News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, June 2, 2016
PERC wins grant to aid skippers program

by Faith DeAmbrose

Taking the real world experiences of fishermen, seafood dealers, scientist and fishery management experts and turning it into curriculum to help high school students is behind a $37,500 grant recently awarded to Stonington-based Penobscot East Resource Center from the Department of Marine Resources.

Penobscot East will use the funds “to develop four lobster curriculum units for its Eastern Maine Skippers Program (ESMP), an educational initiative for high school students planning a career in Maine’s lobster fishing industry,” according to information provided by the DMR.

In its fourth year, the Eastern Maine Skippers programs is composed of eight high schools including Deer Isle-Stonington and George Stevens Academy, with more than 80 students participating. Penobscot East provides the program oversight, with assistance from the Rural Aspirations Project in Lamoine.

The grant, explained Penobscot East Executive Director Robin Alden, will allow the nonprofit organization to begin having conversations with industry experts in order to tailor the curriculum to provide the latest and best industry standards and practices. She expects the process from conversation to development will take the better part of a year, with the first two units of curriculum available to the schools for the start of the 2017 school year.

Deer Isle-Stonington High School Principal Todd West was pleased to learn of the award and said that it represents the fact that the program is “moving from a great idea to sustainable program mode.”

He said the EMSP “allows students to gain additional skill sets in an ever changing fishing industry,” and that “students have had great experiences with local fishermen, working side by side throughout this program.”

Throughout the program, said Alden, students have gained competencies far beyond learning to fish, including public speaking as they’ve testified before the legislature about fishing-related bills or given presentations of their work at large venues such as the annual Fishermen’s Forum held in Rockland. She said students have also learned to think critically and solve problems through the real life experiences they are given from the many industry experts who have volunteered their time.

To learn more about the Eastern Maine Skippers Program visit their Facebook page, or find the link on the Penobscot East web site.