Blue Institute Sponsors Two Water-focused Events In Harwich

By: Elizabeth Van Wye

Topics: Environment , Arts

If there's one subject Cape Codders can relate to, it's water. Our lives cycle in and around local rivers, ponds, bays and sounds. How we connect to water is a subject as varied as the people.

Next weekend the Blue Institute of Cape Cod will host two programs in Harwich that illuminate our connection to water. The first, on Friday evening Oct. 18, showcases the winners of the recent "Words on Water" writing contest. Then on Saturday morning Oct. 19, a panel of experts digs into an exploration of the remarkable benefits of seaweed and algae.

The "Words on Water" writing contest, tied into World Water Day last June, asked an intriguing question. How would you describe your relationship to water, in a poem, in an essay, in a play?

Nearly 60 submitters stepped up to the challenge. Two winners were selected in each of four categories, including student poetry, poetry, prose and playwriting. On Oct. 18 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the South Harwich Meeting House, readings and performances of each of the two winners in the four categories will be presented. Prizes will also be awarded.

Judith Underwood, president and founder of the Institute, was "blown away" by the quality of the submissions and the winners. "People are all over the map on how they relate to water," she said.

In the student poetry category, submissions were received from as far away as Colorado, and the two finalists, Lizzie Sprout and Alexa Schneeberger, were from Monomoy Regional High School. "Protecting Our Ocean" is Sprout's plea for stewardship of the sea; Schneeberger wrote "Impact" to imagine the deadly consequences of ingesting plastic by a sea turtle.

Other winning poetry and prose submissions explored experiences as an ocean lifeguard, childhood memories of special brooks and rivers, walks along a favorite beach and sharks and seals in Cape Cod waters. Two plays depicted very different experiences near the water, one recalling happy times with grandchildren at the beach and the other imagining mythological vengeance for the damage done by humans to the natural environment. Winners include Rick Wilson and Clyde Watson for poetry; June Calender and Gina Faldetta for prose, and Candace Perry and Lee Roscoe for playwriting. A complete list of winners and their submissions is available at

Judging was done by volunteers with expertise in each area. Dr. Madhavi Venkatesan, executive director of Sustainable Practices, oversaw the selection of the student poetry winners, while Cape Cod Chronicle Columnist Donna Tavano did the same for adult poetry submissions. Gil Newton, an environmental and marine science teacher at Sandwich High School and Cape Cod Community College, handled the prose submissions. And Tyrone Benskin, an accomplished Canadian actor and director and past member of the Canadian Parliament, selected the plays.

Light refreshments will be served. Tickets are available at the door for $10, $5 for seniors and students and free for anyone under 14. Proceeds from the event will go towards World Oceans Day 2020. The Meeting House is located on Old Chatham Road in South Harwich.

A second water-related event next weekend is set for Oct. 19 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Harwich Cultural Center on Sisson Road. If seaweed and algae spring to mind when you think of water, "Seaweed and Algae: Everything that you wanted to know but were afraid to ask," might be right up your alley. Also sponsored by the Blue Institute, admission to the panel discussion is free.

Presenters at the event include Newton, Brian Braginton-Smith, CEO of AquaGen Systems in Yarmouth, and Heinz Proft, natural resources director for the town of Harwich.

According to Underwood, "seaweed is the next widespread protein to replace tofu. It is used for food, to clean water, as a bonding ingredient in cosmetics and creams and more." Algae is even being tested by the Air Force in trials for a green biofuel. "It's remarkable," said Underwood. "As kids we thought it was gross, but it has so many remarkable qualities."

The Blue Institute believes "in an interdisciplinary approach to understanding water and climate change issues," Underwood said. Their goal, she added, was to help develop better understanding as well as more (and perhaps more robust) solutions.