Category Archives: October 11

Running a kelp business that is all about involved learning

Long Line Kelp Growers students (and teachers) on their first day at Herring Gut Learning Center

Two days a week eight students from the St. George School make the trip to Herring Gut Learning Center in Port Clyde to be part of the Center’s Long Line Kelp Growers program. They signed up for the program to learn how to run an aquaculture business—from what it takes to produce a quality product to marketing it to consumers and selling it at a profit.

“‘The Long Line’ program was specifically designed just for grades 6 through 8 from the St. George School,” explains Holly Merrow, one of the program’s teachers. “It’s a program the kids ask to be a part of, so they have to make up the school work that they miss when they are here.”

While the St. George School doesn’t consider the Long Line program an academic substitute for elements of its middle-school curriculum, learning what is involved in farming kelp does require an understanding of the marine science involved. Late September and October is the nursery season, when the students are learning how to “seed” the kelp. This involves stimulating the sorus tissue of mature kelp to release spores that can attach to seaweed string that has been wrapped around pvc pipe and placed in indoor fish tanks that comprise the nursery. Once the attached spores have gone through their reproductive process, they will produce tiny baby kelp plants. When the young kelp is an adequate size, the students will then place them in the Learning Center’s lobster pound which will host the students’ kelp farms. Here the plants will grow throughout the winter. Harvest season is in the spring.

Students identifying seaweed with St. George School Herring Gut Coordinator Leslie Ferguson looking on

Sarah Redmond, the owner of Springtide Seaweed, an organic seaweed aquaculture company located down east in Frenchman Bay, began helping the students with the seeding process last year. “Bringing seaweed aquaculture into schools is a great thing,” she says, “because this industry is pretty new in Maine and we need to encourage familiarity with seaweed science as well as innovation in developing the industry.” Redmond adds, “There is tremendous interest from the fishing community and our coastal communities in how seaweed aquaculture can fit into our existing waterfront economy, but the big challenge is building the processing infrastructure needed for this new seafood industry. So Port Clyde is a great place, where if you could build the infrastructure here there are a lot of fisherman here looking for ways to diversify. Building the processing infrastructure is key—you can grow all the kelp you want, but if you can’t process it you’ve got a problem.”

Redmond strongly believes “kelp is the future,” and she and others, such as the folks at Ocean Approved, the first commercial kelp aquaculture company in the U.S. founded in Portland in 2006, are helping the Herring Gut students learn why. During a recent seeding session in the Herring Gut kelp nursery, Redmond and Leslie Ferguson, the Herring Gut Coordinator at the St. George School, prompted the students to itemize the positive reasons for growing kelp. For one thing, they noted, kelp is a crop that combats ocean acidification which helps prevent, among other things, shell disease in lobsters. But perhaps its foremost positive quality, student Madison Barbour noted cheerfully, is that, “Kelp is the new kale!” This is because it is a crop with great health benefits. As Redmond points out, the fact that kelp is naturally salty makes it a great substitute for table salt.

“If you think about it, the leading causes of death and disease tends to be nutrient-related or diet-related disease and a lot of people are aware of that. So they are trying to cut down on things like sodium, table salt, processed food. But we still need salt, we need mineral salts, so seaweed can provide that. What’s been happening is that people are trying to get away from table salt but now they are missing iodine since table salt is iodized, so their diets are becoming unbalanced. Seaweed can restore the imbalance.”

Another reason that kelp is attracting commercial interest is that it can be used in so many different ways. While the kelp is growing in Herring Gut’s lobster pound this winter, in addition to periodically taking measurements and recording farm data, the Long Line Kelp Growers students will be investigating some of those applications in preparation for choosing which products they want to make. Last year, for example, the Long Line Kelp Growers students used their kelp to make kelp seasoning that they used on french fries, popcorn and bagels as well as in smoothies. They also made fizzy bath “bombs,” lotions and even nail polish.

“The students run the program like a business,” says Georgie Burress, who is also one of the program’s Herring Gut educators. “They all have different roles within the business—there’s the company spokesperson, the secretary, the treasurer. They’ll apply for the different roles, interview for them, and be elected to those positions. And they will hold monthly business meetings in which they will make decisions together.”

As the year progresses, the students will also be chronicling their work through photographs, illustrations and written pieces that they will use to collaborate on a book-length manuscript that will be published next May. “Expeditionary learning is about making a product that shows what you’ve learned and that you can present to the community,” Merrow points out. “That is what the book is all about.”

If Merrow and Burruss will not be grading each student on their work from an academic point of view, they will still be providing their teachers at the St. George School with an evaluation of each student’s participation in the program. “The school wants work habits evaluations and behaviors evaluations”, Merrow says. “We hope that at the end of the year they’ll really be working together and that they’ll be able to communicate well about what they have learned to do. A big part of our objective with the program is to work on making them much more involved learners. Our platform is marine science, but those are our real goals, that they get those soft skills that they need.”—JW

Three Long Line Kelp Growers students reflect on their experience of the program

Long Line Kelp Growers students Breannah Morris, Madison Barbour and Leah Darling prepare kelp for seeding as Sarah Redmond (l) of Springtide Seaweed supervises their work.

When I get to Herring Gut I am really happy…

My name is Madison Barbour and I have been working with Herring Gut Learning Center for over three years. Over the years that I have been with Herring Gut I’ve learned a lot, including some soft skills like talking in front of a crowd and respecting everyone. I feel motivated to do more work now because of my success at Herring Gut. I was chosen to be in Herring Gut because I’m more of a hands-on kind of learner. It was very fun getting to get in the boat and checking on the kelp and pulling out rockweed. We pull the rockweed out because the rockweed blocks the kelp from photosynthesizing.

When the students, including myself, arrive at Herring Gut we start off with a check in, as in seeing how everyone’s doing. Once that is done, some of the time we play a game that has to do with kelp using facts about the kelp for the new students to learn.

We have to find “sorus” in order to grow the kelp. Sorus contains microscopic seeds that we release from the kelp and let attach to a line. We mainly focus on making sure that when we prep the sorus, we don’t contaminate the kelp. Once the kelp has grown to about an inch or so, we attach the line onto the kelp farm. Around once a month we do water quality to make sure that the water doesn’t have anything wrong with it and it’s not hurting the kelp.

When I get to Herring Gut I am really happy because there is always a fun project to do that is hands-on. Herring Gut has boosted my confidence and I have been getting more interested in school because Herring Gut has made me more interested in learning.
—Barbour is an 8th grade student.

This year I can’t wait to make the products.

My name is Leah Darling and this is my second year at Herring Gut Learning Center. Our company is called LLKG, which stands for Long Line Kelp Growers. Our business is about learning about kelp and making products from kelp.

Last year we designed our own kelp farms. I was in a group with Maisie to make our kelp farm. Then we seeded the spools and put them on our farms.

While we waited, we took the kelp we had grown last year and made products. I made bath bombs. This year I want to make smoothies. I love smoothies. This year I can’t wait to make the products. Making products is one of my favorite things to do at Herring Gut. We had a few sales at the school. We had the Valentine’s Day sale and other sales. We sold kelp bath bombs, paper kelp hearts with seeds embedded in them, cookies and nail polish.

Near the end of the year we took our kelp off of our farms. Maisie and mine was pretty big. We hung it up in the shack to dry. I really liked going in the boats and designing the kelp farms.

Also last year we gave a lot of tours. We had to show teachers and students around the place. At the end of the year last year we took the 7th and 6th graders on a tour through Herring Gut and told them how it works. It was like a step-up day almost. We showed our products and gave out samples. We did the same for the 5th graders last year, too. Now we have eight students in grades 6-8 doing Herring Gut this year. I hope they have a fantastic year working at Herring Gut Learning Center and being a Long Line Kelp Grower.
—Darling is an 8th grade student.

I have learned a lot of skills…

My name is Breannah Morris and this is my third year working at Herring Gut Learning Center. I have enjoyed my time down here. We have done lots of cool things, such as growing kelp. Growing kelp is very fun and interesting. And it’s very hard work, especially when I had to go out in a row boat during a snowstorm and pull up a very heavy kelp farm, to see if we were making progress.

Once the kelp is all grown, we pull it up and go through the process of rinsing the kelp off and hanging it up to dry. Then we start to create products. Some of the products LLKG (Long Line Kelp Growers) created are: “Kelp SEAsoning, Kelp bath bombs, Kelp cookies, Kelp nail polish, and many others products. The money we make from selling products goes right back into our student-owned business to buy more supplies, go on field trips and to improve our business as well.

LLKG will be publishing a book at the end of the school year so the community can learn more about what our company does. Being able to be a part of this wonderful program means a lot to me. I have learned a lot of skills, soft skills like speaking and being respectful in my dealings with others, and hard skills, even big things like how to row a boat.
—Morris is an 8th grade student.

Eggs in the neighborhood

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Autumn is one of the best seasons to go outside–top four even! (Just try to argue against that one!). After the heat of summer, the cool fall weather is incredibly refreshing, migratory birds are passing through on their way to wintering worlds, and leaves are changing colors in styley ways. To make things even better, ferns and other ground covers die back and allow light (and human eyeballs) to reach the forest floor and light up an incredible diversity of mushroom and slime mold treasures. Yes, the hills (and flatlands!) are alive with the sight of mushrooms! Fall is where it’s at, and it’s literally where we are at right now. Happy fall everyone!

“Never know what you might find” is the way it goes when poking around for ‘shrooms with a couple of awesome mushroom hunters like my wife Amy and son Leif. And you don’t have to go far in St. George to see all kinds of mushrooms—Boletes, Amanitas, Russulas, Milkies, Corts, Corals, Inkies, Polypores, Puffballs and Horse Mushrooms to name a few. They seem to be everywhere—along every trail, in every patch of woods and in big numbers in seemingly every front yard. This is truly the most wonderful time of the year.

A good mushroom “hunt,” one with fresh mushrooms (pre-insect egg-laying),takes some discipline. This often means returning to the same areas multiple times over the course of days, or maybe weeks or more. On these “hunts” we (the family “we”) usually leave the vast majority of mushrooms we come across, not only because we are not going to eat those particular species, but we also don’t have room to spare in our Bolete basket! That said, as these repeated visits are made, one can become familiar with the “other” mushrooms in an area and get a chance to watch them change over time (welcome to mushroom watching).

Some species don’t change much once they get to the surface—Russulas, for example, look like mini-Russulas when they arrive on the scene (they are very cute when they are new). Other species may change a little, like a King Bolete that stretches out its baby bulbous stalk over a few days as it grows taller and attains a sleeker appearance. Their pores also change from white to yellow. Meanwhile, Cort mushrooms (Genus Cortinarus) have a thin, cobwebby membrane, called a “cortina” that extends from the edge of their cap to the stalk/stipe. The Cortina covers the gills until the cap grows so large that this protective layer is torn. The remnants of this covering may stay attached to the mushroom’s stipe/stalk, resulting in a “veil” around the stalk. These kinds of changes are fun to note and photograph.

There are some mushrooms species that rise from the ground completely covered in a protective layer, like a capsule. These “eggs” look nothing like the mature, spore- releasing mushroom it will be when mature. These are super fun to find, and fortunately “eggs” of a few species popped up along our mushrooms routes. Watching these go from egg to adult has been extremely rewarding to observe.

Members of the Amanita family (Amanitaceae) rise from the earth in such a protective layer, a stage usually referred to as “amanita buttons.” Maybe they look like clown buttons but for me “eggs” seems more descriptive and appropriate. Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) is an Amanita species commonly seen at this time of the year and their yellowish eggs have been popping up all over. As the Fly Agaric mushroom grows within the egg, the “egg shell” breaks into pieces, many of which stick to the cap of the mushroom. This results in the striking “Alice-in-Wonderland effect”—a mushroom cap covered with remnant scales. The red mushrooms in the classic Lewis Carroll story are actually a red “variation” of the Fly Agaric. While being a mushroom that should not be eaten, the scales on yellowish/orange cap are cool to see, especially when the mushrooms are in little gangs.

When Ravenel’s Stinkhorn “eggs” (Phallus ravenelii) first appear they are whitish, wettish and soft—somewhat reptilian egg-like. As the mushroom grows within, the protective layer covering the Stinkhorn is stretched and becomes more and more transparent and the Stinkhorns’ greyish cap (with its distinctive white, donut-like hole in the middle) can be seen. Eventually the “egg shell” splits, leaving behind a cup-like sac at the base of a hollow stipe holding up the slimy grey cap. The slime is filled with spores and has a rather pungent odor. As the stipe grows and the cap rises, insects attracted to the smell eat or simply get the slimy goo on them. The insects then act as a spore-dispersal agent as they move on from the mushroom. The process from egg to full-grown mushroom can happen within a day (or quicker) and the disappearance of the slime can be even quicker, depending on the level of insects attracted! Kinda gross in some regards, but still a very cool way to disperse your spores, which is the name of the game!

The changes some mushrooms go through after they first reach the surface makes mushroom watching (and photographing) fun and different. These changes, however, can also make identification tricky. Recognizing the various growth stages of a species can require little more than a repeat visit or two. It’s another great step in “getting to know your neighborhood”—recognizing members of the Fungus kingdom that remain out of sight for most of the year (and, thank goodness, out of smell!). The learning about mushrooms in the fall can be intense, especially when multiple senses are involved! See you out there!


PHOTOS: KIrk Gentalen

Trail re-dedication, tree planting and hike to honor Les Hyde on Oct. 20

Leslie Hyde inspired us to care for the earth!  On Saturday, October 20 at 10am please join his family, friends and colleagues at the Jackson Memorial Library for a trail re-dedication, family hike and tree planting to celebrate his ongoing legacy with the local environmental organizations he cared so much about.

The St. George Conservation Commission will re-dedicate the St. George School Nature Trail in Les’ honor and then we’ll head down the trail for a fun family nature hike led by Tanglewood 4-H Camp and Blueberry Cove staff and alumni. Be part of planting a mighty oak tree with the Georges River Land Trust, and afterwards enjoy delicious light refreshments provided by Maine Coast Heritage Trust. Come share your stories, become re-inspired, and celebrate the memory of this father, friend and true environmental activist.

—Lily Hyde Sytsma

PHOTO: Steve Cartwright

‘Our dear Cherie’

St. George residents received the news of Cherie Yattaw’s unexpected death on October 2 with shock, sadness and a deep sense of loss.

The daughter of Harold and Marguerite Stairs Pratt, Cherie was born in Rockland in 1949 and graduated from Rockland High School in 1967. Shortly after graduation she married Kip Yattaw and together they raised two sons and a daughter in Port Clyde and in recent years enjoyed the arrival of four grandchildren and a great granddaughter. For 28 years Cherie was employed at Outward Bound School. She joined the staff at the St. George Town Office 12 years ago.

In the days that followed her death, encounters between friends, neighbors and co-workers prompted many personal reflections on Cherie’s most memorable qualities as she carried out her responsibilities for the town—early on as assessing clerk and secretary to the Planning Board and most recently as Office Manager: Her open-hearted smile of welcome when a person, any person, arrived at the front counter of the Town Office seeking assistance. Her penchant for providing holiday-appropriate decor in the front office. The warm hug that signaled her pleasure for the chance to reconnect if she hadn’t seen someone in a while. Her ready willingness to find the answers needed to questions large and small. Her commitment to making a day-long holiday shopping trip an event laced with thoughtful surprises and cheerful foolishness designed to foster a spirit of festive camaraderie (think Cherie wearing reindeer antlers or snowflake glasses or a Santa’s stocking cap). And not least, her experienced competence which made her so invaluable when it came to providing staff support for town boards and committees and to ensuring that the town’s administrative functions were carried out smoothly and efficiently.

Cherie’s upbeat and outgoing personality, the friendly atmosphere she created just by being herself and the commitment to service she embodied were her great gifts to St. George. It is why, when residents speak of her now, more often than not they speak of “our dear Cherie.”