Sometimes, for a brief and flickering moment, I realize how unique my work really is. There always is some sort of daily reminder, but the big moments are diffused throughout the just-as-common hardships, or often realized after the fact. Last week presented one of the bigger moments.

I arrived early to school to meet the first-period students who gather in the marine trades shop. Located behind the main building, the shop houses a classroom, a small office I occupy and a sizeable space cluttered with trap wire, outboard engines and various ongoing student projects. It’s not uncommon for me to be there for class, but this particular morning I was walking students through some of the new class curriculum I had recently digitized.

While I work at Deer Isle-Stonington High School, I am more specifically based within a project called the Eastern Maine Skippers Program that includes students, teachers and communities both in and outside Deer Isle. The program’s voluntary nature has shown me how these coastal communities take initiative to solve problems common among them.

The program also exposed me to the common vision that many coastal communities have for the coming generation of fishermen.

High school students display a natural intuition with technology, so it didn’t take long for them to grasp what I had put together, and shortly after my walkthrough I left the marine trades shop, crossed the bridge leaving Deer Isle, and headed Downeast, where blueberries are just as common as fishing boats.

Narraguagus High School in Harrington also is participating in the Skippers program. Though it has fewer students in the program than Deer Isle, it brings just as much energy.

Again, I walked students through the recently created curriculum, the same curriculum used by other students two hours away.

While the reason for the school visits were common, each provided its own set of responses, ideas and feedback. It doesn’t exactly jump out at you, but this definitely classifies as one of the bigger moments. It’s circumstances like this that make my work great. In one day, I am able to connect with schools along the coast, each with their own approach, but also understanding the common vision they all share.

Ian Watkins is an Island Fellow through AmeriCorps and the Island Institute.