TCD. Best of: New York Harbor School & Its Billion Oyster Project, Teen Leads Fight for Maine to Divest From Fossil Fuel, Listener Call to Action!

by | Jul 7, 2023 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

TCD. Best of: New York Harbor School & Its Billion Oyster Project, Teen Leads Fight for Maine to Divest From Fossil Fuel, Listener Call to Action!



In the fall of 2003, The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School opened its doors on the fourth floor of the Bushwick Campus High School to 125 freshmen who lived almost exclusively in the surrounding neighborhood in Brooklyn.  At the time, the New York City Department of Education looked to Harbor School to help improve the community’s local graduation rate, which had hovered for too long at 24 percent. 

A team of students, parents, educators, and non-profits crafted a proposal to New Visions for Public Schools for approval for a “Brooklyn New Century High School.” In the Spring of 2003, the school proposal was accepted along with an implementation grant from the Gates Foundation, The Open Society, and the Carnegie Corporation. To help fund and legitimize the project, Waterkeeper Alliance and South Street Seaport Museum joined as founding partners. 

The mission of the New York Harbor School is to offer a maritime-themed academic program, combined with the standard New York State Education Department Regents-based curriculum. The high-interest, water-related topics are then brought to life by exposing students to local water bodies, including New York Harbor, the Hudson River, the East River, and the Gowanus Canal. 

As sophomores, all NYHS students must enroll in one of seven career and technical education programs of study. These programs lead to industry certification in marine sciences or technology. The seven programs are aquaculture, marine biology research, marine policy and advocacy, marine systems technology, ocean engineering, professional diving, and last but not least, vessel operations.

Why does the New York Harbor School matter to us? Remember that 24% graduation rate? By 2010, Harbor School had improved the local graduation rate to over 90%, and it’s holding! Proof that exposing students to work-based learning which connects them to their real lives, along with standard curriculum, is a winning combination.

DEEPER DIVE: NYHS, Billion Oyster Project,, WaterFrontAlliance


Once upon a time, the Hudson River was home to billions and billions of oysters. Unfortunately, due to over-fishing and pollution, they went nearly extinct. Students at the New York Harbor School believe with a large enough oyster population, they can restore a thriving marine ecosystem. Oyster reefs provide habitat for hundreds of species and can protect NYC from storm damage — softening the blow of large waves, reducing flooding, and preventing erosion along the shorelines.  

The New York Harbor School started in 2003. Then in 2014, the school launched the Billion Oyster project, a long-term, large-scale plan to restore one billion live oysters to New York Harbor over the next twenty years and in the process train thousands of young people in New York City to restore the ecology and economy of their local marine environment. 

Just as significantly, around the oyster nurseries, dramatic increases in local biodiversity are seen. A wide range of species such as black sea bass, oyster toad fish, blue crabs and seahorses have come back. Water quality and clarity in the vicinity of reef installations has also improved.

Why does the Billion Oyster Project matter to us? Since its inception, the high school students have restored more than 75 million live oysters, collected and recycled over two million pounds of oyster shells, and engaged over 8,000 students in the project. It’s a great template for other schools globally to educate and arm students with the tools to help nature heal itself.

DEEPER DIVE: Billion Oyster Project,  NYPL History of NY Oysters,  The Big Oyster, NYHS



Anna Siegel is only 16, but she’s always had her eyes fixated on what’s above and below the surface. The Yarmouth, ME activist helped lead the fight last year for the bill that required Maine to divest from fossil fuel companies. She also founded Maine Youth Action, which pushes for climate action and legislation at the state and local level, actions she says were inspired by her passions.

Siegel said, “As I learned more about, you know, biodiversity loss and habitat encroachment, and all these issues that affect the creatures that I love, I also learned about how it impacts people on the social justice side of the climate crisis.” For her efforts, Siegel will be awarded the Diller Teen Tokum Olam Award, given to fifteen Jewish U.S. teens for exceptional leadership and engagement in initiatives making the world a better place. The award comes with a $36,000 prize but the money comes second to her advocacy and education efforts on the climate crisis.

Said Siegel, “I’ve heard a lot of adults saying, you know, this is so great that you’re taking this on, and to save your own future, you know, I’m so happy that the kids are kind of fixing our mistakes. But I don’t think it’s, great for adults to be shifting the responsibility onto the shoulders of youth. We need to be working intergenerationally to solve the climate crisis.”

And that’s exactly why Anna Siegel matters to us. In an interview with a local TV station, she added, “My driving passion is really birds and wildlife. I know that can make me sound like a geeky little kid who wants to poke in the dirt. But that’s where it all started for me.”

DEEPER DIVE: Maine Youth Action Network, Diller Teen Awards, WMTW 



Recently, one of our listeners shared her story of how listening to the climate daily helped her deal so well with her climate change overwhelm, that she got out and started working with the local community based group. Then she challenged us to ask you all to share any stories you might have of how listening to the climate daily might have inspired you into action, so we can share them with the world.

Remember, we’re all about sharing stories of people taking positive action to combat climate change. And that’s you listeners. You can hit us up on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter at #wetheclimate or Jeffrey at The Climate dot org or Maude at The Climate dot org, also.