kids don't just grow seaweed, seaweed grows kids
Outside of agricultural communities or family-run farms, it is rare to find high school students farming in 2015. But 11 Rocking the Boat Apprentices—all high school juniors and seniors in the Environmental Job Skills Program—are doing just that! For the past three months, they have worked to grow and measure a bumper crop of nitrate-filtering seaweed in the middle of the Bronx River.
After building the infrastructure, a pair of 150-foot lengths of rope with, every 30 feet, buoys bobbing on the surface and three- to six-foot long sections of rope dangling in the water, they attached bundles of baby Gracilaria tikvahiae seaweed. The contraption closely resembled a string of bright red Christmas lights before it was brought by powerboat to the mouth of the Bronx River and anchored into a neat rectangle. Apprentices returned to the farm once a week to pull up the suspended lines of seaweed, trim them back to their original size, and weigh the harvest both wet and dry. At the same time, they collected five different parameters of water quality data including dissolved oxygen levels and temperature, and took light readings using a HOBO data logger. Rocking the Boat thanks its partner, the University of Connecticut, and project sponsors Toyota TogetherGreen, an Audubon program with funding from Toyota; ERM Group Foundation, and Entergy's Environmental Initiatives Fund, for making it possible for the Apprentices to be a part of this cutting edge research project, which ties in so closely with other CSO-related work on Rocking the Boat's docket.
Read more about this project in Hunts Point Express:
little juliana is a big accomplishment
Bronx River is classroom for seaweed scientists
Demonstrating uncommon patience as well as consummate craftsmanship, Boatbuilding Apprentices have completed a year-long project: the Little Juliana, a replica of an 1804 steamboat. Rocking the Boat was approached to take on the ambitious build by Stevens Institute of Technology, whose own naval engineering students' assignment was to craft a reproduction of the original steam engine—the first to power twin screw propellers—a ground-breaking design in its day. While all participants in Rocking the Boat's Job Skills Program have at least two semesters of experience as boatbuilding students, the size of this boat, and the complexity of ensuring that the final product is sturdy enough to house an engine weighing in at over 1,500 pounds, made this one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken in Rocking the Boat's shop.
Rigo Montesino, with Rocking the Boat for four years of high school and now attending Lehman College as a member of the SEEK Program, summed up his experience working on the steamboat this way: "From the beginning I wondered if it was possible for us to build this boat, but we have all worked together and now I know we can do it."
Rocking the Boat launched the boat in the Bronx River at the end of the summer and looks forward to celebrating with Stevens and all of the steamboat contributors—Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Mary J. Hutchins Foundation, Uphill Foundation, and seven individual donors—in Hoboken once the engine is installed and the boat is formally launched into the Hudson River in spring 2016.
Learn more about this project at PIX11 News:
rocking the boat sets its sights on clason point
Rocking the boat in the Bronx helping kids build more than boats
The first three semesters of Rocking the Boat's new Sailing Job Skills Program have been tremendously successful. A total of seven high school Apprentices and four college-age Program Assistants received intensive sail training and worked together to lead Rocking the Boat's pilot learn-to-sail camp, which in turn introduced 34 middle school students from St. Ignatius and the Hyde Leadership Charter Schools—both located in Hunts Point—to the thrill of sailing during two two-week programs. Offered completely free of charge, the camps were a wonderful way for the Apprentices to begin building their teaching skills, something they will continue to work on as they prepare to become US Sailing Level 1 Certified Instructors, and get younger kids from the neighborhood comfortable on the water and excited about a sport that was formerly inaccessible to residents of the South Bronx.
The Bronx River at Hunts Point Riverside Park, while ideal for running Rocking the Boat's rowing-based environmental programs, is too narrow for sailing instruction. As Rocking the Boat prepares to increase its sailing programming in 2016, when the first class of 16 student sailors start, the organization is in discussions with a local marina operator and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to move the Sailing Program to Clason Point Park. Located at the end of Soundview Avenue and providing direct access to the East River—and just a quick 10 minute powerboat ride from Rocking the Boat's primary location in Hunts Point—the site is perfect for Rocking the Boat's needs. The section of water immediately off shore is wide, deep, and lightly trafficked, but much work needs to be done to prepare it for use, including building out necessary storage and classroom space, and installing floating docks. When all is said and done, Rocking the Boat will have a fantastic new home base to effectively run the Sailing Program, serving more than 60 high school students and campers annually, as well as creating an opportunity for the general public to participate in a Community Sailing Program during the summer 2016 season.
Rocking the Boat remains deeply grateful to the supporters of the Sailing Program's first year: 11th Hour Racing, New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund, everyone who participated in the Whitehall Award spring benefit, and the Sailing Steering Committee.
Read more about the Sailing Program in DNAinfo:
High Schoolers Teach Younger Kids How to Sail on the Bronx River