From Behind the Mounds: A visit to the Harbor School

The Freshkills Park Team endeavors to keep up with innovative programming and research on NYC Waterways and recently took a ferry to Governor’s Island to visit the Harbor School, home of the Billion Oyster Project. The Harbor School provides a truly unique maritime program for high school students with a curriculum built around restoring one billion oysters to New York Harbor.  At one time, oysters covered hundreds of miles of NYC shoreline and provided tremendous ecological benefits.  The oysters continuously filtered water (thus maintaining local water quality) and the growing reefs provided specialized habitats for other marine species that in turn increased biodiversity and attenuated waves.  Focusing on the restoration efforts and using oyster shells from NYC restaurants, students at the Harbor School learn to spawn and harvest oysters– a challenging undertaking that has the Harbor School students constantly devising and testing new methods for encouraging oyster growth. When the oysters are sufficiently mature, filled cages (oyster condos) are placed in the Bronx River and other protected areas to promote reef formation. The project is making its way to Staten Island classrooms through Living Breakwaters, the recently awarded Rebuild by Design proposal by SCAPE/ LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, the Billion Oyster Project and several other partners. A necklace of breakwaters is proposed along Staten Island’s South Shore to buffer against wave damage, flooding and erosion. With a team of interdisciplinary experts, SCAPE designed “reef street,” micro-pockets of habitat that will host finfish, shellfish, and lobsters, and modeled the breakwater system at a macro scale to understand how and where to most effectively protect on-shore communities. Through the Billion Oyster Project and an associated network of programmed water hubs, local students will be empowered with science, recreation, education, and access –expanding the mission of the Harbor School across New York City.

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