On March 25th and 26th, 70 individuals gathered at The Island School to celebrate students and schools that have been going to work to solve real-world problems, proving that authentic learning can happen outside of a traditional classroom curriculum.  Delegations representing twelve schools and independent organizations presented on their work ranging from oyster aquaculture in New York Harbor to building a solar house.  Representatives participated in an open house-style expo and formally presented to an audience that included Spring 2011 Island School students.  The conference was fortunate to host United States Ambassador to The Bahamas Nicole Avant on Friday afternoon, where she spoke about the power of young people during the keynote address.

On Saturday a group of panelists, facilitated by Middlebury professor Dr. Jon Isham, shared insights on their work, challenges they have faced, and advice on how to network.  Panelists included Murray Fisher, founder of New York Harbor School; Betsy Vogel-Boze, president of College of The Bahamas; Liz Robinson, director of the Center for Creativity and Innovation at Middlebury; Nikita Shiel-Rolle, founder of Young Bahamian Marine Scientists program, and several other distinguished conference guests.  Conference guests agreed: the most inspiring parts of the conference were the presentations by students ranging in age from 15 to 25 sharing the work they have done.  “All the presentations were outstanding and I was humbled and inspired by all that I witnessed,” said Michael Denning, a college counselor from Noble and Greenough School who attended the conference.

Among the attendees were seven Island Schools alumni: Sara Rodell (F02) presented on how she brought biodiesel back to her Austin, Texas high school after her Island School semester; Brenna Hughes (S03) shared her non-profit organization, “Swim to Empower,” which teaches Bahamians to swim; Katie Romanov  (F05) inspired the audience with Middlebury’s participation in the Solar Decathlon; and Alex Perkins (S09) demonstrated the power of young people by sharing how he and a group of peers were able to fundraise for, plan, and erect a 121 foot wind generator at Nantucket High School.  Cat Wilson (F09), Kearney McDonnell (S10), and George Giannos (F10) represented The Lawrenceville School to talk about their Sustainability Seminar course and specifically about the recycling and aquaponics projects on which they are currently working.   It was exciting to see how so many Island School alumni are going to work in their own communities.

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Footage from the entire conference, including all delegation presentations, will be available online shortly.  Please check back here over the next few weeks to see when it will be posted.

Full list of delegations:

New York Harbor School

Middlebury College - Solar Decathlon Team

African Leadership Academy

Young Bahamian Marine Scientists

Swim to Empower

Williams College

St. Andrew's School (Nassau)

The Lawrenceville School

Sara Rodell (biodiesel at Westlake High School)

Deep Creek Middle School

Nantucket High School