Twice each semester, Island School students embark on expeditions: days-long trips around the island of Eleuthera that help one to develop a more intimate sense of place. First, we get our feet wet with a three-day trip, during which each new member of our community is afforded lessons in sea kayaking and leave no trace camping. Students build bonds with their classmates that will last them throughout the semester, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Then, later on in the semester, we dive into nine-day expeditions on either kayaks or sailboats, packing all of our belongings including tents and sleeping bags, journals, clothes, swim gear, cooking tools, tarps and a safety kit for this journey into one or two dry-bags. This time around, students are given daily opportunities to take on leadership roles, from setting the course for the day to navigating to taking charge of cooking crew for an evening. This trip is punctuated by a 48-hour solo experience, allowing time for reflection and for confronting nothing but one’s own thoughts.
Around this same time, each group of students will also pile into a school van together and explore the length of Eleuthera on what is known as a “Down Island Trip”. During these shorter excursions, faculty members lead discussions on tourism and development, and how this shapes a place. Students take the chance to interview the inhabitants of Eleuthera on issues covered in their histories class.
As beautiful and romantic as the photos look, this part of the semester is not easy. Many students have little to no experience camping, and still more are daunted by the idea of spending extended periods of time in the wilderness. On top of that, each group of 12-15 individuals will stay together throughout both trips, getting to know each other on a much deeper level than what naturally develops on campus. It’s a lot of time, with not a lot of personal space, but it comes at the perfect time in the semester. Just when everyone has settled into their routines of morning exercise and classes and homework, we blow wind into their sails and set them onto a new adventure, giving them new ways to better understand the place in which they live.
This week, campus has been especially quiet as Monday marked the beginning of three weeks of expedition rotations. As students come and go, we can't wait to hear about their experiences!