Weekly Peek: Living Sustainably at The Island School - The Students' Perspective

Here at The Island School, the campus is the classroom. A series of systems and design principles allow our students and our community members to actually live what they learn.

Our energy production at 11:32am according to the Island School Campis Cloud homepage.

Our energy production at 11:32am according to the Island School Campis Cloud homepage.

On campus, we use a technology called Campis Cloud, which tracks our energy production and consumption as well as our water collection and usage on a daily basis. We collect rainwater in cisterns below our classrooms and dorms, fulfilling all of our water needs from cooking to showering. Our waste water is then directed back to the gardens in the center of our campus, which grow lush with natural fertilizer before returning the water to the ground. Beside these “poo-poo gardens” lies the dining hall, which sources as many of its fruits, vegetables, and meats from local Eleutheran farms as possible, including tomatoes from down the road, eggs from our very own chickens in the farm on campus, and lettuce from our aquaponics grow-beds. Aquaponics is a system which uses fish waste to fertilize plants, then cycles the water that passes through these plants back to the fish. It can be implemented on any scale, and it sustains both a vegetarian and pescatarian diet. You can learn more about aquaponics here. It is tremendously important for our students to take part in the harvesting of the foods that feed our community members, as it provides the unique perspective of production that we as consumers don’t often see in our daily lives. 

Outside of our food and water usage, our team at the Center for Sustainable Development uses invasive casuarina trees to build new furniture for on-campus housing. They also collect used vegetable oil from cruise ships that pass through the island to be converted into diesel fuel which run our school vans. Furthermore, a new project on campus involves the melting down of our plastic waste to be converted back into usable diesel fuel. Learn more about this exciting project here!

Ultimately, these systems and processes foster compassion within our students and community members. Every day, each individual witnesses or contributes to sustainable practices that keep this campus functioning the way it does. They learn to place value in their environment and to take pride in the ways in which they protect it. It is a unique place that allows for that kind of learning, and we are proud to offer it here at The Island School.

Reflections from the Advisories of Pat Lamontagne and Cam Raguse

Reflections from the Advisories of Pat Lamontagne and Cam Raguse

Olive Cowan

Just 18 days into the semester and I feel like I’ve been here for years, the fastest, most compact and dense years of my life. Coming in everyone said “every day feels like a month and every month feels like a day.” I was suspicious of how that was possible because the first few days felt never ending, but now looking back I don’t know where the last 18 days went. Its hard to choose one moment that stands out to me as more pivotal than others because almost everything I have done has been new and out of my comfort zone. Of all the things I’ve done, the one thing that stands out to me as most special and shareable is my first SCUBA dive. Coming into the Island School I was extremely scared to dive. It’s a whole new world, a new domain with unexpected, unpredictable variables that I am forced to deal with in the moment. I took my first breath under water and looked up as I descended, slowly feeling the pressure on my body increase. I watched the clouds become more and more obscured by the choppy surface waves. I said goodbye to the familiar and comfortable and looked down into the new world underneath me. Looking down I couldn’t see the bottom, only a large drop off and a blue abyss. We swam around the edge of the drop off and slowly descended into the unknown. It seemed surreal, as I looked to my side, inside the nooks in the surrounding limestone walls I could see foot long fish with sparking, bright scales. Even surrounded by dark water my eyes were dazzled by the bright coral, sunlight and colorful fish. I was in awe of the size of the fish and their gorgeous, brightly painted bodies. There was so much to take in and the majority of it I did not understand, but I was able to appreciate the cluelessness and embrace it. I came up from the dive shocked by everything I had just seen. I was speechless, unable to comprehend the new world I had just become a part of. Although this is simply the story of my first dive, it sounds very similar to my journey to the Island School. I was confused going into a world of unknowns. I embraced the discomfort and looked down, forgetting the surface, everything I knew and felt comfortable with. So far it has paid off, I have been dazzled and loved everything the Island School has to offer. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester has in store and to live every day to the fullest because once the three months are over I don’t want to leave wishing I had done more. 

Julia Forman

The moment I took my bag off the baggage claim, I was overwhelmed with joy at the start of my new adventure, and I became brave. I knew I could do this. I had never visited the Island School campus before, but with every bump on the road I got more and more excited to see it in person. Stepping onto the Island School campus, I suddenly felt at home. All the teachers welcomed us all with bright, smiling faces. The journey had begun. The first thing we did when we arrived was unpack. My luggage hadn't made it to the island, so everyone generously offered up their own belongings. It already felt like we were becoming a family. That evening, the first dinner we had as a huge group was monumental. Everyone squeezed around one table and I felt like everyone was already so close with one another. I was going to learn so much. Each person who comes to the Island School has their own story and I was determined to know everyone’s by the end of the semester. 

The best feeling in the entire world is being with people who are doing the same thing you love and are in a place because they want to be there. I also love pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. I realized that the Island School is a place for me. Everyone is here to make lifelong friendships, stories and to accomplish challenging goals. We are all meant to do this and it is going to be an experience that I will never forget. I've had to adjust to life here, but I still feel at home. I am in the moment and am being myself. I always remember to ~not count down the days, but make them count~. I am so excited for what the rest of this semester has to offer!

Julia Forman's view from her bike as she heads out to explore Cape Eleuthera!

Julia Forman's view from her bike as she heads out to explore Cape Eleuthera!

Grace Crenshaw

You would think after an early morning run or swim that the dorms would seem quiet while squeezing in a quick shower before heading off to breakfast, but the Treehouse dorms, both north and south, full of 28 girls, never seems to die down. Mornings are spent with French braid train lines out the door, loud music with the obvious accompanying of strange yet contagious dance moves, and on this particular morning, a lot of screaming. When making my way towards the bathroom after my pristine newly made bed shone behind me like every other morning here at Island School, my ears began to ring. “There’s hot water! Hot water!” Although we have been here now 18 days I was no longer familiar with these two words, “hot” and “water”, side by side in a singular sentence. I had become very familiar with the use of water in many new sentences, including the conservation of it and the use of cisterns, but in my time spent here so far, “hot water” had not yet been witnessed. I could not mentally resonate what was going on but quickly hands began to flood the shower stall which contained Treehouse’s newest luxury, hot water itself. Even though showers here consist of quick rinses and never exceed two minutes in order to fit authentic Navy styles, I can easily say this was the most enjoyable shower of my entire existence. Although that morning is still the only to grace my hot water shower toll, it’s enough for me.

X Prince

For many, the first scuba week would be nothing new; it would be just another breath from a regulator. But for the vast majority it would be their first breath underwater, which is truly an amazing feeling. Breathing underwater unlocks another world of exploration and freedom and the way it is taught here at IS makes it so easy and enjoyable. Though there are many fears and assumptions going into scuba week, I feel that everyone comes out with full confidence in being able to reach new depths and really feel more confident in themselves. It brings out an appreciation of the underwater life that many can not achieve if not fully immersed in the sea. It is something I feel we are all very lucky do be able to experience and for many, something to cross off the bucket list.

Dani Abouhamed

The teachers had told us about a tree hidden somewhere in the inner loop. Apparently, there were two banyan trees, but no one gave us directions to where they were. A group of friends and I were determined to find these two trees. On our first Sunday, we departed on our adventure. I was our group’s self-designated photographer and took photos throughout. Our first stop was at the water towers. Surprisingly, within 15 minutes, we found the first banyan tree. It was a stunning group of massive vines.

The real adventure begins in our search of the second. I was at the tail of the group so I do not know how the group decided where to enter the bushes, but in an attempt to find the second banyan tree, we went bushwhacking. We crawled under thorns and around venomous banana spiders. We would lose each other through the thick bushes, and would hear a lot of Marcos and Polos. Our legs were completely scratched up and our necks sunburnt. Continuing for hours, we found nothing, as we kept getting more and more cuts throughout our legs. We were probably a good mile in before hopelessly turning back. The trip back was harder than the trip in because we were anxious to get back to campus. We returned to campus not having found the second banyan tree, but I was actually very pleased with our journey. We may have not achieved our destination, but we achieved an unforgettable and unmatched adventure.

Jack Johnston amongst the beautiful vines of the banyan tree.

Jack Johnston amongst the beautiful vines of the banyan tree.

Troy Dillon, after finally returning to his bike after their bushwhacking adventure. 

Troy Dillon, after finally returning to his bike after their bushwhacking adventure. 

Katie Grogan

With Pat’s voice beginning to settle us all down, I looked around at my 52 new friends as we gathered in the boathouse. He told us that we were about to go on an adventure, and this time we would be going on a discovery alone. All of us were to scatter throughout the tip of the island with the objective of finding “our place.” He explained that our goal was to observe. We were to observe our surroundings, the place we were in, and how we can best fit into this place. He told us to observe the smallest thing next to us such as a grain of sand, and then to refocus our minds to observe something large, like the expansive horizon stretching along the beach. 

Nervous, excited and confident, the 53 of us set out on our own adventures. I soon found myself dropping my rusty bike on the side of 4th Hole beach, and right then I knew that I had found my spot. I ventured down the rocky beach a little way until I found a small, circular area of pure sand, and that’s when I knew to stop. I set down a towel, pulled out my place-book, and finally took a minute to look in front of me at the ocean. I grabbed a pen out of my backpack, flipped to the next blank page of my place book, and just let my words flow. After a little over an hour had passed, my hand became numb and I decided to end my entry. Over the course of that hour, I reflected on everything that had happened from my arrival to Eleuthera up until that point, the emotions I had felt from transitioning from life at home to a new place, the relationships I had made that I already knew would last a lifetime, everything that I had already accomplished, and most importantly, I wondered how did I ever get the chance to end up sitting on a beautiful beach where I had found a small refuge. Below is an excerpt from my entry from that querencia session: 

I think that’s why I love querencia so much- because I’m allowed to put the world, time, and everything else around me on hold. And that’s what makes it so unique and so special- because I’m able to have a moment by myself, which is so rare to have here when I’m constantly surrounded by my friends and advisors. But right now, I’m given the opportunity to write, reconnect with myself, and evaluate how I’m feeling at this very point in time which I’ve come to find is so important. And for most moments when I reflect like I am right now, I find myself looking out to the water and I feel so grateful to be in such a beautiful place and to be undergoing such a formative and life changing experience.
— March 10th, 2017 - Day 12

Aukai Elkaslasy

The Island School Three Day Kayak provides many experiences and challenges, but few know about a secret that makes it a true success. For those who have camped, you know how much better camp food tastes. If you’re like me, you like cooking for yourself on such adventures. So, when we were asked to volunteer for our jobs, I was the first to raise my hand for bush chef. Here is what my bush cooking looked like:

The morning began with warm oatmeal. These perfect little oats were paired with a few glacé raisins, honey, and brown sugar. On the side bright oranges and sweet apples were offered. Due to the cold night, the students rushed to fill their bowls with this sweet breakfast. The many hungry teenagers relished in delight when they found out that there was excess food for just about every meal. For lunch, warmed tortillas were offered with both a meat and cheese. The salami was thinly sliced and diced to a pristine cube. The cheese was grated to flakey perfection and sprinkled on top of the meat. The true key however was not the meat or the cheese, it was the salty cassava chips that were crushed and spread on top of the tortillas. After such a perfect meal, the many kayakers were ready to continue their 16-mile journey.

For dinner the chefs arranged a few special treats: caramelized onions and escargot. After a long hunt, the fishermen returned without any fish or lobster; they instead brought sea snails. The chefs were excited to start cooking as dinner was a huge event. The onions were diced and put to cook early, sizzling in a pan based with pristine olive oil. The rice was then put to cook and the beans were warmed. Behind the scenes, another chef worked hard to cut some extra cheese. When the food was ready, the chefs prepared people’s dishes. They carefully laid out a warmed tortilla and based it with rice. Beans came next, topped with cheese, and a few scoops of the now golden onions. On top of the burrito bowl, garlic and salt spices were added. After the food was served, the chefs got to work with the sea snails. Cracked out of their shells, and prepped for cooking, the group grew eager to taste such a delicacy. Put to fry in an olive oil based pan, the garlic herbs were added to give the dish its distinct French aroma and flavor. To everyone’s surprise, the snails were delicious and marked the end of the last kayak night. For many, food highlighted their trip. For everyone, they wished the journey didn’t have to come to an end the next day. 

Weekly Peek: Land and Environmental Art!

The Land and Environmental Art class at the Island School is different from most other art classes. It provides a unique and wholly necessary means by which our students forge a connection to place. This theme of place-based learning that courses through the curriculum here on Eleuthera is essential to instilling passion in each of our students. Learning about the place you live in means becoming intimate with that place, and intimacy implies a sense of caring and responsibility. Developing that relationship happens naturally alongside the way we live here: navy showers, recycling everything and anything, using our food scraps to feed the pigs and chickens, etc. After one hundred days of paying close attention to the “stuff” that surrounds us and to the way it affects our home and our environment, students’ discover that their connection to place is in fact that they are part of a place.

We often forget that we are nature. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves.
— Andy Goldsworthy

There are four main projects that our students tackle over the course of a semester. First, a photography project in which they create a narrative that is personal to them. Second, a site specific sculpture which allows them to see beauty in objects and spaces that occur naturally. Third, a scientific illustration project that gives the students an opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the life forms that are studied at the Cape Eleuthera Institute. Finally, the students are assigned an open-ended project that involves their medium of choice and their passions here on Eleuthera that they feel need more attention. This final project is assigned at a point in the semester when our students have grown to exercise their independence, confidence, and self-reliance, all within the space of the community. 

On Wednesday, each student was asked to collect a long list of different types of photos. For example:

  • Take a picture of something human-made you believe to be at least twice as old as you are.
  • Take a photo that exemplifies texture.
  • Take a picture in which hands are the main subject.

Just three of many photo requests, these assignments led our creative young students to look at the world from a number of different angles, from different perspectives. And that's what a semester program like this is all about: changing perspectives. Stay tuned for future student projects posted here!

Martina working to capture various elements of the ocean's surface.

Martina working to capture various elements of the ocean's surface.

Students Sawyer and Patrick getting up close with a lizard.

Students Sawyer and Patrick getting up close with a lizard.

Luke, Claire, and Meg team up to take on their first art class in the field!

Luke, Claire, and Meg team up to take on their first art class in the field!

Alumni Following in Maxey's Footsteps: The Power of Experiential Education

Molly George in one of her classrooms. Angel's Landing, Zion National Park, Utah. 

Molly George in one of her classrooms. Angel's Landing, Zion National Park, Utah. 

Molly George attended IS in the FA’07. After graduation from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, she taught high school at her alma mater The Gunston School. She left the classroom to become an “Adventure Travel Tour Guide” and spent seven months leading multi-week road trips across the United States. Combining her experience of education and travel, Molly founded The Road School.

“This summer, our teachers and guides at The Road School will lead select groups of high school students on two-week educational road-trips throughout the United States. My inspiration for The Road School came from my days on Eleuthera, where I saw first hand the incredible impact of place-based, hands-on learning. As we experienced during Island School, there is no better way to learn than getting out of your comfort zone and immersed in your subject matter. Our educational sessions take place while hiking in Yellowstone, marching in Selma, and camping with the Navajo in Arizona.

We’re looking for students, teachers, parents, and IS alumni who share our vision. If you want to learn more about the program or teaching opportunities reach out to me at mcsgeorge91@gmail.com. Can’t wait to connect with you!”

Tom McDonough, his co-instructor Kat Nelson, and the adorable Mango at Camp Dudley.

Tom McDonough, his co-instructor Kat Nelson, and the adorable Mango at Camp Dudley.

Tom attended the Island School as a student in Spring 2008, returned to teach for the semester program from Fall 2014-Spring 2016, and stuck around to help with the CEI Gap Program in Fall 2016. He now lives in the Adirondacks, working for Camp Dudley, where he is helping to build a semester-long gap year program on the shores of Lake Champlain. 

The Dudley Gap Experience is a small-group leadership program, running from September to December each year. Launching in the fall of 2017, this program focuses on leadership and character development, skill-based learning (farming, cooking, building, and service), and expedition-based adventure. The expeditions include a trip to the American Southwest with NOLS, a student-led backpacking trip in the Adirondacks, and a visit to The Island School! The whole program is centered around the ethic of the Dudley motto: The Other Fellow First. 

The Island School has always been close to Tom’s heart, and he hopes to further the school’s mission of Leadership Effecting Change by continuing to bridge the Dudley and Island School communities. For more information on the program, applications, and details, please visit the website (www.campdudley.org/gap) and email Tom at tommcdonough@campdudley.org

Matt Aryes with the Co-Directors of Woza Soccer, Kate Silverman and Chris Kaimmer, in Peru. 

Matt Aryes with the Co-Directors of Woza Soccer, Kate Silverman and Chris Kaimmer, in Peru. 

Matthew Ayres was a member of the Island School’s Spring class of 2007. Leaving Maine, he attended Connecticut College where he graduated in 2014 with a self-designed major in Environmental Education: An Eco-justice Approach. He then went to work for Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Swaziland as a teacher and soccer coach. Currently living in Seattle, he now works for Woza Soccer, a nonprofit that takes high school soccer players on international soccer-focused service trips; using the game to connect across cultures and support sport for development organizations abroad.  

“My interest in education was somewhat subdued before I attended the Island School, however it was during my IS experience that I learned the potential of what education can give to its students. For me, education should always look to harness a student’s passions and empower them to give back through the pursuit of those passions. Working with Woza has been a way for me to expose kids to the idea of using soccer for social impact; to show players that soccer is more than just a game they love, but a way for them to give back; that it is a sport that has the power to make the world a better place.

Every summer, Woza Soccer leads soccer-focused service trips to Costa Rica, Peru, Malawi and South Africa, and we are always looking for amazing kids to join our trips! If you would like to learn more about Woza Soccer, feel free to contact me at matt@wozasoccer.com - I look forward to hearing from you soon!"

Update: Chris and Pam Maxey Continue Solar Project in India

Chris and Pam Maxey are in the midst of their time in India, where they are visiting the Pardada Pardadi School (PPS). Their relationship with this all-girls institution began in October 2015, when the Founder of PPS Sam Singh and Principal Renuka Gupta visited The Island School. One of their goals for this trip was to bring solar energy opportunities to the students of PPS with the help of We Share Solar, a charity founded by Island School parent, Gigi Goldman. 

The solar suitcases arrived safely, and this week has seen the installation of the first two - one in the Math lab to be used as an educational tool, and the second in the home of one of the students, where there is no electricity. Chris and Pam demonstrated the installation of the first kit, inspiring the students by applying themselves to the work at hand and by bringing enthusiasm to the table. They had the girls assist with all parts of the process, and then encouraged them to take initiative in the installation of the remaining panels. This has helped each of them grow more confident, as they now find by themselves the directions the panels should face and the angle at which they should be mounted. It has been an incredible growing experience for all involved, and will provide an invaluable resource to the students of the Pardada Pardadi School.

20170315_130454.jpg