The institutional keystones—sense of place; sustainability; and community—tie The Island School’s entire curriculum together. Focusing on these core principles ensures that students come away from their experience on Eleuthera with a deep understanding of what it means to know and live in a place, the sacrifices and rewards of sustainable lifestyles, and the opportunity for learning and growth that comes from a supportive community.
Each discipline has specific enduring understandings, all of which are rooted in The Island School program-wide enduring understandings. A successful Island School student will demonstrate the following in their actions, academic journey, and community membership:
Students will understand that the potential for leadership exists in every situation and that they can rely on empathy, awareness, and clear communication to effect positive change.
To develop leadership in our students, the most important principle that guides our actions is trusting individuals with real responsibility and leaving room for failure. This ensures that the tasks we give to students do not become vacuous exercises. And there are numerous times in any day when students have an opportunity to step into leadership roles.
The process of feedback is intentionally structured throughout the semester through three phases of leadership development: teaching, feedback and transference. During the teaching phase, a primary focus is building trust through taking calculated risks and challenging students to explore realms outside of their comfort zone. A number of mechanisms—rubrics for class discussions, debriefs from expeditions, informal conversations—provide avenues for the students to receive feedback on their progress. In the end, though, the development of leadership in an individual is a personal journey propelled by challenge. For this reason, the best assessor is the individual herself.
Students will understand that for the betterment of an intentional community, every member should be mindful of both individual roles and limitations.
The concept of community at The Island School is fundamentally about relationships. And we interpret this concept in the broadest possible sense. So not only are students encouraged to investigate their relationships with other humans, they are also challenged to extend that consideration outward to include their relationships with the living world, non-living systems, and the whole of the known universe.
As a keystone of our school, the thread of community is prominently stitched throughout the student experience. For example, weekly advisory and community meetings, the humanities and art classes, and cultural contact opportunities develop the students’ understandings of human relationships, while math, science and research classes, SCUBA diving, and expeditions center on exploring mankind’s role and responsibilities in the ecosystems we share with other life forms.
Students will understand that sustainability is the practice of conserving the well-being of self, community, and resources on an ecological and intergenerational scale to ensure their continuation.
Since its inception in 1999, The Island School has contributed to this movement not through theoretical abstraction but through practical application and experimentation. During this time, we have learned that sustainability involves much more than recycling waste streams or reducing energy consumption. The environmental component is important, to be sure, but it cannot stand alone. True sustainability begins with individual lifestyles and requires a commitment from every member of the community to embrace the challenge of personal change. Students learn that sustainability is a collective endeavor that demands flexibility in thought, attitude, and behavior. More importantly, they learn the value of sacrifice—not for ascetic purposes, but out of humility, respect, and fairness for the rest of the living world and future generations.
Students must confront the realities of sustainable living in The Bahamas at every point in their day. In fact, we maintain healthy bodies by starting each day with an hour of exercise. The infrastructure of the school is another incessant reminder of the value we place on sustainability. Following the cycle of just one of our resources is emblematic of the awareness that pervades our lives.
Students will understand that a strong sense of place can be developed through considerable observation and involvement. This deep connection can foster a love for the place and a responsibility to protect its future.
At The Island School, we use “sense of place” to refer to intimacy with the natural and cultural environment. Hence, we seek to cultivate in our students profound understandings of ecology, systems, history, and culture through direct experience in the ecosystems and communities that surround us. Our text books are tidal creeks, conversations with local inhabitants, and the artificial wetland that processes our wastewater.
Our students are continually encouraged to ask good questions, listen or observe attentively for the responses, and reflect thoughtfully on what they are learning. Therefore, one emphasis is developing in our students skills that are both essential to their understanding of and transferable to any place. However, there is also an important ethical component to the sense of place we espouse. To be intimate, after all, implies a sense of caring and responsibility; it requires shared experiences and recognition of common interests. In this way, a developed sense of place provides an entry point for our students both to know a place as well as to envelope it in their moral sphere.