Category Archives: Educational Programs

HIOBS Update #3

Though it has only been a few days since our last check in, the crews of the Eliza Sue and Avelinda have accomplished and experienced a lot since our stop at Soldier Cay. Surveys have been conducted by both the reef fish and elkhorn coral research teams at multiple sites within the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. The large elkhorn colonies and populations of reef fish at Cambridge Cay and Rocky Dundas provided the perfect opportunity for the teams to put their research skills to use, and snorkeling these vibrant reefs was an incredible experience. We also had the opportunity to snorkel into two caves on Rocky Dundas which were an amazing display of the geology of The Bahamas. During the night following our big day of research, we rafted the two boats together so the two crews could share dinner and enjoy a lesson on stars from Sockeye.
Yesterday we got news of a cold front heading our way which would bring rain and potential thunderstorms, so both boats sailed to a protected cove on the southern end of Pipe Cay and hunkered down beneath our tarps for the day. After a few hours of reading and playing word games, the skies cleared enough for some snorkeling and island exploration. As one group explored the driftwood strewn beach, another snorkeled the rocky shoreline where we successfully captured a lobster (which provided a delicious appetizer for the crew of the Eliza Sue) and swam with a nurse shark. Before dinner, Andrew gave us an informative lesson on weather so we could better understand phenomena like cold fronts and low pressure systems.
Today our crews are re-energized after our relaxed storm day and are ready for more sailing in the sunny and breezy weather that the cold front brought once the rain had passed. We’re looking forward to restocking whatever fresh produce we can get at Black Point and then beginning our journey back north and the adventures that will bring!

HIOBS Update #2

This morning the crews of the Avelinda and the Eliza Sue woke up to another beautiful sunrise in the Exuma Cays. After 6 days of sailing, snorkeling, island and cave exploring, and taking in the beautiful views of crystal clear blue water of the Exumas, we find ourselves anchored at O’Brien’s Cay. Today we’re refilling our water jugs thanks to the generosity of Sandy MacTaggert on Soldier Cay, and our research teams will finally be able to put their skills to use at a snorkel site called “Sea Aquarium.”  We’re looking forward to conducting more research in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park (the oldest marine protected area in The Bahamas) over the next few days and continuing to explore the islands over the next 11 days. See below for some daily journal entries from the group!
Nov 9: Day 2 – Eliza Sue
Crossing the Sound Part 1: The Exumas Strike Back
We’ve made it to…well its a “U-shaped island thing” exclaimed Hannah as we sailed into harbor amongst the Exumas. About 85% of the boat watched Andrew fillet a bar jack as the other 15%  managed to weave us through deep, deep, treacherous waves and reefs. Grant was coughing (about to puke?), Kyle was still steering after 4 hours of bring stuck at the tiller, Tom was somewhere in the dark depths of the head, and Hannah was resisting the urge to sing songs about hippos as we finally dropped anchor. We had woken up at midnight, learned about stars, invented a blue sail formation, got concerned about the possibility of trump being president, laughed about the idea of Trump being President, then realized the joke was on us and Trump was going to be president.
Crossing the Sound Part 2: Revenge of the Bar Jack
Got concerned again, eventually saw land, fished and caught nothing, fished and caught something, arrived at anchor, ate our fish (shoutout to our cooks Marcus and Jacob), swam, swam with iguanas, found crafty new spoons (shells), then began dinner prep.
Crossing the Sound Part 3: A Donald’s New Hope
We laughed together, we slept together in a PG sort of way, we excelled together. Tom ate cheese and maybe almost liked it, Kyle rocked his aviators and put everyone else on board to shame, Ben wore her superman hat like all experienced sailors do, Kelly didn’t get spit on by Tom and successfully answered a barrage of consecutive questions about her gopro attachment lens. Jacob continued to do as Jack Sparrow does and made the power move of not swimming (he knew the poop was coming
PS: Today was actually the day Donald Trump became president. Thank god we’re in a protected area because he’s building a wall and the parrotfish are paying for it.
PPS: Today was absolutely epic- one of the most memorable days of my life, and I’m glad I got to spend it with the young motley crew of the Eliza Sue.
Peace, Love, and Quesadilla Cheese,
Jeff the Cleaner
Nov 12 – Day 5 – Avelinda
8:30am, beautiful morning… 6:00am wakeup call for swimming lessons with Andrew and then pancakes and dessert rice for breakfast made by Jack & Jack. The boat smells of salty citrus and I love it.
8:30pm, enjoying a long anchor watch and remembering the great day we had… Exploring a rocky cave and getting in a short snorkel, “hiking” around a few ruins and adventuring through a poisonwood infested swamp to a beautiful beach (with just a bit of washed up trash scattered around (Andrew found a gopro from the Island School).  It was an eventful day topped off with Jack and Jack’s calzones, which were delicious of course. Looking forward to more adventures tomorrow!
Nov 13 – Day 6 – Eliza Sue
Part 1: The Tomcat Begins
This morning our fearless leader Tom bid the masses to rise and enter the water. The crew swam in somewhat of an organized circle for about half an hour. After the swim the group demolished part of a ration of cereal before setting off.
Part 2: The Tomcat Rises
We set off on our day, Tom steering and me at the bow watch. The trip began with me promptly getting us stuck on a sandbar and Ben getting stuck in the head yet again. She then fulfilled her quota of pushups on one arm by pumping the head for half an hour. Get swole Ben.
Part 3: The Plague
After sitting on the bow for approximately 5 hours I returned to seeing half the crew suffering from swine flu which was transferred from the ocean waves that hit Jacob, who then infected Grant, who then infected Marcus. So it goes. Marcus then orally donated his daily ration of food into the ocean. The ocean is used to, but not fond of such gifts.
Part 4: questionable
Marcus cooks after yacking hours before…questionable. A red-faced Tomcat swears he applied sunscreen…also questionable. Jeff completes his pushups as Jacob explains his very questionable driving habits, extremely questionable. Dinner is close to being made, will we eat it all? Not a question.
- Kyle
Nov 14 – Day 7 – Avelinda
The Journey So Far
Our journey began on November 8 with loading the Avelinda and Eliza Sue and preparing our groups for an 18-day expedition. Not knowing what to anticipate, we grabbed our oars and rowed away from The Island School. Over the course of the first day on the boats we learned how to rig and hoist our fore and main sails, read the wind, understand the tides, organize and take care of the boat, steer and rescue “Bob” our frequently overboard fender. Cooking on the boats posed a new challenge with our food stored throughout the bilge underneath us and our only stove located in the stern of the boat. With this challenge came delicious meals from night 1. After anchoring off the whale tail of Eleuthera we had our first of nightly stargazing and celestial navigation lessons led by Sockeye. After, we set up the boards and fell into a fitful 2 hours of sleep in preparation for our crossing of the Exuma sound. We sailed throughout the night giving us time to get to know our instructor Sockeye as well as admiring the stars and watching the glowing plankton light up the water as we sailed. This magical night sail was the perfect beginning to our expedition. After the first day on the boat we settled into a routine starting with a daily 6am wake up call followed by a morning swim workout and breakfast. Every day we rinse and sanitize the boat, make a navigation plan considering wind, tides, and bearings, and create a plan for the day. In the past week we have swam with stingrays, rowed through a mangrove creek, snorkeled reefs and a plane wreck, and explored countless islands of the Exuma Cays with breathtaking white sand beaches.
With our instructors’ extensive knowledge of marine science, sailing, and boat living, and overall guidance on important life skills such as self reliance, leadership, and compassion, we sail into our final 11 days of expedition. We are excited about taking full advantage of everything the Exuma Cays has to offer, most importantly our fish and coral research which is part of an ongoing coral reef monitoring project in The Bahamas.

The Island School Partners With Hurricane Island Outward Bound to Offer Sailing Expeditions

Hurricane Island Outward Bound School (HIOBS) is partnering with The Island School to launch an expeditionary sailing program to be operated out of The Island School’s campus in Cape Eleuthera, The Bahamas. Thanks to seed funding from the Mactaggart Third Fund, the two organizations are looking forward to hosting groups and students starting in 2016.


In 2012, The Island School developed the concept of a sailing program. After deciding a partnership was the best option, The Island School was introduced to HIOBS’ Executive Director Eric Denny in 2013. It was in May 2015 when the dream took shape when a veteran crew from HIOBS sailed on an epic expedition from Florida, across the Gulf Stream and the Bahamas Bank to Eleuthera to deliver two sailboats, Avelinda and Eliza Sue, to The Island School’s Cape Eleuthera campus. Avelinda and Eliza Sue are 30-foot twin masted sailboats designed to sail quickly and navigate into shallow waters with extractable center boards. In keeping with the “human-powered” expedition ethos of Outward Bound, these open boats are oar powered by students when there is little wind. Designed and built specifically for Outward Bound, the boats can carry up to 8 participants and 2 instructors and will allow expeditions to sail out across the Exuma Sound to the Exuma Sound to the Exuma Land and Sea Park, the oldest marine protected area in the world.


“I see this partnership as a model for non-profits in the coming decade,” states Denny. “It brings two world-class organizations together to share their complementary areas of expertise to create an exceptional program that neither organization could accomplish on its own.”


The first step in this partnership is to integrate sailing into the existing expeditionary curriculum of The Island School’s 100-day fall and spring semesters and Gap Year program beginning fall 2015. In 2016, HIOBS and Island School will launch a 21-day expedition that includes sailing, exploring and studying around Eleuthera’s neighboring islands. The trip will include research, a coastal marine ecology and conservation course, focus on island sustainability, teach seamanship and leadership skills, and allow for team and leadership development.


About Hurricane Island Outward Bound

Outward Bound is a non-profit educational organization and expedition school that serves people of all ages and backgrounds through active learning expeditions that inspire character development, self-discovery and service both in and out of the classroom. Outward Bound delivers programs using unfamiliar settings as a way for participants across the country to experience adventure and challenge in a way that helps students realize they can do more than they thought possible. The organization established its first sea-based school on the coast of Maine in 1964. Hurricane Island, a remote island approximately 75 miles northeast of Portland, served as the summer base camp for sailing, sea kayaking, and rock climbing programs. For more information, visit

Blackbeard, the Manatee, in Boathouse Cut!

IMG_1018 (2)

This morning we were visited by a large manatee in the Boathouse Cut! Educational Programs Lead Educator, Tiffany Gray, shared photos and information on the sighting with Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization who informed us that our manatee friend is named Blackbeard who is originally known by our US colleagues from Tampa Bay. He has been in the Bahamas since 2013 where he has spent time in Long Is, Cat Is, north Eleuthera (with another manatee “Gina”). From there he headed to Nassau in December 2014 and remained until late April when he was seen back in Spanish Wells with Gina.

Manatees are not common to The Bahamas due to the lack of fresh water so this sighting is very exciting! We hope Blackbeard sticks around for at least a few more days!

IMG_1033 (2)

CEI Supports Youth Environmental Leadership Summit

Recently, the Cape Eleuthera Institute supported the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) for their first ever BREEF Eco-Schools Youth Environmental Leadership Summit in Nassau. The Cape Eleuthera Island School is an important model for schools and businesses in the Bahamas on experiential education, sustainable development, and scientific research. Participation in this event gave the opportunity to share this knowledge with 70 students from eighteen schools in Abaco, Grand Bahama, Eleuthera and New Providence. CEI Environmental Educator and Outreach Coordinator, Tiffany Gray, was able to lead two sessions, one for primary students and another for secondary, focusing on team building, sharks and opportunities here in Cape Eleuthera. There was also a booth set up throughout the two day summit for more information on educational programs, summer camps, BESS, the Plastic Summit in June, and future employment opportunities.

A notable announcement during the welcoming remarks came from Minister Kenred Dorsett, Minister of the Environment. He explained that the newly amended Electricity Act now makes it legal for the public to connect their houses, schools, and businesses, to the grid for credit through alternative energy! We have been doing this for years on campus but the fact that it is now legal is a huge step in the right direction for energy use in the Bahamas.

The Preston H. Albury High School (PHAHS) Eco club, originally inspired by Kristal Ambrose, former plastic researcher and education coordinator at CSD, is working hard to become a green flag certified Eco School. Our continued support for this club gives DCMS alumni at PHAHS and former DCMS teacher, Will Simmons, much appreciated support in this endeavor.

The summit was a huge success for BREEF and our participation played a pivotal role in the event. We look forward to collaborating with BREEF, PHAHS, and future Eco Schools in Eleuthera for the next summit in 2017!

Tiffany Gray and students from Hope Town Primary School show off their shark Stanley tattoos.
Tiffany Gray and students from Hope Town Primary School show off their shark Stanley tattoos.

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
Captian 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!

The Cage

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
Flippers, masks, and BCDs all set up before breakfast in the boathouse
NYHS students entering the boathouse before a morning dive
NYHS students entering the boathouse before a morning dive
NYHS students kitting up
NYHS students kitting up
Full tanks waiting to board the Cobia
Full tanks waiting to board the Cobia
Instructors Joe and Liv planning a dive
Instructors Joe and Liv planning a dive
NYHS students on the Cobia
NYHS students on the Cobia
Giant stride entry off the Cobia
Giant stride entry off the back of the Cobia
Let's go diving!
Let’s go diving!
The Cage
The Cage
NYHS students standing on the outer rim of the cage
NYHS students standing on the outer rim of the cage
School of horse-eyed jacks under the cage
School of horse-eyed jacks under the cage
Swimming along the patch reefs west of The Cage
Swimming along the patch reefs west of The Cage
Students helping each other back on the Cobia before another dive
Students helping each other back on the Cobia before another dive
All smiles after their last dive at The Cage
All smiles after their last dive at The Cage
Unloading empty tanks off the Cobia
Unloading empty tanks off the Cobia
These kids sure use a lot of air!
These kids sure use a lot of air!
Captain Ron giving a pre-dive run-through of Hole in the Wall
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
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
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
Swimming along the wall of the Exuma Sound at a maximum dive depth of 110 ft
Five minute safety stop after the dive
Five minute safety stop after the dive
A common scene on the Cobia after a long day of diving
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.