The first academic week has kicked into full-swing here at the Island School. It’s hard to believe that it’s already Thursday! We’re all starting to realize that there is more than a little bit of truth to what we’ve been told all along; the days here seem to last forever but the weeks just fly by. With the first full academic week has come the some-what reliable schedule that many of us have been craving. With all the strangeness of being in a new place doing all of these crazy things, it’s nice to have a bit of a routine to rely on. Today, for example, we had exercise in the morning, chores and tidying up is being done right now, breakfast is in about a half hour, and right after that we have class. After morning classes and lunch, we will all go out in the field with our respective research groups for the first time. This is a somewhat typical day at the Island School. Granted, a “typical” day may look different for every student on any given day but that’s what keeps things interesting.
Yesterday, half of us had our first Marine Ecology class and half of us had our first Human Ecology class. Both were three hour classes that took either all morning or all afternoon, but they weren’t your average every day Ecology classes. My friends who had Human Eco went out with their teachers and a staff-member, Joseph, into the “inner loop” (a big forest right off of campus) to identify (and eat!!) some of the plants and fruits found naturally on the Eleutheran wilderness. In Marine Ecology, we spent less than a third of the time in the actual classroom. We took a short marine species I.D quiz and then went right outside to learn about the environment from the very best teacher; the environment itself. We got to walk around campus and go snorkeling to find sea cucumbers, seagrape leaves, conch shells, flamingo tongues (a type of mollusk, not a tongue I promise!), sponges, anything really, that would help us define terms like “ecosystem,” “autotroph,” “heterotroph,” “niche,” “habitat” and “biodiversity”. It was really incredible to see things in a new light; things that I’ve just walked right past almost every day that I’ve been here without ever giving them a second glance. For example, my absolute favorite part of yesterday’s Marine Ecology class was discovering these colorful little creatures called “Cassiopeia.” They are EVERYWHERE, covering the floor of the mangroves between here and CEI, and I’ve never noticed them. I remember learning about them for homework and thinking how cool it would be if I could actually find one of these beautifully colored little upside-down jellyfish, with the algae in their tentacles, when all along they were right in front of my eyes. Simple little discoveries like that are what make classes at the Island School as special as they are.