Forty-one students from six coastal and island high schools (Deer Isle-Stonington, George Stevens Academy, Vinalhaven, North Haven, Narraguagus and Mount Desert Island) gathered on Hurricane Island in Penobscot Bay Sept. 28-29 to kick-off the second year of the Eastern Maine Skippers Program (EMSP). The program is a collaborative, year-long project addressing the question, “How can the impact of the green crab population be controlled in a way that conserves the marine ecosystem and encourages new industry?”

The program was organized and hosted by the Hurricane Island Foundation with additional staff support from Penobscot East Resource Center and the state Department of Marine Resources (DMR). The event introduced students to the green crab problem and included hands-on activities from learning about field sampling techniques to developing a marketable product made from green crabs to discussing elements underlying effective group work and communication.

“This event provides the students with an opportunity to connect in-person,” said Alice Anderson, Hurricane Island science educator, “fostering a generation of fishermen who know how to collaborate and communicate with each other despite being from different homeports.”

Before beginning field work, students worked with Anderson; Noah Oppenheim, a graduate student at the University of Maine, School of Marine Sciences; Carla Guenther, lead scientist at Penobscot East Resource Center; and Les White from DMR to identify sampling techniques that could be used in assessing green crab abundance in the intertidal zone. After much deliberation and discussion, each group of students generated a scientific question about green crabs and identified an appropriate sampling method to test their question during low tide on Monday morning. After collecting data in the intertidal zone, students reflected on the process and discussed the pros and cons of their approach, analyzed data collected, and presented their findings to the larger group.

“I liked that we could go in the field and gather data for a project we designed instead of using somebody else’s data from a textbook. Doing hands-on learning makes you want to do the work more,” said Elliott Nevells, a 9th grade student at Deer Isle-Stonington High School and EMSP participant.

On Sunday afternoon, students worked with peers from other schools to create an edible dish from green crabs. This activity provided students the opportunity to explore the potential for developing marketable products made from green crabs. Prior to the taste-testing contest, each group delivered a pitch describing its product, how it was made, who they were marketing it to, and the asking price. A panel of judges, made up of teachers, voted on its favorite dish. The Hurricane Island Chowder dish won “Best Taste,” while the Green Crab Mac & Cheese dish won “Best Pitch” and the Fried Green Crab & Dip was awarded “Most Creative Dish.”

Todd West, principal of Deer Isle-Stonington High School, explained the importance of such activities.

“Events like this that bring students and future fishermen together are a great way to leverage the traditional knowledge and expertise that exists in our fishing communities” he said, and “will help our students learn the skills needed for any option they choose after high school—both college and career.”

Throughout the remainder of the school year, the students will continue their investigation of green crabs in their own schools. The project will provide the opportunity to learn and practice skills such as active citizenship, public speaking, interpreting and using data, and applied science and engineering that will prepare them for modern fishing careers as well as post-secondary education. The project has further application beyond their high school education, as students are conducting “real-world” research that other researchers and regulators can use as they seek to sustain the fisheries component of the coastal economy, which is critical to Downeast communities.

About Eastern Maine Skippers Program and Hurricane Island Foundation:

In 2012, Deer Isle-Stonington High School and Penobscot East Resource Center collaborated to create the Eastern Maine Skippers Program. EMSP is a regional program that aims to provide aspiring commercial fishermen in schools from North Haven to Eastport the skills needed to be successful fishermen in a time of rapid environmental and regulatory change. A cohort of more than 40 students from Vinalhaven, North Haven, Deer Isle-Stonington, Ellsworth, MDI, Narraguagus, and Jonesport-Beals High Schools as well as George Stevens Academy remain in their schools and collaborate in the program via technology-based “anytime, anywhere” learning. Students also meet in person 3-4 times per year to participate in events such as the kick-off event hosted by the Hurricane Island Foundation. The Hurricane Island Foundation provides experiential, hands-on learning opportunities for middle and high school students on a 125-acre island in Penobscot Bay.

For more information about the Eastern Maine Skippers Program, visit For more information about Penobscot East Resource Center, visit www.penobscot For more information about the Hurricane Island Foundation, visit