Tai Massimilian: I squinted, wrapping my arms around my shivering body. This bathing suit is pinching my back and feels totally unnatural. And I’m pretty sure my skin is already burning. Yes. Yes it is. This was day one of the Island School Experience, and I was already way out of my comfort zone. By about 7 AM, I had peeled myself out of bed from a near comatose sleep, yanked on a bathing suit for the first time since last August, spit in a snorkeling mask, and braved the freezing waters for a wreck snorkel. The ocean was saltier than I remembered and burned the back of my tongue. I could feel my pale skin frying in the sunlight, and frankly, I was too exhausted for this. I longed to peel off that stupid swim suite and slide back into my pajamas. Did I really even want to be here? After about 20-25 minutes of drifting through the chilled waters and spitting bitter, salty saliva into my snorkel, I finally made my way onto the beach and stood in a circle of acquaintances staring into a bucket. I, however, stared at my thumb cuticle. Could we like, go back inside? It’s freezing. I looked up to see the back of a very broad, very square man. He turned to me and placed a green blob in my hand. Immediately I assumed it was some kind of weird sea turd. Gross. Then, it started to squirm, but slowly, like the strange being was moving through molasses. The man smiled at me and his eyes almost twinkled with excitement. “Sea cucumber,” he said. My eyes opened wide as I gazed down at the slimy cylinder in my hands. I’d never seen a sea cucumber before. I didn’t know they moved. Could it breathe above water? Did they usually live this close to shore? Is my touching it harming it? That moment, standing on the beach with the sea cucumber in my hand, I realized something: I was part of something incredible. I was standing, on a beach, in the Bahamas, holding a fascinating creature that I had never seen before, and probably would never get the chance to see without this opportunity. I was with a group of smart, adventurous people. I was eager to soak in everything around me. I gave the sea cucumber a little love squeeze. This was day one of the Island School Experience. And I was already way out of my comfort zone. By about7 AM, I awoke in The Bahamas, walked less than 100 steps to the beach, surveyed an underwater wreck, and held a sea cucumber. This is too cool. Abby Anderson: The flagpole is the North Star of The Island School campus. Students, visitors, and faculty alike start their days in a circle around the flagpole and gather there before dinner. The flag indicates we are guests of The Bahamas, thus The Bahamas are central to education at The Island School. Each day at the flagpole, we remember to be gracious to theBahamasand the people that help us while were here. The flagpole also represents unity among everyone on The Island School campus. Circle represents a sacred time to members of The Island School community. One of the reasons we stand in a circle is because we can see everyone and be together. We reflect there on the day we have had and the days to come as a community. One of the pillars of theIslandSchoolis sense of place so students reflect on the environment we live in and how it impacts us each day. The environment at The Island School is conducive to reflection and discovery, two elements Island School students experience at the flagpole. Third, just like the circle members form around the flagpole our journeys each day are like a circle. Our days and workouts begin and end at the flagpole, like a circle. Thus, the flagpole is like the North Star. In many stories, characters use the North Star to find their way home. Island School students hope this campus will become somewhere they can call home in the next few months.

Amnahir Pena-Alcantara: During the swim test I was swimming at a steady pace to ensure that I would not become too tired and be unable to complete the swim.  But there was a moment while I was swimming where I began to sprint insanely fast, not taking into account how exhausted I would become from the sprint, before I was able to calm down and continue at my regular pace.  Near the beginning of the swim, I was near the shore to guarantee that I did not swim the wrong way when I saw a giant sting ray, or so it appeared having never seen one before, what seemed like three feet beneath me. Because one of my closest friends has two giant scars from where a sting ray had stung her, I was scared the same would happen to me so I started to sprint to get away from it as soon as possible.  It seemed to be going the same way I was because, for the few moments that I was scared, I could not seem to get any farther from the sting ray then I had been when I first saw it.  After the initial panic I realized that I would not be able to complete the test if I continued at the fast pace I was going.  So I calmed myself down and began to swim away from the shore and managed to get away from the sting ray.  I thought this was so interesting because, even though I swim often since I am on the swim team at school, I never thought I would be able to swim in “practice” and be able to see such a beautiful animal. It made me so happy that for the next three months I will be able to swim and see such interesting fish when the purpose of the swim was not to see the wildlife but rather to do exercise.  It seems as though I will never have this chance again, since I normally have to swim in a pool, and I am so happy to be able to see such cool wildlife during all parts of the day.

Brandon Jennings: Coming to The Island School is one of the best decisions I think I have made in my life. Not only for me physically, but also intellectually and spiritually. One of the biggest fears or problems I thought I would have come across during my first few days/weeks here is that I was not going to be accepted into the student community by a lot of the students but to my amazement I WAS. I have a great time getting along and getting to know a bunch of different students from different cultures who share a passion with me. Something I have noticed and love about the island is that it pushes you and applies physical, intellectual and spiritual exercises to your daily routine and it was like a culture shock for me, things that I never did back at home in my normal day. Starting the morning off with some nice intense physical exercises to prep your body and mind for a nice long day of intellectual experiences and knowledge and to end this day with a spiritual quote to reflect on the things that you did that day and to prepare your mind for more experiences to come during the semester is like the BEST way you could take on a day. I look at it as a healthy way of living for a human being and to also learn from all of it how to use the environment and things around you to live a more sustainable lifestyle and to conserve the important resources you have now. It a real culture shock for me but I love it and I plan to live up to the motto of the school, “Leadership effecting Change” because from this first week I feel that it can all start with me.

Brendan James: This afternoon, during exploration time I went off to snorkel at 4thHoleBeach. As I pushed off out of the surf and into the cool water I noticed a long slender creature swimming not more than 10 feet in front of my eyes. It was a needlefish gliding effortlessly through the water. I tried to swim out to it but whenever a got within a few feet it would dart off further into the gloom. After a few minutes of this cat and mouse game I gave up and decided to enjoy its beauty from a distance. I then noticed that I had swum a significant distance away from shore. The water had become bathed in warm afternoon light. That moment was something I have never experienced before, just me and the fish, and the sound of my raspy breathing from the snorkel.

Natalie Grune: This morning we had a swim test, which consisted of a quarter to a half-mile swim and 10 minutes of treading water. Before the swim test, many of the students were scared they wouldn’t be able to pass. There was a nervous atmosphere going around before we entered the water. As I finished and was watching others do the same, I realized the accomplishment we all just achieved. Everyone completed the swim in under the required amount of time! I enjoyed watching many finish with smiles on their faces because I realized this is one of many obstacles we will overcome. While at theIslandSchool, we will be faced with tough challenges that we will learn to get through together. This was probably the first time I felt that as a community we pushed through something many of us thought we couldn’t do. The sense of community and accomplishment are two main ideas of the Island School and those were definitely shown in today’s morning exercise.

Nina Brander: I was unfortunately a day late for The Island School because I wasn’t feeling well on the day that I had planned to travel. Because of this I was especially nervous getting here, afraid that everyone was already friends and that I would be kind of pushed aside since I was late. However that wasn’t the case at all! The moment I got out of the van and stepped onto the gorgeous campus that I get to call home for the next three months I was ambushed by people rushing to say hello and give me hugs.  The first five minutes were a flurry of names and arms all coming at me, more welcoming then I could ever have imagined.  I think that this acceptance without question and willingness to welcome anyone into the community really shows some of the Island School values that are instilled into us as soon as the first day.  As the semester progresses I can’t wait to be introduced to more of The Island School values and along with the rest of my peers be able to learn and grow as people and leaders.

Ann-Marie Carroll: Recently we all got our lesson on signing out as well as access to bikes here at the Island School. Following this we had exploration time; a time when we are allowed to leave campus and explore certain areas together or alone. Of course we all took this opportunity to visit theMarinadown the road andSunsetBeach. While we were there I hang out with people I’ve never really hung out with before for the most part. During this time we all got into a typical circle and played a game, which was really, really fun. All of us immediately broke out of our protective shy shells that we had when we first came to the Island school. We were all laughing at each other’s jokes and sharing stories from our homes. For me this was a great bonding experience and I made many new friends. We all have so much in common that we may have never known unless we took all of our exploration times together. Everyone was so nice and funny. I had so much fun with the girls and the guys; I can’t wait until we hang out again.

Shane Wetmore: One of the first really great experiences that I have had since I have been here was going snorkeling off of sunset beach.  It was a great experience because I went there with my underwater camera and got a lot of pictures of fish because I did what some of the teachers told me to do, which was to stop for a moment and just watch.  By doing this I got to see a lot of fish come out of their hiding places whether they were in the coral or in small holes on the ocean floor.  I even got to see a fish, I am not sure what kind, but it moved slightly and I realized that it was blending in to the ocean floor so I thought that was pretty cool.  This was the highlight of just one of my days at The Island School.

Sterling Wright: I have had many very cool experiences in just the three days that I’ve been here, but there is one very cool thing that happened to me.  This is probably not the kind experience most of the other students here are going to be writing about.  This has to do with the fact that I don’t hang out with a lot of people in my home life, due to be homeschooled and living on a ranch.  When my advisory received our first assignment as a group, to give a presentation on where we are mentally, emotionally and physically. When my advisory was talking we talked about some very personal subjects.  And to me I didn’t really realize maybe how deep I was getting in to my own life, but when I went and talked in front of the whole group about the things I had talked about before really seemed to have a affect on a lot of people although at the time I did not know it.  Later that day I had a couple of people come up to me and either congratulate me and thanking me for sharing, a couple told me how much it affected them right there.  These little comments really sunk deep in me emotionally, not going to my head, but more it was kind of an eye opener for me to have people tell me how I affected them emotionally.  It really made me feel like I really do have something to give to at least our local student and faculty community, it really gave me confidence and feel at home.

Tamara Pletzer: Everybody learns something new every day. It might not be something as important as learning how to create a sustainable ecosystem but it can be smaller and not necessarily trivial. I was walking along the beach and as most people generally do, I was dragging my feet in the rising tides. The water was cool against my burning toes and the light breeze in my hair made me relax and feel carefree. Although the sand on the beach was littered with seaweed washed up from the previous night, it didn’t bother me until my foot landed on something squishy. It was a slimy green blob with blotches of dark green on its skin and was commonly known as a sea slug. I later found out that if the slug feels like it is in danger, it will squirt out a deep purple ink—similar to that of a squid—from its bloated middle. It may have been an unimportant new piece of information but it reinforces my belief that you should learn something new every day.

Emma Kimball: From the moment I stepped out of the Rock Sound airport and felt the wind in my hair, to the moment I got off the bus at my new home I felt overpowered by the beauty of the island. At the airport all 49 of us boarded an old school bus that was waiting in the parking lot. We opened the windows, which didn't do much good against the sticky heat and took off, bumping down the road that winds along the island. As we passed the vibrant blue, yellow, pink, and green houses and as our bus driver greeted everyone we passed I felt an excitement to immerse myself in this culture. I silently soaked in my new environment, in awe of the plants, people, ocean, sky and sounds that surrounded me.

Gabriel Talaiferrow: One pretty cool thing that has happen to me so far was the swim test. I enjoyed this the most because it felt really good to get back into the water and feel the difference of swimming in the ocean rather than a fresh water swimming pool. Even though there were negative some differences about the salt water, such as the burning throat feeling and maybe the current, swimming in this water will be a new fun experience that I'm really excited about. I think the best thing about swimming more is that we'll all eventually end up being great swimmers that can withstand many obstacles thrown at us by the ocean and can later on use your skills to do things relating to it like life guarding. Overall, I feel that doing many things just involving the water are going to be the best parts of the semester.

Greg Ledingham: I was snorkeling at a beach (4th hole) in The Bahamas, in February! A blue and yellow fish darted in front of me. I looked as something silver darted in front of my mask. A giant needlefish, probably three feet long, swam in front of me. I had never seen one before. It was amazing to see a fish that big. In that moment I saw it saw me and then swam off. I thought, how cool. I continued snorkeling continually thinking about the fish encounter.  I thought about how awesome and fun the semester could be. I thought about how I have started to meet everyone and how they all have been nice and cool to hang with. Excited for the upcoming semester, I got on my bike ready to go back to the Island School as exploration time was almost over.

Hannah Piersaik: After an introduction to sign outs and bikes the forty-nine of us Island School students were dismissed from the boathouse. It was exploration time. I signed out with one of the on duty faculty to Sunrise Beach and the Marina. I made my way to the bike shack. I signed out one of the blue bikes and grabbed a red helmet. My new friends and I parked our bikes and headed up to our dorm. We changed out of uniforms and into bathing suits and went back to our bikes. We got on our bikes and started pedaling towards Sunrise Beach. We rode fast, loving the freedom and break from the busy schedule. When we got to the beach we dismounted our bikes and put the kickstands up, leaving our helmets with our bikes. We were the first people to get there. I looked to my left and saw endless beach with some of the best sand I have ever seen. To my right were empty hammocks swaying lightly in the wind. Ahead of me was the ocean with the clear blue water that I am still in awe of every time I see it. We dropped off our stuff on a chair and walked into the water but hesitated, surprised by the cool temperature. We proceeded on to deeper water. After a couple minutes I left the water and walked back up to the chairs.  A couple other girls followed behind and we sat together on the chairs. We discussed what we miss about home and about our hopes, fears and expectations for the upcoming semester. I looked to my right and saw the once empty hammocks occupied with my fellow classmates. They talked and shared snacks they bought at the Marina Store. Ahead of me in the ocean was a group of my classmates. They stood in a circle, something we have all become familiar with during our time here, and talked, splashed and laughed. As I looked around I realized how lucky I am to be here and how lucky I am to be a part of this community, living on this beautiful island with this group of incredible kids.

Kyle Forness: Today, day one, my advisory did a group project about something in our environment that represented the three pillars of the objective of the Island School being sustainability, sense of place, and community also the goal of leadership is held of high importance here. We did our project on the coral balls, cheese balls as we called them, and we put together a skit on how it all related to the three pillars using only ourselves as props. One thing that was very unique of this project compared to many projects I had done at my home-school was that my teacher/advisor seemed to actually participate in our skit and seemed to really meet us eye-to-eye as a real person and really director of thought rather than an ‘almighty’ teacher I seemed to experience back home. I really enjoyed doing this project because I felt it really incorporated many of the pillars this schools stands for as well as brought much of our groups creativity and personality out which was great in getting to know people as well as representing what this school is all about.

 Kira Akka-Seidel: When I woke up this morning, I was so nervous for our swim test. I know I’m not a strong swimmer, so my usual confident and competitive nature was replaced by hesitation. I prepared myself all morning for the inevitable embarrassment that I would surely endure. Stepping into the water sent chills throughout my body and it wasn’t because the water was cold. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to finish the swim. As our teacher began the countdown for us to begin, I stared out at the long stretch ahead of me. There was no way I could do it. When the whistle blew, I took off swimming freestyle like a pro. But that only lasted for maybe a minute before I felt utterly exhausted. I tried to laugh it off with the students in the same position I was in. Complaining with them helped but I couldn’t help but feel discouraged. After eighteen minutes and eleven seconds of perseverance I arrived back at the shore. When they told me my time, I was shocked. Granted it wasn’t great, but I had passed! The feeling was amazing. I felt relieved, exercised, refreshed, and accomplished. In that moment stepping onto the beach, I was ready for any challenge to come my way and I am pumped for our first run-swim tomorrow.

Lucy Cram: The day before I came to Island School, I had a somewhat serious conversation with my oldest brother about getting a pet pig; we thought that it would be really fun to have it running and squealing around our property. Today, however, my mind changed on a group walk throughout the campus. After learning all about the different plant systems in the orchard, we were taken to the pigpen. There lounged two gigantic, dirty pigs with their dust-covered piglets roaming around them, and right then my pig interest was gone. While I no longer wanted one of them for myself, I realized that they play much more of a roll for the school than just a pet. The pigs feed on most of the schools’ food waste and also help with readying the cardboard for fertilizer, which is a great way to transform waste into something productive, feeding both the pigs and the plants. They do not just help this system, but also serve as a food source for the campus. Once a term, students can watch how their meal gets to their plate, which will most likely be another reason I do not want my own pig.

Maxwell Gordon: Just in being accepted into The Island School is without a doubt one of the most singularly unique and enriching experiences that I feel I will ever have the good fortune to have been a part of.  Since I have been here I have woken up way earlier than I am used to, learned to take one minute showers and like salads.  On the first morning we did not make it to circle on time and at once would have been an ungodly hour to me we were down on the ground doing push-ups, and if that isn’t an incentive to arrive on time then I don’t know what is!  And although In the short time that I have been here I have seen many new things and met many new people I believe that one of my most prominent first experiences happened today.  Today on Thursday march 1st I had possibly one of my first experiences unique to the Island School.  This afternoon we were informed about exploration time, the bikes, and all of the responsibilities that come with them.  Immediately after the teachers had finished talking all of the students rushed to form lines to be the first to check out a bike and leave to explore the surrounding island.  I and the majority of the students decided that we would like to visit the marina store and sunset beach.  We peddled furiously to the store and were delighted to find a taste of home in the slightly overpriced food offered there.  We then rode the short distance to sunset beach where we relaxed in the sand to enjoy our food before a nice dip in the refreshingly cool waters of the Bahamas.  After floating around aimlessly for a short while we all congregated into a circle (which is apparently a key component of the island school) and discussed in length our experience so far.  When about 45 minutes to an hour had passed we decided to leave the water and relax on the sand before beginning the trip back to school.  No matter what anyone says to the contrary the Island School is without a doubt one of the few (if not the only) school where you can take a break in the afternoon to go enjoy a nice cold soda on the beach, and I believe that that is a truly “unique experience” to the Island School!