First Week of 2010!

 Bridgett Jamison

I am one of six new educators and interns to the Clearwater organization. And like my peers, I arrived groggy-eyed to the Beacon office on my first day of work.  I awaited what I expected to be a dreary week of power points and lectures.  Instead, I was quickly engulfed in a weeklong frenzy of the education and action.    A hike to the top of Mt. Beacon began the internship.  This was followed by an enthralling account of the Hudson history, kayaking, song training, seining, and fish identification.  Then there was more training on marco-invertebrates, invasive species, PCBs, Climate Change, Indian Point, Land Use and a host of other topics.  The plethora of information left my head reeling.  But the passion of our instructors was also inspiring and infectious.  I began to yearn for the opportunity to begin teaching.  In what little time we had between classes, we supported the crew of the Clearwater in their overwhelming job of repainting the hull.  Outfitted in a full body Tyveck suit and mask I scrubbed the bottom of the boat until my muscles ached.
Friday night arrived and I was exhausted and dirty as Maija ushered us to the train.  Three hurried subway rides and a short walk later, I found myself staring at the Mystic Whaler though the faint glow of the NY light pollution.  Having never seen a tall ship before, it was an astounding sight dwarfed only the hospitality of the crew.  We were shown our private cabins (complete with chocolates on the pillows), and hot showers.  Then we rushed to a candlelight dinner of fresh salad greens, French bread, and lasagna.  It was far from the dingy bunk beds and watery soup that I expected. 
That first week aboard the Whaler was no vacation.  I found myself straining to learn simultaneously the ways of the sailor and educator.  Someone might scream out “Pull the line on the starboard foresail hallard…with peak even with the throat.” At this, I would stare back with a look on black confusion having only understood the word “Pull”.  But which a help of an incredibly patient crew, I learned fast.  By the week’s end, I was proudly splicing line and furloughing the jib.  Learning to be an educator on a floating, fast moving classroom was even more overwhelming.  After a day of shadowing experienced educators, I found myself sitting before a group of wide eyed fifth graders, pushing past each other to look at the eel, as I shouted over their cries the uses of a dichotomous key.  But practice makes perfect and we got a lot of practice that first week on everyone from third to 11th graders.  By Friday, I felt like an expert. 
Overall these first few weeks were incredible. I want to thank the patient crew of the Mystic Whaler and Clearwater who unwearyingly answered my inquires about the difference between a cleat and pin or baggy wrinkle and sheet.  Moreover, I am very grateful the enthralling lessons from local scientists and Clearwater staff through which I learned the material I now teach.  I would honestly describe the whole thing as 10 times cooler than even my best expectations.

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