A Glimpse into the "Down Island Trip"

Every semester, Island School students have the opportunity to learn more from the people and natural environment that are part of the island of Eleuthera by venturing off the Cape for what is called a “down island trip.” During the summer term, the students take a course on the Bahamian history of tourism and development during their 3-day roadtrip. The team packs their camping gear, snorkels, placebooks and PB&J fixings into one of the legendary Island School biodiesel vans before heading north. 

The first stop is Haynes Library in Governors Harbor. Here the students learn about Eleuthera’s largest library, which also happens to be the island’s oldest government building, built in 1897. Then, they move the classroom outside and participate in a harkness discussion regarding tourism and culture. 

The students and teachers pile back into the vans and continue onwards to make it to both Harbour Island and Spanish Wells. Here, the students interview both locals and tourists in an attempt to put together a more holistic understanding of these smaller islands off the Northern end of Eleuthera. 

After a full day of learning it’s time to set up camp. For many students, this will be their first night spent cooking food by campfire and sleeping in a tent. During the first night, the teachers will show students the ropes — how to build a fire, anchor a tent, and make delicious pasta and tomato sauce for dinner. The second night, however, the students apply their newly acquired skills and set up camp all on their own! 

The students also get to explore many of the natural wonders Eleuthera has to offer.  The sapphire blue hole, the Hatchet Bay caves, and the Glass Window bridge are just a few of the stops on the down island trip that make Eleuthera so unique. Our teachers detail the geologic processes that created the sites as well as the ecosystems that inhabit them before the students jump on in.

Though it’s a short time away from campus, the students consistently return to The Island School with new perspectives after the down island trip. From settlements the students had yet to visit to campfire meals they had yet to prepare, the days traveling and learning from the island of Eleuthera are packed with new experiences. But perhaps most importantly, The Island School students return with an expanded and more meaningful idea of what it means to live well in a place. 

Summer Term 2017: Cacique Update #2

Students taking their first leap from High Rock on Monday, July 3, 2017. 

Students taking their first leap from High Rock on Monday, July 3, 2017. 

Last Monday was a very important day: initiation. Fifty-two of us gathered at 6:30 in the morning to immerse ourselves in the Bahamian community, both figuratively and literally. The most important part of the Island School Journey is the beginning. The High Rock run/jump is the foundation of the leap that the students are taking. As the sun starts to rise, we take off on our two mile run around the loop. Upon arrival, we can barely hold ourselves up; we are in an unfamiliar place, but all around us are familiar faces. We gather into our routine circle and begin the process of finding our place and establishing an Island School community. After a moment of silence and appreciation for our surroundings, we line up for the jump of our lives. As we tip-toe around the rocks, Pat guides us to the launching pad. The ocean below us marks the beginning of the rest of our lives. Standing on the edge, we face a twenty foot fall and our stomachs churn with anticipation and excitement. One by one, we leap into the fresh Caribbean Sea and wait for our friends to join us on our journey. Smiles surround the rock from both above and below, and shrieks of encouragement boom through the cool morning air. Soon after, we all celebrate, as our journey has officially begun. This unique experience came to a close as our family of fifty-two came together, once more, to make the run home.

Will Cooper and Tina Taylor

On the night of July 3rd, 2017, we all gathered on the beach for a bonfire. The air was cool and a breeze whipped our hair around our faces; the dimming sky a mural of pinks, oranges, purples, and fluffy white clouds. After the sun went down, we all gathered around the glowing fire, its light illuminating our smiling faces. Everyone was chatting, happy and at home, surrounded by our new friends. We sang a rousing version of the Bahamian national anthem, our voices filling the night air, and then played limbo. We toasted marshmallows and made s’mores. Following the core Island School principles of finding our sense of place and building an intentional community, I think that our bonfire helped develop an appreciation of the camaraderie, unity and fun of this one-of-a-kind place.

Annabel Roth


How to choose one moment to write about? There have been many amazing instances that have truly shown me the beauty of the place that I am in and the people that I am with. One of these moments happened last week on my down island trip. The down island trip is a four-day trip to North Eleuthera where we explore caves, interview locals, and camp with our fellow students. It had been an amazing, tiring day for all of us, and I was walking down to the ocean after putting our tent up on the beach. I saw a group people standing knee-deep in the ocean, so I waded in. I looked over, and a feeling of pure awe washed over me. A dolphin swam no more than five feet away, weaving in and out of sight and eventually sliding gracefully over the waves, its smooth body gliding effortlessly. This moment truly made me realize how blessed I am to be here, in such a wonderful place where I get to experience life so fully. The best part of this moment, however, was that I got to experience it with such amazing people who have become my life-long friends.

Emma Terwilliger

Javier and I relaxing on our hammocks after a hard day’s work as Caciques. We had a great time leading the community for the day. We look forward to watching fellow classmates lead the community in the near future.

Skye Henderson

Island School students study small reef patches and take notes and write down observations during a marine ecology lesson. 

Island School students study small reef patches and take notes and write down observations during a marine ecology lesson. 

We begin to load our boats under the hot, midday sun. The SCUBA gear, water bottles, lifejackets, and, finally, students and teachers, are all aboard and ready to drive over to our dive site. The wind quickly cools me down and the waves bounce around us as we get ready to go in the water. We get our BCD’s, weights, mask, fins, and snorkel ready and do one final buddy check before rolling into the water. We signal “OK” to our teachers and begin our descent.

Our task is to find examples of symbiotic relationships in a marine environment. We had spent all morning learning about the different types and how to identify them in nature. My buddy and I swim over to our patch reef and get to work.

We see how every bit of life interacts with each other. The coral protects the smaller fish, while the herbivorous fish cleans the algae off the coral. The groupers eat the smaller fish, and everyone is competing for resources like space and food. As I observe this underwater community, I am taken aback by its beauty. How the sun’s rays penetrate below the surface, and how everything relies on one other to thrive.

SCUBA Diving has taught me to appreciate the natural beauty of the world around us, especially the ocean. It motivates me to conserve our oceans and preserve this surreal world beneath our feet.

Zaie Nursey

Student Nicole Jehl shares her experience with the shark research team at the Cape Eleuthera Institute. During their day in the field, students conducted scientific longline research and measured and tagged the sharks they encountered. The group also discovered an abandoned seine net in which a juvenile Lemon shark had been entangled and died. The research team performed a dissection and taught the students about the anatomy of a shark. 

Once a week, every Island School student gets an hour and a half to go anywhere within our exploratory boundaries and take some time for ourselves.  We call this “Querencia,” and it’s usually a time to relax and regroup.  However, yesterday’s Querencia was nothing of the sort. I chose to go to a cut called No Name, a scenic cove about 15 minutes away from Island School’s main campus.  Since it’s so beautiful, there were also some other students spending their Querencia there, including my friend Will Cooper. 

As we were sitting under the trees, rain started to fall from the sky.  At first, it was a light sprinkle, and no one was too concerned.  However, it quickly turned into a downpour, soaking everything that wasn’t covered.  Everybody rushed to their bikes, and began the long journey back to campus.  Halfway there, Will’s bike chain chose this remarkably inconvenient moment to fall off.  We pulled over to the side of the road, where we managed to fix it after five minutes of struggling. As soon as as we hopped back onto our bikes, the chain fell off again!  By this point we were desperate, so we gave up on trying to fix his bike.  Instead, he grabbed the back of my bike and I towed him all the way back to the Island School.  It worked out surprisingly well, and in the end we were left with soaking wet clothes, muddy feet, and an unforgettable Querencia.

Tommy McClelland

 

 

Summer Term 2017: Cacique Update #1

Students pose for a group photo at Sunset Beach. 

Students pose for a group photo at Sunset Beach. 

I charged up the stairs, desperately trying to beat Lexi to the top, having to take three steps up the stairs for every one she took up the escalator. A small jolt of excitement hit me; after two airports, 12 hours, and three thousand miles, I was about to meet my Island School squad for the next month. I reached the top of the stairs and was instantly met with a sea of blue Island School t-shirts.

“Hi, my name is Oliver”

“Hi, I’m Will”

“I’m Jimmy”

“My name is Lina”

“Hi, I’m Emma”

“My name is Caleb”

“I’m Alex”

“And I’m Gaby”

“My name is Dylan”

“And I’m Tommy”

The flood of new names hit me like a sledge hammer. Combined with 48 hours without

sleep and not having eaten in over 10 hours, my brain was not helping me out.

In spite of my inability to remember people’s names, I continued to cruise around the

group and meet as many people as possible, despite the names becoming meaningless

blobs of sound.

After about half an hour of mingling, I was jolted back to life by the announcement on

the loudspeakers that the Bahamas Air flight to Rock Sound, Eleuthera was boarding. I jumped up and charged towards the flight attendant who was scanning boarding passes and hastily handed my boarding passes to her. I was then prompted to go down a flight of stairs and into an outdoor hallway that led to our plane. However, the second I stepped out through the large automatic sliding doors, I was greeted with a blast of heat and humidity and instantly started sweating bullets. As a California boy, I can put up with the heat, but the humidity is something that is very foreign to me.

The thick, black sweatpants that had been my sanctuary for the past 10 hours of traveling instantly became my prison. I hurried over to the airplane, hoping for air conditioning to relieve me of my suffering.

I was soon disappointed, as the plane proved to be hotter than the outside air.

I filed my way down the rows towards the flight attendant who was assigning seats to

people as they boarded. She assigned me my seat and I promptly sat down, and turned to the guy sitting next to me and asked him one more time

“I know we just talked about it but would you mind reminding me one more time of your

name?”

“I’m Dylan,” he replied.

He must’ve noticed how hungry I was, as he handed me a small bag of trail mix,

which I quickly devoured, repeatedly thanking him for giving them to me, and then was lulled by the propellers into a deep slumber.

Oliver Jacobs

We awoke Wednesday morning, the 25th, to the looming challenge of our first run-swim: a legendary test of speed, stamina, and mental fortitude. While such an athletic event has the capability to drive a wedge between students, both physically during the run and metaphorically by making some students feel self-conscious or inferior to others, it instead strengthened the bonds between us. During the activity we were forced to place trust in each other as we helped one another climb over a seemingly monstrous concrete wall, encouraged our buddies across vast expanses of ocean, and supported each other through grueling sets of enthusiastic calisthenics. Every time we finished a running or swimming segment, the people at the front of the pack would run in a variety of unusual geometric patterns, making sure that everyone was prepared for the next segment before we started out. When we reached the Island School campus, welcomed by jubilant cries of “we’re home,” and “we made it,” the first people to reach the flagpole formed a celebratory tunnel for the rest of the students to run through, giving everyone a final burst of energy to overcome their fatigue and finish the event strong. While the glorious run-swim was, in many ways, an individual event during which everyone pushed themselves to their personal limit, it was also a team effort which truly highlighted the support and familiarity of the Island School community.

Caleb Beebe

I live on the beach. I can get in my car and drive 10 minuets to the ocean with no trouble.

For some reason, I guess I thought that because of my proximity to an ocean, my transition from

Ipswich, Massachusetts, to Cape Eleuthera would be a piece of cake. Well, what I was not expecting was how hard it would to be to drag myself out of bed at 6 a.m. every morning and how intimidating it can be to meet 51 new people at once.

I stumbled though my first few days, brimming with enthusiasm and nerves. It was an overload of new experiences and people, which I quickly learned would leave me absolutely exhausted each night.

My first few days at the Island School resembled a splash of cold water right out of my

comfort zone. The month ahead of me was a great unknown, and I had to break through the wall

before I could really tap into all that the Island School had to offer.

Back home I am very involved in sports and athletics. Concepts like the common run-swims and psycho workouts caused more excitement than stress. My first run-swim at Island school was awesome.

“Awesome” is such an overused word, yet describes perfectly the environment that the run-swim

fosters. My peers and I jogged into the run-swim, not knowing what to expect, and were greeted

with energetic leaders, picturesque views, and seeming randomly timed calisthenics. About the

same time my legs started to feel that all too familiar burn and my tongue was puffy with salt, we

reached the wall. On first sight it appeared to be the turnaround point, for no way could one

scale its unforgiving concrete ridges. To my surprise, our run-swim leaders forged a direct

projectile to the wall. As I stared up, my only thoughts were of the feeling of satisfaction that

would follow a single handed ascent of the wall; when this was in turn attempted I was only able

to left myself a few measly inches off the ground. I looked side to side to see some of my fellow

runners lifting themselves over with seeming ease. It took not one, but two people, to help push

me over the wall and onto the gravel dirt above. Two people to help me complete a task I imagined doing myself.

While the comradery was heartwarming, I wanted that feeling of accomplishment and of personal

triumph.

The next day, Julia, a wonderful new friend of mine, and I decided to complete a non-mandatory

run-swim during our free time. Julia was the swimmer and I was the runner and we each

helped the other complete the workout. This meant the world to me as a girl who struggles

greatly with the whole “swimming” deal that happens in the water. As we approached the wall,

we both agreed that we would cross the channel leading up the wall and test it out. If we were

met with failure, we would simply turn back. Once we were in a closer proximity our plan of

attack consisted of Julia propping me up with her hands and once I had made completed the

landing I would pull her up. To our greatest surprise it worked! It was pure euphoria to look

down, Julia by my side, and see what we had accomplished. What I had pictured as a personal

triumph, was so much sweeter as an act of teamwork. I had broken the wall and was ready to

tackle the next month.

                                                                                                                        Grace Evans

Students exploring the Banyan Tree during their South Eleuthera Road Trip. 

Students exploring the Banyan Tree during their South Eleuthera Road Trip. 

June 29, 2017: A delightful Thursday spent exploring the island of Eleuthera with twelve of my peers, known as “Tiger Sharks 2.” Our day began by loading food, water, and equipment (such as CDs for music) into a navy blue van with a right-sided steering wheel. From our campus, we headed out to experience the beautiful island and the unique history that this archipelago has to offer: an abandoned landing strip, a 600 feet deep blue hole, and limestone caves, littered with leaf-nosed bats, were just some of the things that we were able to experience. Lunch consisted of a delicious home-made sandwich from our Island School kitchen staff and crunchy Cassava chips. A stop for one dollar Bahamian ice cream, accompanied by a discussion of whether or not we know more about the ocean or space. Personally, I think that the highlight of participating in the South Eleuthera Road Trip was learning and living through Bahamian culture and history, including hearing the story of an evil mermaid superstition at Boiling Hole. There is so much more I wish I could write but I’m afraid that The Island School is waiting for me to peel my eyes away from this blog and immerse myself into this ocean wilderness that I now call home.

                                                                                                                        Mia D’Orazio

June 30, 2017, marks the first time in my life that I took a breath below the water’s surface. I never thought that I would be able to SCUBA dive but it ended up being the best thing that I’ve ever done. For students like me who love swimming in the ocean, it was a dream come true. I enjoyed being like a fish in the ocean for those moments. I felt like I was in a new world. I saw beautiful aquatic animals, namely sharks and different types of fish. Everything that I saw became bigger and closer. It was not easy to SCUBA dive because as I dived deeper I couldn’t equalize my mask, causing it to slowly crush my face. However, the more I practiced, the more confident I became and managed to reach 25 feet. I enjoyed it because I felt a new appreciation for life. It’s like I was transported to a different part of the world where peace and beauty reigned. I have always loved seeing the ocean but I have never dared to jump or do risky things. At the Island School my ability to take risks and my curiosity to learn new things have improved a lot.

                                                                                   

Heriniaina Fenotoky Rajaoberison

Of the many breathtaking things I’ve experienced here at the Island School is the stars. At home, a mere glimpse of the Big Dipper or Orion’s Belt is a luxury but here, where the sky is so dense with stars it’s barely possible to identify a constellation, my wandering eyes resort to pure amazement. This natural energy is often met in the night sky by pulsing heat-lightning storms, brewing on the horizon, but not enough to hinder the spectacular view of the stars. As this natural phenomenon stitches the fine seam between the sky and the sea, the harmony between these natural wonders creates an unbelievable sense of belonging and passion. Rarely have I ever felt so at peace with my seeming insignificance as a human being than in this immense universe of natural energy. Energy in the form of ruthless lightning, shooting stars, rolling waves, and gentle winds. Energy that could knock me down in an instant, but instead, allows me to observe and appreciate peacefully from my humble spot on Earth. Since experiencing this immense sense of natural harmony, I have become more aware of my contribution, no matter how small, to this energy. With each breath, I can feel the strength and power of this place fill my blood, and as I exhale, I like to believe that I am giving something back. But this interaction, however empowering, can also reveal my personal insignificance in the grand scheme of things. My struggle to give back the life that this place has provided me is almost dissatisfying because I know that it can never be fully done. That said, trying to understand my place in this place has empowered me to embrace the energy it has to offer and live fully in its beauty. So, as I watch the heavenly stars become sewn to the earth with the powerful strike of electricity, I begin to establish a sense of satisfaction and peace with my place as a minor stitch in the quilt of life and energy that encompass this earth and everything in it.

                                                                                                            Grace Jennings

Island School student Lina Remmers explores Eleuthera and shows how students relax on the island. 

The Bahamas may seem like a dream vacation, and don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful place, but any student at the Island School will tell you that life here is far from just fun and games. You spend a majority of the time pushing yourself physically, mentally, and everything between. Every day here at the Island School is exciting, tiring, and above all else, hot. Thus, even in Bahamas, it is necessary to establish a spot to cool down and relax. In Beach House, the boys’ dorm, we have built our own hammock cove on the porch. These hammocks quickly became a hotspot for the boys’ dorm and we have spent many hours just relaxing and joking around. It’s true what we’ve been told about the Island School, there is no sense of time: days feel like weeks, weeks feel like days, and people you’ve known for only a couple days feel like lifelong friends.

Oliver Hirschland

Young Alumni Come Together for a Summer Cookout

On Wednesday, June 28th recent Island School alumni came together in Wellesley for a BBQ. The evening was complete with burgers, hot dogs, and some pool time. Thank you to the Keene family for hosting and to all the alumni who joined us. Happy summer, everyone!

Island School Alumni Take Ocean Pollution Into Their Own Hands: The Plastic Pick-Up

Two of The Island School's most recent alumni, Jack Johnston and Alex Weber (Spring 2017), began this project long before they set foot on our campus. In May 2016, the high school students discovered that on the coastline adjacent to a golf course in their hometown of Carmel Beach, California, lay hundreds of golf balls. Further investigation found thousands more rolling beneath the waves of the Pacific, contributed by multiple golf courses along the same stretch of coast. 

Before long, these two young  leaders were embarking on regular dives to clean up as many golf balls as they could manage. One year later, well over 20,000 balls have been retrieved from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Jack and Alex have, in that year, been in contact with the Pebble Beach Co., the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Their story has gone national and is inspiring other coastal dwellers as well as outdoor enthusiasts and high school administrators. They recently won the Shane McConkey Eco Challenge, which is run by the Shane McConkey Foundation and which inspires and encourages youths to get creative while taking care of their environment. To learn more about what they have been up to, visit GOLF.com's article and video here, or visit their Facebook page