buried treasure" says Bruce Berman, spokesman for Save the Harbor / Save the Bay. "If you look carefully you can discover a lot about Boston's history - and have fun looking for sea glass and pottery shards on a beautiful island beach. It is a remarkable window into the past - and a great place to spend the day."
"Who doesn't like to comb the beach and speculate where it all came from?" asked Pleun Bouricius, of Mass Humanities, who helps fund the free program on Spectacle. "What did garbage look like 50 years ago? How did this get here? What will happen to our garbage? Will it look like this 50 years from now? These are important questions for kids to ask and to answer."
Maritime historian David Coffin who leads the island program for Save the Harbor, never tires of for searching for sea glass, pottery and other historic artifacts on the beach at Spectacle. “There is so much sea glass and pottery on that beach that you can actually hear it tinkle in the surf. " says Coffin. "It is a great way to learn about our past - and about our responsibility to protect important archaeological sites like this."
Thi Tran, 16, of
Save the Harbor / Save the Bay's free "
On Georges, the kids can explore historic Fort Warren and search for the ghost of the Lady in Black. On Spectacle, youth and teens can hike, swim, fly kites, or search for buried treasure while learning about the harbor and our history.
Save the Harbor / Save the Bay's youth programs are made possible by the generous support of: ABCD Summerworks, Arbella Insurance Group Charitable Foundation, Inc., Bank of American Pavilion/Live Nation, Clinton H. & Wilma T. Shattuck Charitable Trust, Connors Family Office, Dolphin Trust, Elizabeth Elser Doolittle Charitable Trusts, Forrest Berkley & Marcie Tyre Berkley, Friedman Family Foundation, GDF SUEZ Gas NA LLC, JetBlue Airways, John Hancock Financial Services, Inc., John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Massachusetts Bay Lines, Mass Humanities, Massachusetts Port Authority, National Grid Foundation, P & G Gillette, State Street Foundation, South Boston Community Development Foundation, William E. & Bertha E. Schrafft Charitable Trust, and Yawkey Foundation II.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Tuesday afternoon, the staff and families of Blacks Creek gathered together to celebrate a successful summer at the William F. Ryan Boating and Sailing Center , and Save the Harbor / Save the Bay was honored to be a part of it. I was there with Aruna and Shaunae-- the three of us representing our entire staff's love of working there this summer. The event was a great chance for the kids at Blacks Creek to show their parents everything they learned this summer, be it sailing, kayacking, rowing, or all the knowledge they gained about all the critters that live in our Harbor. Plus, my family is very important to me, so I love seeing others in the context of their familes, especially the adorable kids I've been teaching at Blacks Creek! One of my favorite moments of the entire summer thus far was when Maria, one of Blacks Creek's many enthusiastic Harbor Explorers, gathered an audience of several mothers around the green crab in her hand and started explaining, 1. the difference between a male crab and a female crab, 2. how to hold a crab so it won't pinch you, and 3. hold to identify a green crab even if its orange in color. I couldn't have been more proud as she explained, "You have to count these 5 spikes next to its eye. And there are 5 letters in the word "green" so you can spell out G-R-E-E-N!" It was so rewarding not only to see that Maria had absorbed this knowledge, but that she had mastered it enough to pass it along to others and foster even greater Harbor stewardship in Quincy. As cliche as it may sound, I saw a seed of knowledge get planted, grow, and branch out right before my eyes. If I had any doubt before that I want a future in education, I don't anymore!
Thank you to the Blacks Creek families for a great afternoon, and thank you to William F. Ryan Center for an incredible partnership this summer. I kept hearing from parents that their children had a great time in the Harbor Explorers camp, and I know that was a collaborative effort of our entire staff being rotated through all summer. Every one of us had a hand in making the summer a success. I'm extremely happy to have been a part of not only these past 6 weeks in Quincy, but of the afternoon that celebrated them as a community. Thanks again!
Lots of Harbor Love,
Thursday, August 12, 2010
I was the first of the Save the Harbor staff to arrive at Piers Park Sailing Center this morning. I got there just as the first campers were showing up. After Mark arrived I soon found out that we had to work the whole day without a Senior Marine Educator. At first I was a little bit worried but I knew Mark was up to the challenge so I manned up and got ready. We started off the day with a rousing game of sharks and minnows. Just as we were about to start another game I noticed that the kids were itching to get down to the dock. I grabbed the stuff while Mark led the kids down onto the dock. Although most people would say catching a striped bass from the dock at Piers Park, I beg to differ. Hooking a crab is nearly impossible, for unlike fish, the hook does not actually hook through the crab. The angler must reel in his/her line at an easy, constant rate so the crab does not fall off the hook. We lost multiple crabs today for that very reason.
After putting that disappointment behind us, Mark and I scooted on over to the Courageous Sailing Center at Charlestown. Mark and I set sail on the Green Boat with Kathleen the instructor, Norah, and Naomi, who are both Step 3 sailors. While we explored the Boston Harbor we ran some scientific tests on the water. To start things off we checked the temperature of the water. Our thermometer read 15 degrees Celcius, which, with the help of some speedy calculating on my part, we found out is approximately 49 degrees Fahrenheit. I can tell you earnestly that I had no plans to jump in the water after that. Next we checked the pH level of the harbor water in several different spots. Using simple pH strips, we found that the pH level was between 7 and 8, making it slightly basic. Usually, ocean water is about 8, which fit with our data. After these exhausting scientific experiments we decided to relax a bit and enjoy the breeze.
I spent most of my time playing football with the kids. The only part that wasn't really any fun was getting the ball thrown into the water, but it was eventually retrieved.
I had a great time throughout the summer at many different sites, and I appreciated the help some more experienced staff gave to me. I learned not only about the harbor, but about the kids, which to me is the most important part. Even on my first day I had no trouble fitting in with the staff. Today was my last day of this summer, but I hope I will have the chance to have many more Save the Harbor days!
The staircase on the boat was crowded by small campers eager to explore the island when Bruce called me. I got off the boat running, trying to catch up to Bruce and Patty as they were already walking down the path towards the beach. I slowed to a jog when I neared the group who was listening to Bruce talk about the treasures, breathing hard. Soon after I arrived, we all went down on top of rocks onto the beach with the plentiful beach glass.
We started the fun when we all lined up horizontally (and not holding hands - what a downer...) and had a race as to see who could collect the most interesting sea glass. I was apprehensive when we started walking along the beach. I quickly spotted green and white and brown beach glass, seeing how they were the most common. But I kept walking in a straight line, according to the rules. I picked up a cerulean colored one, a blue one, three green ones, and...... THREE PIECES OF RED BEACH GLASS! Although small, they are considered as the second rarest of all sea glass.
Read beach glass is usually found in car brake lights, the lights on the starboard sides of boats - warning lights, lanterns, and stained glass.
I can't wait to see what I find next week!
Hey boys and girls, I'm writing to you about our exploration of Spectacle Island on Staff Day. Our bosses Bruce and Patty brought us out to this Boston Harbor Island to have fun in the sun. After an intense game of capture the flag and a foot race with Cassie, where I destroyed her........by a lot, we all headed down to the beach. I had previous experiences beach combing but this island amazed me. There was just so much history scattered around the shore that we all became fascinated with finding the most unique object strewn on the beach. Bruce issued a challenge that were supposed to fan out and search the beach, yet, we could only carry two pieces at a time. Amongst everyone, we were able to find a wide range of interesting stuff. Due to Spectacle Island's past, it was a dump for Boston's trash for many years and it was the site of a horse rendering factory before that. It was because of this history that we found tons of sea glass, pieces of porcelain, old horse bones, parts of old sinks, perriwinkle shells with wholes punched in by moon snails, a marble, and a tiny plastic shovel. It was crazy that there is such a wide variety of interesting treasures that one can find on the beach, one just simply has to look for it.