Viewing entries in


The Ecology, Histories, and Literature Departments have collaborated on a series ongoing personal reflective essays called Eleutheros. Each week students are asked to write a reflective essay that demonstrates their understanding of the themes from their coursework and effectively links these themes to their unique thoughts and experiences.  For each essay, students are asked to answer a new interdisciplinary prompt which inspires an integrated reflection on class learning. Our final essay asked students look at their academic semesters holistically and consider the value of their learning. In the coming weeks, look forward to some articulate examples of how our students have deeply and personally engage with these essential questions. This week’s prompt: What is your worldview, how did it come to be, and has it been changed, challenged or enforced since you arrived at The Island School?  By Brayden Beardsley

Having grown up in a rural town in Maine, I feel that I was sheltered from the world until I grew older. The first time I ever realized that not everyone saw things how I did was when I was six years old in Rennys. A man walked into the store carrying a small bag and was asked to leave it at the front of the store. I looked up at my mom who was also carrying a small bag, and asked her why the man had to leave his bag at the front of the store and she didn’t. She responded that some people don’t trust people who are black and that she didn’t have to leave her bag at the front of the store because the man working at the store was something called prejudice, a term a didn’t understand at the time. All I knew was that the man had been treated differently for some reason and that was wrong.

For me, my world view means how I perceive what happens around me based on my outlook and values; much like the “lens” that we talked about during our first Human Ecology class. Even from a young age, I had very strong values and morals because the aspects of my life that have affected my world view are what I care about the most. Collectively, my parents, Akihisa, Biruk and Eden, and Tom and Brandon have all worked accidentally or intentionally to shape my lens in which I view the world through.

One of my most vivid memories of Akihisa (our exchange student from Japan) was when we were just sitting on his bed talking about anything that came to mind. He told me about the differences between our cultures; how no one ever hugged anyone else (even family members), how when you reached five years old, you couldn’t use the flavored toothpaste anymore or cry unless you were physically injured, how everyone was an atheist but they all believed in ghosts, how pigs were said to say “boo, boo” instead of “oink, oink”, the list went on and on. I realize now, especially after our Histories class on the Nacirema tribe that was actually describing America, that it is very easy to judge a culture at a glance and be slightly ethnocentric, but to truly understand it, you have to delve deeper, as I was able to do with Akihisa after staying with him for a year. I’d like to think that I have a more cultural relativistic view of the world after the experience and I now consider him to be another brother and was able to see him again for the first time in four years this past summer.

After Akihisa left, we adopted Biruk and Eden fromEthiopia. To this day, that trip that I made has been the most influential experience of my life. Seeing people who weren't struggling to stay afloat as we Americans put it, but actually struggling to stay alive really struck me. I saw sewage running through the ditches in the street when we were in the capital of the country and children whose bellies were enlarged because of malnourishment and had flies resting on their eyeballs, not their eyelids, their eyeballs. When I went to meet Biruk and Eden’s parents with my mom and found out that the reason they were given up for adoption was because the parents couldn’t provide for them and pay for the HIV medication, I felt that we were both a gift and a curse for the parents. But then I saw the so called “president’s” gardens which required enough clean water every day to keep an entire city healthy. This social injustice and poverty caused a paradigm shift in me. I had always heard of poverty stricken countries but had never experienced it myself, and when I did, I realized that the rest of the world needed help. This past year, I was lucky enough to participate in a project based learning assignment where we raised awareness and over five hundred dollars as a class of twenty students, to benefit the Wide Horizons For Children Organization, the adoption agency where we got Biruk and Eden from.

During the first week in Literature, we discussed a section of Omeros where it reflects on the pain and sadness the characters feel while chopping down the forests. I think this ties perfectly into Leopold’s quote, “We can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in.” These values and virtues that can be seen in the two texts are where I think that my parents and chosen extended family (Tom and Brandon) have really had an impact on my worldview. They have been the ones who have taught me the differences between right and wrong, have shown me virtues, and have always been there as people to look up to when I need an example of what it means to be a good person. From them, I have sculpted my moral values and have chosen to have a consistently positive outlook on life. Although they are there as guides, they don’t force me to believe anything and don’t argue that I’m wrong if they see something differently than I do. Although my dad is Christian and my mom is an atheist, they have let me chose what I want to believe and have answered my questions without bias rather than saying that one way or the other is better. They are the ones that have shaped the lens in which I view the world.

From coming to The Island School, it may be too soon to tell, but I don’t think my worldview has changed, if anything it has been enforced. People here aren’t struggling as much as they are in Ethiopia, but they aren't exactly flourishing either; they need a helping hand to get them on their feet. While I hated doing the swimming exercise last week, and have been struggling to enjoy Omeros, I’ve tried to stay positive and at least learn from them to become a better, more rounded person. I still hold the belief as the young boy in Rennys that no one should be treated differently based on something so insignificant as the color of a their skin and I hope to continue to reinforce the worldview that I have created and perhaps even complicate and expand upon it while here at the Island School.



The Ecology, Histories, and Literature Departments have collaborated on a series ongoing personal reflective essays called Eleutheros. Each week students are asked to write a reflective essay that demonstrates their understanding of the themes from their coursework and effectively links these themes to their unique thoughts and experiences.  For each essay, students are asked to answer a new interdisciplinary prompt which inspires an integrated reflection on class learning. Our final essay asked students look at their academic semesters holistically and consider the value of their learning. In the coming weeks, look forward to some articulate examples of how our students have deeply and personally engage with these essential questions. This week's prompt: What does it mean to be oriented to a place? How does your orientation week at The Island School relate to the mission of the school?  Franchesca Bethel:

Listen to the sounds you cannot hear. The ones your eyes can transform into vibrating echoes of music.

Clank Clank Clank! A tiny metal stick bounces violently against the walls inside a rusted yellow cowbell, and makes a clanking sound that creates a beautiful harmony with the bass of the goatskin drums. You would never expect two distinct sounds, clanking and booming bass to harmonize so well together, but they just do. Whistles and horns are played along with the clanking and booming, and still the sound is perfect. Your ears are too small to hold the sound. The vibrations escape your ear canals and start to send electric shocks all over your skin until the booming from the drum turns to the booming of your heart and that booming becomes the same rhythm which your body receives blood. That collection of vibrating clanks, booming, horns and whistles is the sound of Junkanoo, the sound that is echoed throughout the history of the Bahamas. The sound I heard when I was oriented to my culture.

In the Bahamas, Junkanoo is a celebration that was started many years ago. It is a celebration that was originally an expression of freedom. In the Bahamas, and possibly other parts of the world, slaves were given a day off from labor, the day after Christmas. We call this Boxing Day. On this day off slaves would take cowbells and shake them all throughout the day to commemorate their temporary liberation. With the cowbell shaking came dance, and with dancing and cowbell shaking eventually came drums and costumes, and if you skip a few decades ahead you can come to where we are now, into this massive celebration of what is now our Bahamian culture.

On Boxing Day at six o’clock in the morning anywhere besides Bay Street,New Providence becomes a ghost town. The people of New Providence and visitors from other places flock to downtown to see this beautiful festival of music and dance. The drum players, the cowbell shakers, the horn blowers, everyone wears a brightly colored costume that has been paper-mâchéd from months in advance. Any color that you can name has been pasted onto a costume in the Junkanoo parade. There is no limit to the type of costumes that Junkanoo performers wear or carry. It is truly amazing to admire the handy work of the crafters that take their time to design and create these amazing costumes. If an old English knight’s armor were made from an interior of cardboard with an exterior of organized paper-mâché clippings, he would fit perfectly into Junkanoo. When I went to my first Junkanoo parade I felt oriented. I remember being right on the side of my Dad jumping up and down dancing with the bass of the drums and shaking with the clanking of the cowbells along with thousands of other proud Bahamians.

When we first arrived to downtown Nassau that Boxing Day morning it was quiet and felt strange, people were everywhere, but if you closed your eyes you couldn't tell that other people were there. The bleachers were full. Everyone was squished, right next to one another. It felt awkward to be so close to strangers, I felt very out of place and questioned my father for bring me to such an event. It was cold and I was miserable, I slumped into my seat, sure that this event was stupid and pointless. Little did I realize how fast my mind could change. Once the crowd in the side bleachers saw the first Junkanoo marcher enter the street it set the people wild.  Never in my life had I heard or seen so much action and at first this made me feel more out of place. The loudness was overwhelming. People were roaring but a roar of pride. They were moving but only because the music sent shocks up and down their spines causing them to dance like they had no control over their muscles. Once the music jammed into my own ears, I felt oriented. I felt at home, I felt the culture run through my body like it was always there to begin with. I felt the passion from the lungs of the horn blowers slap me in the face in the form of melodies. I watched the performers in the street send the dancers in the bleachers wild, like a match setting gasoline a blaze. I blended into the dancing crowd and we all became a moving unit, slaves only to the clanking and booming of the Junkanoo music.

My first Junkanoo experience truly oriented me to my culture. At first I felt so out of place, but now I cannot help but feel completely at home when I hear or see Junkanoo. I realized that I belong to this culture, and it belongs to me. Every year since that day I celebrate Junkanoo like I was the first slave to commemorate freedom through music and dance. That is my definition of what it means to be oriented to a place. Whether it is through the introduction culture or experiences in nature or some other way of connection, to find your sense of belonging is to be oriented to a place. During my first two weeks at The Island School, I have been swallowing and digesting things that I have put in my mouth before, such as kayaking, scuba diving, camping, running, snorkeling, swimming and many other awesome activities.

During the first week in this familiar place, all the Island School students gathered as three groups to socialize and hold interviews with ‘people with a past’ here in Eleuthera, Bahamas. I felt at home, because we had the amazing opportunity to sit down and speak with two very interesting Bahamians and a man that came to this country to find a better way of life. Listening to these people speak made me feel like I was listening to my family speak, or people from my community back in Nassau. I feel like this part of my orientation here at The Island School related to the mission of the school that talks about the creation of an intentional community. Being completely immersed in conversation with these people made me feel a greater sense of community. Another way I saw this part of the mission statement being demonstrated throughout my orientation was during my advisory time, when I had the chance to hear more personal stories, about my now mini family here at the Island School.

At this school sustainability is very important. It was one of the first things that I noticed, because you can see the wind turbine spinning from miles down queen’s highway. We also use rainwater, and solar panels as natural resources. Those are some of the big ways the Island School has taught me about sustainability but I have also learned other steps in sustainability, like taking navy showers to lessen the amount of water I use. I have also noticed that the great teachers here help to provide the students with entertainment in our free time, like how Emma, Christie and Brady played games with the girls in the dorms on our first few nights here. I feel like in away that modeled sustainability because it showed us that we don’t have to being using our laptops or other electronics for fun.

After Scuba week and our three day kayak, I feel like not just myself but everyone here has already developed a more intimate sense of place, just like the mission statement of this school says. Gliding on the crystal clear shallow waters of Eleuthera, in my kayak I couldn’t help but to feel the same emotion I felt the moment I heard Junkanoo, but this time it wasn’t a very shocking orientation, due to the fact that I have been kayaking in the Bahamas before the three day kayak. I also felt a great sense of place when I was thirty-eight feet below the surface of the ocean, near Tunnel rock. I have been scuba diving before as well, but that still does not lessen the beautiful feeling orienting feeling I felt under the water.

To be oriented is to be brave enough to try something new. It is the process of transitioning from your old ways into a newer experience. My orientation to The Island School has been the definition of the school mission, and now I understand the mission in a deeper sense. One that I feel more comfortable with and I doubt that will ever change.

Jack Martin:

Orientation is defined as the adjustment or alignment of oneself or one's ideas to surroundings or circumstances. While this dictionary definition is useful to gain a basic understanding of this concept, orientation is an extremely personal process that is different for every person. The Island School orientation week forced me to step both in and out of my comfort zone by having me participate in activities that I felt comfortable in, as well as those that I never had tried before. Learning to SCUBA dive was completely unlike anything I had ever done before and was not always a comfortable process. Contrarily, the camping we did while on our kayak trips is extremely familiar to me and I have spent a lot of time in the backcountry. The orientation week at the Island School connected to the school’s mission by allowing me to create a sense of place in the community, as well as making me conscious of my limitations and abilities as an individual.

The Island School’s orientation week accomplished its mission to create a community that is “cognizant of its abilities and limitations” by pushing me away from a feeling of comfort. My first experience with SCUBA diving required me to step well out of my comfort zone into the completely foreign, underwater world. The journey to certification literally took my feet out from under me, and required me to practice skills that made me very uneasy at first. For example, I struggled with clearing a flooded mask because I had not only lost my ability to stand and breathe normally, but I had lost my sense of sight. My instructor, Jason, encouraged me to stay calm, and before long, I was a master at this particular skill. The dive profile exercises required me to understand that the oxygen tank is not unlimited, and with the fun of SCUBA there is also serious danger. By participating in new activities I was provoked to not only understand my limitations, but also discover abilities I possessed that I was unaware of. As expressed by the concept of the Johari window, a strong community is made up of individuals who are fully self-aware and that know their place within the group. As each member of the community learns more about his or her self and those around them, their circle of trust expands and the intentional community is strengthened. By having everyone participate in SCUBA certification, our experiences overlap, and our knowledge of each other begins to grow. Each member of the community becomes more comfortable with their surroundings because of the struggle we share, and each member is allowed to further discover how they fit into the school community. My experience learning to SCUBA dive allowed me to become cognizant of my limits and abilities and as a result helped me to find my place in the Island School community.

Kayaking in Southern Eleuthera allowed me to establish a comfortable position within the community because camping is something I enjoy. This section of our orientation week connected to the school’s mission of creating a sense of place because we were physically immersed in our surrounding environment. Additionally, I felt this section of the school’s intention in a very personal manner because the three-day kayak trip was well within my comfort zone. While on our trip, I volunteered for the task of building a fire to cook our meal for that night. Although the physical process of making a fire is simple, the experience allowed me to showcase a skill I had learned outside of Eleuthera, and as a result I further strengthened my place in the community. The kayak trip contrasted my somewhat anxious experience in SCUBA because I always feel at home in the backcountry. No matter how far I am from my physical home, the backcountry is my querencia; or the place I feel most comfortable. Although I had always felt this coziness while camping, my introduction to the concept of querencia allowed me to further my understanding of my love of nature. In this way the school’s orientation week allowed me to enjoy one of my favorite activities even more. The relaxed attitude I assume while in the back country allowed me to reflect on my experience in SCUBA, and come to understand my place as a student with a unique experience in the school community. The school’s orientation week not only provided me with the opportunity to do something I love to do, but introduced me to the concept of querencia and how being at home is not physically being in a specific place.

The process of orientation week as well as writing this essay further strengthened my belief that orientation is unique to an individual. Although all 48 students participated in similar activities, no one person’s experience was identical. Each student brings a set of beliefs and experiences that is completely different from anyone else. While the school can set up various activities that encourage orientation, orientation is hardly a structure, formulaic process. Everyone’s journey to orientation involves a combination of trying new things and sharing their personal experience with the rest of the group. Our school’s mission is realized by the intentional unity we create during orientation week. 




The Human Ecology, Histories, and Literature Departments have collaborated on a series ongoing personal reflective essays called Eleutheros. Each week students are asked to write a reflective essay that demonstrates their understanding of the themes from their coursework and effectively links these themes to their unique thoughts and experiences.  For each essay, students are asked to answer a new interdisciplinary prompt which inspires an integrated reflection on class learning. Our final essay asked students look at their academic semesters holistically  and consider the value of their learning. In the coming week, look forward to some articulate examples of how our students have deeply and personally engage with this essential question. The prompt: So What? Why does what you have learned in your classes matter? by Chris Foote

So what?  It is hard to say when I’m still learning so much about this world and my self.  When first considering what to write on for this assignment, I was at a loss for words.  Then, as I looked out onto the pristine, blue ocean, the last line left Ashley’s mouth and lingered in the air: “When he left the beach the sea was going on” (Walcott, 325).  This triggered something deep in my mind, and I thought of all I have learned here.  First, I thought of the complexity of the life underneath the monotonous waves on the surface and its surfaces; then, of how that life is threatened by fisheries today.  I thought of Tito’s dilemma, the Mexican Fisherman who we learned about from Brady, and understood how he was conflicted between his family and the sea; of Hector’s burial, the swift, the sea-almonds; of the empty Spanish bottle landing on Cotton Bay after a long journey at sea. And at that moment, I realized: I am invested in my education.

For my entire life, school was to write an essay, turn it in, get your grade, forget it.  This was successful, until I touched down in RockSoundInternationalAirport.  It hit me a couple weeks in that I was thinking about the homework I worked on, not just mindlessly skimming Sparknotes on Macbeth so I could finish the new episode of “White Collar” before lights out.  For example, as I navigated through the confusing waters of SCommon and stumbled upon our first Omeros reading, I thought I knew the game like the back of my hand.  Open the book, circle some words, underline the first and last line of each section, scribble some remarks on the side, and your done in 15 minutes.  Soon, to my surprise, my mindset was altered by the many fascinations of Omeros. I found myself taking more time on each reading and really understanding what I wrote in the margins of the tattered novel.  This mindset brought me to a new place both academically and personally.  In both Histories and Literature Harkness discussions, I began to develop my skills as a facilitator.  I was able to step back from discussions and look at the bigger picture, and I felt more connected to each discussion, being both contributor and leader.  As a result, my investment in the classroom grew.

Just as I have evolved in the classroom with discussions and annotations, my investment in this environment has grown immensely as I’ve been here.  Since the first walk through the Inner Loop with Joseph, when I learned about mahogany and how to open a coconut, I have learned of this place and the services that it provides.  My project group and I created a Human Ecology project that I am passionate about.  60 feet under, a black grouper drifting aimlessly through the water in front of us while fixing tiles to dead coral with the sole purpose of awareness, I could not ask for a more inspiring project.  To be able to understand just the tip of the iceberg that is the awe inspiring environment that surrounds The Island School is not enough, I want others to feel the passion that I do.  That is not only the purpose of my Human Ecology project, but of much of the work we do here, as well.  It is so that I can return to my sending school and help others understand what I learned here: that we, as humans, are stakeholders in this earth, and that, in my opinion, we need to appreciate the power and complexity of nature if we want to live sustainably.  My vision is to carry my investment from The Island School to the world outside of this miniature paradise.  I will return to school as a meaningful stakeholder of the earth.  A stakeholder that not only respects and understands his environment, but one that gives back to it, as well.

My education here has taught me the importance of being a part of the environment.  On another long night of Marine Ecology homework, I was in the middle of a complaint concerning the length of an article when I turned the page and read: “It changes the role of Homosapiens as conqueror to plain member and citizen of the community” (Bohnsack, 7).  This quote reminds me of the importance to reach out.  I thought of the Settlement Day and DownIsland, and how experiencing the new culture of a community outside of The Island School made me feel more connected to Eleuthera and The Bahamas.  At first, I was out of my comfort zone, but my comfort only increased as I learned more about the areas I visited.  I now realize the importance of that type of domestic tourism.  By travelling to different places nearby, I was able to recognize and be a part of such vibrant diversity on a small island.  One of the forms of responsible tourism spoke to me in this regard: “[Responsible tourism] Makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and culture heritage and to the maintenance of the world’s diversity” (Goodwin, 22).  Though this is concerning all sorts of tourism, it reflects how I have learnt to treat domestic tourism.  After seeing so much diversity on DownIsland trip, I see the incredible range of culture in such a small area, and I want to continue to explore places I thought I knew with the mindset of the “conservation of natural and cultural heritage.”  This connection to various cultures taught me how to become more invested in a place by showing that broadening my horizons on just a 3-hour car ride is just as meaningful as a 12-hour plane ride.

There are points in my life that I now realize I took for granted.  For example, two summers ago, I worked at a summer camp for those less fortunate than I, a culture foreign to me at that time.  The kids I met there were so different than I, I was intimidated.  I volunteered there for 6 weeks, and I did not get to know the students well until the end of my time there.  Once I put our differences behind me, I grew closer to my students faster than I have anyone else.  Now that I have learned the importance of cultural relativism, and to look at similarities instead of differences, I wish I had acted with a more open mind.  In the future, I will explore new cultures that I had looked over before.

So what?  My IslandSchool experience has given me a reason to be invested in what I do.  I feel that what I have done here has taught me to continue to be a part of my work, both in school and out of school.  This investment will drive me through the rest of my schooling and the remainder of my life by supplying passion and interest to my life.  As I look out onto the ocean, Walcott’s final verse spinning through my head, I will forever be reminded of all I have accomplished here and all that it has taught me.


The Human Ecology, Histories, and Literature Departments have collaborated on a series ongoing personal reflective essays called Eleutheros. Each week students are asked to write a reflective essay that demonstrates their understanding of the themes from their coursework and effectively links these themes to their unique thoughts and experiences.  For each essay, students are asked to answer a new interdisciplinary prompt which inspires an integrated reflection on class learning. Our final essay asked students look at their academic semesters holistically  and consider the value of their learning. In the coming week, look forward to some articulate examples of how our students have deeply and personally engage with this essential question. The prompt: So What? Why does what you have learned in your classes matter? by Ryan Schendel:

My parents always told me it started when I was four years old. According to them, we were sitting on a plane on the way to North Carolina, and I turned to my dad and asked him a question. Apparently, it was a basic question like, “Where are we going?” and “How big is this plane?” In the number of times I have heard this story from my parents, they always exaggerate more and more, but as I have been told, by the time we had landed, I had asked them hundreds of questions over the course of two hours. My dad always told me how exasperating it became, but he and my mom were glad that I turned out to be a curious boy.

I have been asking questions throughout my entire life. I always look at the world as a great wealth of information that I can learn about through asking. My teachers at school tell my parents every year that they’re amazed at how inquiring I can be and how often I ask questions, even if it eventually bothers them. My grandmother, who used to be a high school English teacher herself, has always told me, “Don’t stop your questions. You can always learn something new, you just have to ask.”

Reflecting on my life before The Island School, I came to believe that I arrived on Eleuthera because I was curious. My sister embarked on a semester in 2010, and she returned home as someone who I did not recognize anymore. She had changed in positive but drastic ways, and seemed to be extremely happy in regards to her time here. I wanted to know why. I did not want to only hear her stories about The Island School. I needed to come here and experience it myself.

Arriving on campus, something that I picked up on rather quickly was that questions drove this program. I felt comforted by the fact that we were encouraged to be curious. I knew this on our first academic day, where we were told to make a list of what we had learned and questions we still had. Even more, I saw this on our first day of research, when my advisor Ian Hamilton told our group that it was up to us to ask a question about lemon sharks, and then formulate a study behind that question. I truly felt that my curiosity would help me here more than anywhere else. Even if someone were to only look at the campus; at all of the innovative designs of sustainability that have developed here over the past thirteen years, they would understand that each of those systems were creating by someone asking, “How can we live better in a place?”

The Island School allowed me to ask questions about the world around me, not only in the community, but also in each of our classes. In our first Histories class, Emma told us we would be exploring many aspects of anthropology, ethnography, and tourism. However, she did not start the course with teaching us. Instead, she asked us a question. “What is culture?” She wanted to know what we thought culture was, or how we would define it. After having a long discussion, our class realized that culture was a term used to encompass so many different aspects of a society, and it did not have any real concrete meaning. I began to comprehend that we were just taught a lesson in Histories class completely through the use of asking a question and then continuing to ask questions. This was a pattern I began to notice in all my classes that continued throughout the entire semester. In Human Ecology, Rob asked us in our first class if we knew any common paradigms. We began to list a few, including how the world is flat, and that the universe revolves around the Earth. He shifted it into a natural resource perspective, including fresh water, fish stocks, and energy supply, and I again realized that we were in the process of being taught through asking questions. I wanted to know how studying old paradigms related to learning about solutions to global issues. I realized that by analyzing how old paradigms shift over time, I could apply the same idea of shifting ideas to current global perspectives. I knew my own worldview about the significance of overfishing, the misuse of fresh water resources, and conservation of energy definitely shifted even after that first day of class. One aspect of Human Ecology that always kept me interested throughout the semester was the fact that I, as a student, had the task of asking questions and learning about each of these issues so that I could come up with my very own solution. By asking more and more about the specifics in each unit, whether it be how much fish stocks have actually declined, or what percentage of water is privately owned in the world, I was gathering real information to apply to a solution. My questions had a new purpose. They were no longer just out of curiosity, but their answers were leading to more questions and shaping my worldview.

This idea continued to the end of the semester with our final Human Ecology projects. We were told to ask, “How can we live better in this place?” or “Where is there an issue of sustainability on campus?” Through asking myself what I felt needed to be addressed on campus, doing my own investigating, and talking to Sam about resources, Crystal about Aquaponics, and Marie about Aquaculture, I finally settled on addressing clothing on campus. After talking with Bernadette and Jake, I asked myself “How can our clothing become more sustainable?”

Looking back, I see my curiosity and comfort with asking questions as an individual strength to bring to group projects. I especially felt this during our Oral History Project. Talking with Henry and Victoria, I learned a lot about conducting ethnography. What I feel like I personally gained from that experience is that in a semi-formal interview, it is always helpful to be truly curious in whatever I’m researching. Whenever Henry or Victoria responded to one of our questions, I quickly found myself with a new question about their response. This kind of conversation builds off of itself and, at least I believe, develops into a very successful ethnography. Asking questions helps reveal more and more information, and reveal biases and the effects of Positionality. I feel as though my group experienced some of these aspects during our interviews. However, even with these limiting factors present, by asking more questions to other Deep Creek residents, it helped us determine the entire story, instead of focusing on a “single story,” of politics, religion, and history of South Eleuthera. Histories class has personally taught me to always ask questions, to never accept a story as the sole truth, to recognize that there are always biases present, and to keep everything in perspective. Applying these tools back home, I’m sure I will have a very unique experience in my History class next semester.

I have always felt strongly that in Omeros, the journeys that Achille, Plunkett, and Walcott embark on, to discover knowledge about life and their own beginnings, are all connected as parallels to each other. What I mean by this is that each character seeks to find significance in their questions through talking to sources of wisdom; whether that is Walcott talking to his father or Omeros himself, Achille traveling to Africa to discover his ancestry, or Plunkett scouring pages of documents to find meaning in his family lineage. I find these journeys to all be symbolic and related to my own journey here at The Island School. I’m sure I wasn’t considering it at the time, but I came here with questions not only without answers, but also without significance. Back home, I had been told that sustainability was important to consider and care about, and I wanted to, but I didn’t know why. I came here wondering to what limits I could push myself, and learned that my own limits are never truly my upmost potential. I learned from our Super Swim, Research Projects, Omeros, eight-day kayak, Solo, and so many other experiences, that I can always swim a little harder, learn a little more, push myself a little farther, and most importantly; ask more questions. Just like Walcott, Achille, and Plunkett learn on their own journeys for knowledge, one question can always lead to another. I learned at The Island School that this process of questions building questions is the only way to learn as much as you can. A quote from Omeros, that I believe reinforces this idea comes from Walcott as he reflects on his journey for purpose, “It was an epic where every line was erased yet freshly written in sheets of exploding surf in that blind violence with which one crest replaced another with a trench and that heart-heaving sough… however one read it, not as our defeat or our victory; it drenched every survivor with blessing”(296). I see this passage as a representation of my journey at The Island School. I am aware I will come away from this semester with good and bad experiences, and still unanswered questions. However, I personally see all of those encounters and all of those questions as learning experiences that I will hold with me forever.

When I was in Second grade at Greens Farms Academy, my teacher told my parents that she was concerned with the amount of questions that I asked in class. She expressed how she was confused with my lack of understanding of each subject and my necessity to know more. I have carried that comment with me my entire life, even to my semester here at The Island School. What I have learned from my experiences here is that questions are not an aspect of education; they are the main component of education. Whether or not that idea applies to my sending school back home, I now know it applies to everything later in life, and I have personally gained more confidence in my curiosity. I have learned that my grandmother was right; the only way I’ll ever receive the answer I’m looking for is by asking. The Island School has shown me the significance in questioning; how it is vital to so many different processes, whether they be designing a scientific study or assessing a global issue and finding solutions. My hope for what I take away from this program, is that my curiosity can be a gift, and I should begin using it.


The Human Ecology, Histories, and Literature Departments have collaborated on a series ongoing personal reflective essays called Eleutheros. Each week students are asked to write a reflective essay that demonstrates their understanding of the themes from their coursework and effectively links these themes to their unique thoughts and experiences.  Enjoy reading these two articulate examples of how our students have deeply and personally engage with essential questions, important to their course of study at The Island School… Prompt:

1.  What does it mean to “marry your heart to your right hand?” (Omeros 72). Who lives this way? Do you? Should you?

Abby Anderson:

When I talk to my grandmother, she often tells me about weaving. She has been weaving for most of her life, was the President of the New Hampshire Weavers’ Guild, and goes to weaving conferences around the country where she shows her work and sees others’ work. In her little two-bedroom house, she dedicated an entire room to weaving, filling it with her loom and supplies. When my grandmother talks about weaving, I notice an important quality in her voice that perpetuates her love of weaving: passion. To find one’s passion and to be passionate are two goals that many people strive for throughout their lives. This passion makes up the essence of what it means to “marry your heart to your right hand,” (Omeros, 72).

People who “marry their heart to their right hand” feel passionate about their work or their interests. In Omeros, Achille shows his passion for fishing in comparison to his job on land, “There was no sun, he was sure. No scorching gunwales where the hot oars idled, no sea with its bleached sails,” (Omeros, 48). While working on Plunkett’s farm, Achille remembers all the aspects of fishing he loves. As a result, he returns to a career in fishing. Achille’s longing for the sea overtakes him and makes him realize he should return to life as a fisherman. In this way, Achille reminds me of Nehemiah, who for part of his life worked on land in the tourism industry. He later returned to fishing because he felt passionate about his fishing career, and continues to fish at the age of sixty-four. Both Achille and Nehemiah’s love for the sea compels them to “marry their heart to their right hand” and work at sea instead of on land. People should “marry their hearts to their right hands” in instances such as these because they allow individuals to combine their passions with a way to provide for themselves.

People should also follow their passions when preserving their rights and others’ rights. Last year on student council, the sophomore class decided to organize class participation in The Cots Walk, a walk against homelessness in Vermont. The activity remained optional, yet about ninety percent of our class came out to support the cause. In this way, our class united against something we all thought of as unjust. By supporting an organization that we felt passionate about, our class “married our hearts to our right hands,” together. In the documentary Flow, women inIndia protested outside of a Coca-Cola factory instead of going to work and earning a living. The company shut down or privatized their mechanisms for collecting water. Also, the company advertised toxic waste products as free fertilizer and distributed to the surrounding people. The women in the documentary protested to protect the right to clean water for themselves and others. By supporting a cause they felt passionate about, they “married their hearts to their right hands,” and tried to solve a problem that devastated many people.

Others should encourage people to follow their passions. In Omeros, Walcott’s father encourages him to write, like he did, because he recognizes the value in one working with what they feel passionate about, “Measure the days you have left. Do just that labor which marries your heart to your right hand: simplify your life to an emblem, a sail leaving a harbor and a sail coming in,” (Omeros, 72). Walcott’s father explains the importance of using every moment one can to do what one loves. Also, the sail leaving then coming back to the harbor represents one challenging themselves and moving outside their comfort zone to embrace their passions, but always remembering their home and the value of home as a passion. As a result of his father’s encouragement, Walcott pursues poetry and writes Omeros, which helps him connect with his passions and live out the ideal his father instilled in him.

When thinking about whether people should “marry their hearts to their right hands,” I immediately thought people should always pursue their passions. However, after giving more thought to the matter, I realized this might not always be the case. In Human Ecology class, we watched The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, a movie about how Cuba coped with the Peak Oil crisis in the 1990s. In this situation, the people ofCuba had to learn how to live differently, and make sacrifices to help Cuba become a self-sustaining country. In this situation, people had to create individual farms and bike and take public transportation instead of driving individual cars. In this scenario, people like my great uncle, who feels passionate about collecting and driving cars, would have to sacrifice his desire to “marry his heart to his right hand” for the good of the greater society. Also, people throughout Cuba had to spend less time pursuing their passions to provide food for their families and communities. In this circumstance, people should not “marry their hearts to their right hands,” because one must prioritize their needs, their families’ needs, and their communities’ needs for survival above their passions, a tough realization because I have never had to prioritize survival over passion.

After analyzing how and why other people do or do not “marry their hearts to their right hands,” I started to examine how this concept applies to my life. I feel privileged to have the chance to follow my passions. Dance allows me to follow one of my passions. I have the opportunity to take classes and dance on teams and at recitals. This valuable privilege allows me to perform in front of others and showcase my passion. When people have the time and means to “marry their hearts to their right hands,” they should take advantage of this luxury. Personally, dance has fostered discipline, grace, and teamwork within me. These aspects help make me who I am. I have the opportunity to follow my passions, a privilege I should take advantage of.

Passion has a thrilling connotation, which people want to experience for themselves. I realized passion is a luxury, one that I should take full advantage of whenever I can. I need to try to “marry my heart to my right hand,” more often. I can do this by working harder in dance classes, and increasing my effort in the elements I do not enjoy, such as adagio. I can also live out my passions by spending more time with family and friends, and cherishing every moment I have with them. The fact that I have the opportunity to “marry my heart to my right hand,” means that I should seize these opportunities, because many people would love to have the luxury I feel so privileged to have.

Mattie McAlpin:

It is only human to express the way you really feel but true fidelity to a cause is only found in those who are selfless. The quotation “marry your heart with your hand’ (Omeros 72) essentially means to devote and invest your life in something you have passion and love for. To me it seems difficult to give this complete devotion without living a privileged lifestyle weather that is in wealth or education. But you are truly blessed if you can live your life working for what you are passionate about.

In Human Ecology class we watched a documentary film called Flow, a film on the global water crisis. I feel it is obvious that in order to create a film as persuasive as Flow there must have been a team of incredibly devoted passionate people surrounding the issue.  Every interview and statistic was out to hit a nerve of the viewer. Flow sparked a variety of raging emotions in me ranging from compassion to anger to stupidity. The fact that over 2 million people die a year from water related diseases, made me cringe. The evidence that 1 out of 5 children in Bolivia die before the age of five because of their drinking water, makes me want to cry. And the biggest element of surprise was that  we as a planet spend over 100 billion dollars a year on bottled water when it would only take about 3 million dollars to provide every human being on this earth with fresh, clean, pure water. This made me want to change the world. The credits began to role and I could feel a current of emotions consuming my every thought. I was willing to make a change, and with this change I wanted to make a difference. It is these emotions that allow one to become passionate and with passion comes dedication and commitment to what you love. I am sincerely ready for change, and Flow inspired me to already begin the brainstorming process for our Human Ecology final project. I am blessed enough to study here at The Island School along and have a say in the direction I decide to take my education and occupation in the daunting future. I look forward to working toward a rewarding impacting goal rather than a pay check at the end of each month, although I know realistically that is a difficult path to pursue.

I feel that the author of Omeros Derek Walcott does what he loves because his goal in life is to give the voiceless a voice.  The voiceless brought him where he is today and this is giving them the credit that they truly deserve. He feels purpose in his heart and all the abuse of the past is what has shaped what he has become today. History belongs to the author and Walcott very beautifully channels his compassion and frustration of the past into a poetic representation of his emotions. Too many people live life trying to tip the scale their own way but it is clear that Walcott does his work for others while still gaining self-benefit.

I am a member of my local Unitarian Universalist congregation and through this have become a part of organizing and participating in a youth program for local teens. This is where I feel my purpose. I believe it is incredibly important to be aware that youth will soon be the future and that young students should be given that chance to address, discuss, and expose themselves to a variety of concepts and important issues that we as a community face.  As a group we address racism, sexual orientation, immigration laws and a number of other conflicting concepts.  I find great importance in my own exposure to other thoughtful open-minded students and I hope that one day I can make a difference in minimizing oppression and educating the youth of my community. In participating and organizing this program I have felt closer to the concept of “marrying my heart to my hand” but I am confident that I have room to make an even larger and more effective impact on my surroundings and generations to come. I feel that everyone in life should be standing on the side of love and working to better there community in any area that seems to spark their passionate nature.

Ideally everyone should be able to get out of bed every morning to do something that they love, something’s that keeps them driven, and something that allows them to feel belonging. But I feel there are very few people who are fortunate enough to live so successfully. Great success often comes with serious sacrifices. I hope I can make a difference in this big hectic world. Its not about my name being left behind, its about what I left behind, who I impacted, and what lives I changed for the better.