From Let’s Talk About The Harbor School



Being a student in the Harbor School means you have to step up. People on the subway will see our logo and ask about our school. Still fumbling with your headphones and taken aback, you have to give them a comprehensive view of your job as an ambassador of the Billion Oyster Project. Our representation is the students, going home to all five boroughs. You are held to a standard that no other school offers. My Vessel Operations class, which focus on different kinds of boats, currents, physics, navigation and other maritime subjects, is more demanding that your typical elective. In this school, it’s more like a major, with higher expectations and larger time commitments than any regular class.

When I was a freshman, not a month into school, I was sent to talk to potential donors at the school’s annual Regatta. I stumbled through a few conversations before settling into a more comfortable flow. Throughout the years of being tossed into those kinds of situations, I’ve learned to quickly articulate the mission of the school and create a connection with whoever I’m talking to. A little kid wants to talk about the boats you go on everyday while a sponsor wants to organize an event or find an intern. I’m currently working with Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) to organize a forum at the school. I’m creating video interviews of prominent figures in the maritime industry for North American Marine Environmental Protection Agency (NAMEPA). I’m the senior Vessel Operations Representative in the Harbor Core, which is a group of the students in our school that works with the Billion Oyster Project.

The teachers at my school don’t treat you as teenagers that need to be controlled, but instead as partners with a common goal. I’ve been left alone for hours with nothing but a radio and a hot knife and vague instructions to create dock lines. They didn’t even check my splices before using the lines to tether the boat.

My Vessel Operations teachers will CC me on an email to the head of an organization and expect me to take over the thread. Emails used to scare me. I was intimidated by the formality and permanence of the correspondence. I’d write one, hit send, hit undo, edit a few words, send again, undo again, and repeat. Sometimes I wouldn’t open it for a couple hours because I knew I’d have to respond. Over the years, the dread has gradually decreased. I still get anxiety right before hitting send, but every meeting, interview, potluck, and event I organize over email makes it easier.

In class, I do my work. I often finish before others and I try to help out where I can. I can tie a bowline, triangulate a point, chart a course, and balance while Virginia is going 30 knots. But that’s not what I contribute to the community. That’s the basic knowledge necessary. The editing I do for our class blog, the networking I do and the standard that I hold myself to when you can see the Harbor logo on me–that’s important.

Indy 7 at SUNY Maritime

SUNY Maritime was the venue of a seminar called Safety at Sea. In this Safety at Sea seminar, people would rotate through stations showing different aspects of practices that should be followed while offshore and safety in general. The stations were: FireFighting, Liferaft, MOB on water & damage control.

Indy 7 was taken up to SUNY last Friday to aid with this event. She was going to be used as a launch, which she is. This meant Indy 7 was going to be used to transport people from the dock to the boats they needed to be on for the MOB drills that occurred on the water on various sailboats. As well as offloading them when the drills and the session came to an end.



Initially people were intimidated by Indy’s sized compared to the small launches pulling up to the nice sailboats, but they soon realized with a captain like Mike Abegg at the wheel they didn’t have to worry much. His boat handling skills came to play while maneuvering Indy closer and closer, walking it over to the boats to people can safely step off. Once all were offloaded, Exavier and myself got to drive Indy to take pictures of the drills occurring.


As Indy came to drop and pick people up, people realized the big scary launch was not that bad. In reality Indy was very efficient, being able to carry 3 boat loads of people comfortably in one return trip to the dock compared to the small launches one boat load.


Tall Ships America- Lettie!

In addition to Aaron receiving Sail Trainer of the year, the Lettie G. Howard won Sail Training Program of the Year! There was a lot of work and time put into her and it was recognized. All the time we spent sailing and learning was recognized in naming Lettie as the program of the year. Congrats Lettie! She deserves to be used for these programs for another 100 years, and even better ones.


Waterfront Safety

The New York Harbor School is a maritime oriented, CTE endorsed high school. We focus our class time on water activites such as operating vessels and restoring oyster reefs. These activities might be thought upon as potentially dangerous things, and the school has done a great job to ensure safety on and off the water. Safety is the first priority for the school, especially when we are being tested and graded for how well we can complete tasks while operating vessels. While scuba diving and operating vessels may be very fun, there are many risks that go along with it.

So, with these risks, protocol for safety is made. These include how to properly perform a man overboard drill, fire drill, or even abandon ship drills quite often. These drills are necessary to teach a student all the complex aspects that is associated with doing these on the water activities. To improve our waterfront safety, our school needs to spend more time on these risks that could occur at any moment. To ensure this, we could create more plans and emergency drills to fulfill the safety requirements that might be helpful in the long run in case of an emergency.

A Billion Oysters For New York Harbor


ollowing a press conference about the Billion Oyster Project that will engage New York City middle school students in oyster culture and plant a billion oysters in New York Harbor by 2034, Ariel Ron, a junior at the New York Harbor School, stood on Pier 15, where the press conference took place, holding an oyster shell with spats (young oysters) clinging to it. Oct. 30, 2014
Ariel Ron, a junior at the New York Harbor School, on Pier 15 in the South Street Seaport holding an oyster shell with spats (young oysters) clinging to it.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

The smell of oysters permeated the air on Pier 15 in the South Street Seaport. The odor was pungent, briny and distinctive. “That’s nothing,” said Charles Guillot-Marquet, a junior at the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School. “You should smell it when we have hundreds of oyster shells from restaurants!”

The students from the New York Harbor School collect these shells, clean them and use them as foundation reefs in the harbor, giving other oysters something to which they can attach as they breed.

In pre-Colonial times, trillions of oysters lived in New York Harbor, filtering the water and ridding it of pollutants. One oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. Oyster reefs provided habitat for hundreds of species of fish and invertebrates and helped to protect the salt marshes that ringed the harbor from the fierce onslaught of ocean waves. But New York Harbor’s oysters were destroyed by over-harvesting and disease.

Peter Malinowski, director of the Billion Oyster Project, Sam Janis, Schools Project Manager for the Billion Oyster Project and Murray Fisher, president of the New York Harbor School Foundation, at a press conference for the Billion Oyster Project on Oct. 30, 2014.
Peter Malinowski, director of the Billion Oyster Project, Sam Janis, schools project manager under the NSF grant, and Murray Fisher, founder of the New York Harbor School and president of the New York Harbor Foundation, at a press conference announcing the NSF grant.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

The Billion Oyster Project, launched by the New York Harbor School, is beginning to bring them back.

The New York Harbor School students and some of their oysters were on Pier 15 as part of a press conference on Oct. 30 announcing a $5 million, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to create a hands-on, marine science and stewardship curriculum for New York City middle school students. The goal is to have a billion oysters living in New York Harbor by 2034 and to enlist middle school and high school students and their teachers in the process of oyster restoration. This will provide numerous opportunities for scientific inquiry and learning.

New York Harbor is “the best possible place for teaching and learning in the entire world,” said Murray Fisher at the press conference. Fisher founded the New York Harbor School and is currently president of the New York Harbor Foundation. “The way that we restore New York Harbor and make it the best place for teaching and learning in the city is by developing curriculum and pushing it into the schools,” he said. 

A consortium of institutions will be engaged in this work under the National Science Foundation grant. Some of them have already embarked on it, even without the substantial funding that the NSF grant now provides.

Peter Malinowski, director of the Billion Oyster Project, speaking at a press conference for the Billion Oyster Project on Oct. 30, 2014.
Peter Malinowski addressing the press conference announcing the NSF grant. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

The partners include Pace University, the New York City Department of Education, Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the New York Academy of Sciences, the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School and the New York Harbor Foundation, the University of Maryland, the New York Aquarium, the River Project, Smart Start E.C.S. and Good Shepherd Services.

Dr. Lauren Birney, an assistant professor at Pace University, is the lead principal investigator with responsibility for managing the grant, supervising the partners, overseeing the research and maintaining a common vision and progression toward the project’s goals.

Twelve middle schools are already participating in the Billion Oyster Project. Teachers volunteered their time to be part of the program, in addition to their other teaching responsibilities. Now, says Birney, training will be more systematic and “robust.” It will take place at Pace and in the field, with a stipend and course credit for those who participate. Up to 60 middle schools can be accommodated during the three years of the NSF grant. Like those already in the program, all will be Title 1 schools, meaning that they serve at-risk and low-income students.

Schools will be chosen to participate in the Billion Oyster Project based on teacher interest and capacity, and a supportive administration.

By the end of the three-year grant if not before, Pace expects to have a program in place that will be suitable for roll-out to other New York City schools and to schools outside of New York City.

The New York Harbor School, which was founded 12 years ago in Bushwick, Brooklyn and is now domiciled on Governors Island, has led the way in this work. Students at the school have been restoring oyster reefs for more than four years.

The school offers six career and technical education programs in marine-related fields of which Aquaculture is one. All prepare students for entry-level jobs as well as for admission to college.

Ever since I was little, I wanted to help make a difference in the world,” said Ariel Ron, a junior at the New York Harbor School. Speaking confidently in front of the audience at the press conference, which included New York Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, Ron went on to say, “When I discovered the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, I knew it would give me the opportunity to make that dream a reality.”

She said that her work in the Aquaculture program had taught her how to “properly care for reef organisms and to value the role that they play in the New York Harbor ecosystem.”

After the formal part of the press conference, as she stood on Pier 15, with an oyster in one hand and measurement calipers in the other, she said that she lives in Jackson Heights, Queens, and that she spends two hours a day commuting to and from school. “That’s not so bad!” she said.

She hopes to go to college and to continue studies that revolve around animals and organisms in a marine environment.

“At the Billion Oyster Project, we know that authentic, place-based, inquiry-rich learning opportunities do not come at the expense of teaching standards, preparing students for exams or success in college,” Pete Malinowski, director of the Billion Oyster Project had said at the press conference. “Rather, it is through these authentic and empowering learning opportunities that we activate young minds and generate curiosity in the classroom. The goal is to create students that are striving to understand difficult concepts, rather than going through the motions of school.”

– Terese Loeb Kreuzer

For more information about the Billion Oyster Project, click here.