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Educational Programs

Teachers Conference Reflection at Morning Circle

14869269137_afc1af8866_kEvery summer, The Island School welcomes a group of talented and motivated educators to their annual Teachers Conference. One of our attendees from this past summer, Mark Dewart, a science teacher at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis, shared some beautiful remarks at morning circle one morning: "Reading "The Rediscovery of North America.” and being at the Island School leaves me thinking that we not only need to "rediscover" North America but we also need to “reinhabit” the continent. All of the teachers here come from communities that have thousands of inhabitants but how many of these inhabitants are living sustainably and joyfully in our home towns? There are currently 7 billion people on the planet with another 2 billion on the way before our students reach our age. We aren’t even close to figuring out how we are going to do this. How do we build communities that are sustainable and joyful to live in AND protect the wild places we have seen this week and the beings that live there? The important work of “rediscovery” leads to the important work of “reinhabitation.”

At the Island School we experienced first-hand what it looks and feels like to live in a joyful and sustainable community . We were comfortable and well-fed by food, energy and water producing systems that ran off of massive amounts of cleverness and ingenuity rather than tons of coal and barrels of oil. We spent a week on an island where, in the last 500 years, the people have had everything thrown at them from recurring hurricanes to the calamities of guns, germs and steel that the voyages of “discovery” brought to this part of the world. In the people living on these islands, around the hydroponic and tilapia tanks or in the ocean creatures we saw or held, all week we have felt the drumbeat of the universe beating strongly in Bahamaland. As we return to our home communities, like propagules falling from a mangrove tree, that drumbeat will animate our efforts to help our students and communities "rediscover" and “reinhabit” North America and the planet. "

New York Harbor School Visits The Island School

Last week the New York Harbor School, located in the heart of New York Habor, visited The Island School for their 6th consecutive year.  Each year NYHS sends a group of students with instructors Joe Gessert and Liv Dillon to participate in a week of intense SCUBA training.  In addition to the two instructors, NYHS sends down a student Dive Master and student Dive Master in-training to help organize and help out with dives.

Ron instructing NYHS student how to drive & navigate the Cobia

Over the course of the week, all of the visiting 10th and 11th grade students completed their PADI Advanced Open Water SCUBA certification, participated in daily morning excercise, and explored Eleuthera.  With over 20 group dives led by Ron Knight, the director of waterfront and SCUBA operations, the group collectively logged over 300 dives!  These consisted of both shallow water reef dives and deep water dives of the wall of the Exuma Sound, as well as navigation and several night dives.

Amongst their favorites, one that stood out for many of the students (and was often requested!) was diving The Cape Eleuthera Institute's offshore aquaculture cage, also known as "The Cage".  The Cage is a massive underwater structure located a mile off the coast of Eleuthera at a depth of about 80ft.  When diving The Cage one is transported to a surreal underwater landscape, which includes what looks like a giant space ship to the west and the 3000 ft depth of the Exuma sound to the east!  With the opportunity to see various species of sharks, schools of horse-eyed jacks, and a massive grouper that is known to reside below the cage, it's no wonder The Cage was a favorite dive for many of the students!

Another notable dive was Hole in the Wall, a deep dive along the wall of the Exuma Sound.  This dive includes a swim-through of a bus sized tunnel that starts on top of the reefs at 70 ft and exits along the wall of the Exuma Sound at 100 ft looking out into the 3000 ft blue abyss.   You can check out a quick timelapse of their dive at Hole in the Wall on our Instagram!  NYHS finished their week with a trip "down island" snorkeling at the Green Castle Blue hole where they spotted a school of eagle rays!

The New York Harbor School and the Island School have a strong history of partnership with the facilitation of thier annual diving program at The Island School and NYHS sending students to the Island School Semester Program.  Here's to many more years!

Below is a photo essay of NYHS's last dives at The Cage and Hole in the Wall:

(Photographs by Will Strathmann)

Flippers, masks, and BCDs -all set up before breakfast waiting in the boathouse

NYHS students entering the boathouse before a morning dive

NYHS students kitting up

Full tanks waiting to board the Cobia

Instructors Joe and Liv planning a dive

NYHS students on the Cobia

Giant stride entry off the Cobia

Let's go diving!

The Cage

NYHS students standing on the outer rim of the cage

School of horse-eyed jacks under the cage

Swimming along the patch reefs west of The Cage

Students helping each other back on the Cobia before another dive

All smiles after their last dive at The Cage

Unloading empty tanks off the Cobia

These kids sure use a lot of air!

Captain Ron giving a pre-dive run-through of Hole in the Wall

NYHS students "skydiving" down into the entry of Hole in the Wall

Looking out into the 3000 ft deep Exuma Sound after exiting Hole in the Wall

Swimming along the wall of the Exuma sound at a maximum dive depth of 110 ft

Five minute safety stop after the dive

A common scene on the Cobia after a long day of diving

We Hope to see you next year!

Gap Year Fall 2013 Graduation

Team Gap Year, Fall 2013The idea of a Gap Year is to take a step back to view the big picture. To take a step back to look at where you’ve come from, where you’ve gone and see where you’d like to go. To take a step back so you can take the right steps forward. The program here came to an end last week, culminating in the students Demonstration of Learning and Graduation ceremony. Over the past nine weeks Eryn, Ryan and Jordan have made profound change in their own lives and of those surrounding them.

Diving with the Lionfish team for the last timeAll of the things that were accomplished by these amazing individuals are difficult to quantify with words, however a list of all the things we delved into over the program might suffice:

  • Taking marine ecology classes
  • Teaching an environmental issue class of their own
  • Taking a human ecology class
  • Community service projects
  • Down Island camping trip, experiencing a sense of place on Eleuthera
  • Community outreach at the Deep Creek Middle School
  • Conducting the Fall 2013 shallow water conch surveys
  • Adventuring on 5 day Kayak expedition
  • Being part of a research team as an intern for three weeks
  • Getting both Open Water and Advanced Scuba certified
  • Presenting their learning to the wider community

Ryan presenting Jordan with his dipolmaThey have each proved themselves in both a personal and professional setting, being part of the community family and involved with the research facility. During the student’s demonstration of learning it was clear how much they are taking from the program. The diverse learnings of each student are a testament to each of their personal challenges and growth.

We would like to wish the Gap Year Team of Fall 2013 all the luck in the world as they move onto other endeavors and experiences, we hope you take what you learned here and build upon it. You are the game changers.

If you're interested in joining the Gap Year Team of Spring 2014 or learning more about the Gap Year program in general, you can find out more on our website;

Round Square Students Join DCMS Eco Club for Plastics Seminar

TeamworkA group of 17 high school student visited DCMS for the first ever DCMS-Round Square Plastics Seminar in early October. Round Square is a world-wide association of schools that works to develop young people and their approach to life through experiential learning. Visitors were paired with DCMS Eco Club members to share perspectives on plastics pollution and have some fun. New Friends“My buddy goes to boarding school in Massachusetts, but she’s originally from China,” said Eco Club member Marinique Leary, grade 8. “She is going to make posters for beaches and spread the word about preventing plastics pollution back in Massachusetts.”

Students got to know one another through ice breakers and games. “Mingling with the students was a nice experience because we got to teach them some of our customs and show them some of the activities we do at school when we have free time,” said Eco-Club member Patrick Johnson, grade 9.

Students Meet BuddiesThe seminar was an opportunity for round table discussions on plastic pollution and how it is affecting the environment and our bodies. Students spent the afternoon at Wemyss Bight beach conducting plastic surveys for researcher Kristal Ambrose’s ongoing comparative research project on South Eleuthera’s beaches.

“It was great to have different ideas about how to handle plastic pollution. I think it was really fun to show the Round Square students a native beach and how clean it looks, but then show them how dirty it actually is,” said Eco Club president Zachary Carey, grade 9.

During their four days on island, Round Square students also spent time with researchers at CEI assisting with experiments, such as lionfish dissections with the lionfish crew. Students and educators alike are hopeful about the possibility of the seminar becoming an annual event.

South Eleuthera Kids Camp

DSCN0274Cape Eleuthera Institute and The Island School welcomed 18 South Eleutheran kids to campus this summer. Students participated in and were exposed to some of Cape Eleuthera Institute’s various research projects. Students took on the role of citizen scientists doing a conch survey at Wemyss Bight beach for CEI’s conch research program. They also contributed to research on bonefish and the flats ecosystem by seining at Broad Creek. Students learned about the invasive lionfish and its effects on Caribbean reefs by partaking in a class discussion, as well as a lionfish dissection. A Bahamian geology lesson on the sandbar was a great way to kick off the 40th anniversary of The Bahamas’ independence! Students snorkeled the sand areas around the sandbar where they discovered lots of critters—sea stars, sea cucumbers, sand dollars, heart urchins, milk conch, juvenile queen conch, sea biscuits, and lots more! For their last day, they headed to Rock Sound to explore the caves and the ocean hole. DSCN0265The whole week was filled with many educational opportunities about the natural resources that the campers encounter in their daily lives living on the island. We hope that the kids will take these life-long lessons in water conservation and sustainability back home and incorporate them into their lifestyles.