Category Archives: News

This Holiday Season, Think Tiny

George Giannos, Fall 2010 Alumnus, took what he learned at The Island School and built on it. This fall, with a team of engineering students at Santa Clara University, he won a Tiny House Competition.

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All the universities and colleges in California were eligible to compete in a Tiny House Competition modeled after the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. Rather than building solar powered houses that generally cost upwards of $250,000, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District decided to host a competition to build smaller houses that could be financed under $50,000. Ten California schools accepted the challenge to design and build a tiny house. Convened in Sacramento, after up to two years of work, each tiny house was judged on four categories: Architecture, Energy Efficiency, Communications, and Home Life.

The Santa Clara University team took first place as best tiny house overall. Giannos served as construction manager for the fourteen engineering students that built the rEvolve House. This 238-square-foot, off the grid house not only rotates with the sun, has reclaimed maple cabinetry from the old Santa Clara basketball court, and a roof deck, it was built for an organization called Operation Freedom Paws. A non-profit that works with veterans and service dogs.

Since graduating from Lawrenceville, Giannos has returned to The Island School in many ways. He has traveled back to Eleuthera for many summers and internships at The Center for Sustainable Development. Last year, he joined the admissions team by reading applications for Fall, Spring, and Summer Term. Giannos read over 150 Island School applications during his spring semester of his junior year at Santa Clara.

To read more about the rEvolve House:


HIOBS group prepares to head out

The HIOBS team in the Cape Eleuthera waters
The HIOBS team in Cape Eleuthera waters

Today marks the start of the Hurricane Island Outward Bound Maine to Bahamas sailing expedition to the Exuma Cays! After 10 days on campus learning about sustainability, the marine environment, and research skills, the students are ready to embark on their 18-day research expedition. They’ve also participated in many service projects over the past week with Deep Creek Middle School. From helping out with after-school sports and the Open Learning Center, to  facilitating team building activities and a beach cleanup, to helping out at the community garden, these students have made a huge impact on our community!

Working at the community garden in Deep Creek
Working at the community garden in Deep Creek

Here’s a quick note from the students about their time here thus far and what their expedition to the Exumas will bring:

“Our trip to The Island School and the Cape Eleuthera Institute is part of an Outward Bound 80 day Environmental Science gap year program. The Island School has not only been a great experience but also an amazing learning environment. The lifestyle at the Island School included ideals and ethics that are similar to those of Outward Bound and to our own. The efforts for sustainable living became a huge part of daily life on campus. From taking navy showers (60 second showers) to an intricate aquaponics system, the efforts made here to save our world for further generations is inspiring.

Another part of daily life here is a daily early morning workout, which is sometimes difficult but vital. These workouts boost both our physical health and advance our work towards a final goal of a 1.7 mile swim.

Exploring the wonders of Eleuthera
Exploring the wonders of Eleuthera

Hands-on learning is emphasized at the Island School. Our lessons include snorkeling, swimming, research, and engaging lessons with PhD scientists. The enthusiasm around this type of learning was both fun and effective, we all leave the classroom with a common understanding of the state of the world. These experiences provided us with a new way of learning and challenged us to apply our newfound knowledge.

The main portion of our expedition will be focused on adding to a long-term data set monitoring the health of reefs in The Bahamas. We, as a group, have been trained in research skills while on campus and are embarking on our 18 day sailing voyage, during which we will apply our new skills throughout the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. One group will be focusing on the growth, population, and health of Elkhorn Coral (a vital part of the coral reef ecosystem) in the Exumas, while the other will collect data on fish populations in the reefs. We are extremely excited and can’t wait to experience this new type of expedition and apply our new knowledge!”

The HIOBS team on Glass Window Bridge in Northern Eleuthera
The HIOBS team on Glass Window Bridge in Northern Eleuthera


Hurricane Matthew Update #6

Students leaving the Center for Sustainable Development
Students leaving the Center for Sustainable Development
SUNLIGHT illuminated our campus this morning as students ate their last breakfast in “The Fortress.” After 60 hours in The Center for Sustainable Development, students packed up their bags, Crazy Creeks, and pillows and ventured back out onto our campus. Maxey brought everybody together with the conch horn for the first morning circle outdoors since Tuesday.
Students have already jumped into helping clean up both Tree House and Beach House dorms as well as CSD. Classes are set to resume as normal into the weekend. Everybody is rejuvenated from being outdoors and campus is quickly regaining its natural look.
Another huge thank you to everybody who sent us good thoughts and checked in with us during the past few days. Our Island School network is strong and we are touched by the concern and compassion that was expressed by our families, friends, alums, and associates.
We will continue to track the weather in the coming days as classes resume and morning exercise gets us back in gear.

Hurricane Matthew Update #5

Thursday October 6, 6pm

Fresh air! Students got to fill their lungs with the breezy air this afternoon after two days in what has been labeled “The Fortress.” They visibly perked up after a few minutes standing on the CSD balcony.

Students taking in the post-hurricane air
Students taking in the post-hurricane air

Last night and this morning brought strong winds and more rain to campus. There were a few minor leaks that were quickly cleaned up in CSD with blankets and team work. Winds are now dying down and skies are brightening as the center of the storm moves north.

Today included more team building exercises, classes, games, and music in The Fortress. Spirits remain high and creativity strong. Our students never seem to tire of creating new things to pass the time.


Our current plan is to remain in our respective shelters until Friday morning. Classes and schedules should return to normal shortly thereafter (with some inevitable cleanup around campus).


We will continue to keep a close eye on the storm and its trajectory as the path progresses. We pass on the well wishes and good energy from our campus to folks in Florida and other areas in the U.S. that are predicted to be hit by Matthew in the coming days.


Hurricane Matthew Update #4

Wednesday October 5, 7pm

Good Evening Family and Friends,

After a day of activities, one big class, communal meals, and down-time, it is movie night! The Incredibles is playing on the big screen tonight, and the pillows and cushions that students set up are more comfortable than any theater.
The Incredibles is tonight's feature
The Incredibles is tonight’s feature
Lia Cary, our Communications Seminar teacher, interviewed three of our students, Caroline, Davis, and Kyra. They had some insights into the past 24 hours:
“We went through a few great activities this morning.  We focused on our DOLs which is our ‘Demonstrations of Learning.’ We saw a great example from Pat and we’ll be working on this for the next week.”
“We brainstormed this morning in our placebooks…I experienced some self-acknowledgment…feelings and connections.”
“The cots are interesting…they make me feel like I’m in M*A*S*H*.”
“What people don’t understand is that this is adjusted living and we need to be cognizant of that. It may not be your biggest or best meal but you’ve got to adjust. As Liz Slingsby would say, flexibility is the best ability.”
Settlers of Catan was an alternative to the movie
Settlers of Catan was an alternative to the movie
The day is winding down, but we continue to keep a watchful eye on the weather. We know for folks watching at home the weather channels and news outlets are talking about storm surges in the Bahamas. While the storm is powerful, we hope you all feel confident in the campus we call home. Our unique position on the western hook of South Eleuthera and off the Exuma Sound protects our campus from flooding. Nearly ten years ago, our campus weathered a Category 5 hurricane. The storm surge never came above the deck of our dining hall, providing us all reassurance in our position on the island. For information about how a storm surge might affect our location, please see this graphic provided by Weather Underground.
Our waterfront is quiet yet still scenic
We plan on structuring tomorrow in a similar way as today. CSD will continue to be a space for work, play, and relaxation.  We will continue to update the blog and our social media outlets while we have access to internet. We want to reassure you that our teams are prepared to their fullest but would also like to prepare you for them being out of touch. We have three satellite phones on campus that will provide updates if we can get a signal out. As soon as our Boston Office hears an update, they will be passing along messages to all concerned parties.
Continued thanks to everybody who has reached out to us, and goodnight from Eleuthera.
It's not every day that shoes are this organized
It’s not every day that shoes are this organized

Hurricane Matthew Update #3

Wednesday October 5th, 11am

Good Morning Parents and Friends,

The surprisingly pleasant, breezy weather stuck around though the night into the morning. The final dinner circle looked a lot different with the central flag pole having been removed, but the energy from students was as high as ever. This morning the weather is rainy and cool with good breezes when the rain bands come through.
Last night, Liz had students gather around the white board to break down the set-up in CSD. The building has been sectioned into Beach House dorm, Treehouse dorm, Quiet Zone, Food area, etc. to make the best use of the open space. The evening ended with a story read by Liz.
A little music goes a long way
A little music goes a long way
Gap year students have moved into the conference room and are taking advantage of the black board to flex some of their artistic talents. The conference table provides a great place to get some work done, pay games, or have meals.
The blackboard in the Gap Year room
The blackboard in the Gap Year room
Island School students have been making the most of the Center for Sustainable Development. Some of them have created games involving bottle caps, some have taken up games of chess, some are enjoying a good book in a Crazy Creek chair by the window. CSD has also turned into a classroom. Liz had students gather around to describe Demonstrations of Learning (DOLs) and have them start brainstorming ideas for their own. Chairs and pillows turned into personal work spaces as students collaborated on writing projects and shared in mindfullness exercises.  This afternoon will bring more games and movie night later on.
CSD as a classroom
CSD as a classroom
We are ready for today. CSD will remain home base for the students as they participate in morning stretches, class, meals, and community building activities. Check back here for updates as the weather evolves throughout the day. We continue to be touched by the warm thoughts coming our way. As always, please feel free to contact our Boston office with questions:

The Island School prepares for Hurricane Matthew

To Island School and CEI family and friends,
Today we continue to monitor and prepare for hurricane Matthew. Our campus leadership team met this morning to finalize plans for the week, which include assigning people and resources to designated buildings so everyone can shelter in place as the storm moves north.
As is customary, we have been watching this and the other storms of the season, and have stocks of food and water, medical supplies and equipment in place, and are ready to respond to needs in the wider community if we are called upon. We are carefully monitoring the forecasts of the storm track and intensity, as well as tides and storm surge projections, and have made higher ground or second floor sleeping arrangements on campus for employees and students as a precaution, according to our established hurricane protocols. This is a powerful storm with high winds and rainfall expected, and storm surge possible, and out of an abundance of caution, we are taking all reasonable measures.
During and after past storms regular internet, phone, and utility power services are interrupted, and we have backup power and communications systems in place. We expect that our Boston-based team will receiving updates from campus throughout, and posting them to our Facebook page and here to the blog.
To reach our team about specific concerns please email us at or call our US office number at (609) 620-6700
We appreciate all of the well-wishes and good energy people have been sending to us.  Please look for more updates daily here.

Lily Bermel, S’16, awarded Prestigious Congressional Award!

Lily picks up trash during a beach clean-up on Eleuthera
Lily picks up trash during a beach clean-up on Eleuthera
Lily Bermel, from Brookline, Massachusetts, was awarded the highest national award any teenager could receive, the Congressional Award. The award is given to less than 300 teenagers who have achieved over 1,000 volunteer hours. She set her focus areas in Volunteer Public Service, Personal Development, Physical Fitness and Expedition/Exploration.  Lily continues The Island School’s mentality of leadership affecting change by joining her town’s Climate Action Committee as a student representative.
Congratulations, Lily! We are so proud to have you in our alumni community!
For more about Lily’s award, please click here

Alumni Spotlight: Devin Gilmartin (F’14) and Tegan Maxey


If you have been following this blog for a while, you may remember back in May when we published a piece about Fall 2014 alum Devin Gilmartin and his 2020 Vision t-shirts that were designed to echo the importance of the work done at the UN’s COP 21 meeting. Now Devin is back and has teamed up with Tegan Maxey for a new project. Together, they are creating a sustainable fashion company with a name that will be instantly recognizable to many in the broader Island School community and, soon, to many beyond: Querencia Studio. The Island School recently had a chance to catch up with both Devin and Tegan to hear about how they came to be a team and where they see their new project heading.

Tegan is not herself an alum of the Island School but she attended and graduated from both DCMS and Lawrenceville and has grown up on the Island School campus with an uncounted number of Island School students. Since graduating from Lawrenceville, Tegan set out to see the world and started in Singapore when she spent 3 months on a 112ft schooner followed by 3 months sailing through South-East Asia and then the Indian Ocean across to Cape Town, South Africa. This experience was followed by nearly a year cruising around the Mediterranean as a deckhand on super yachts. This might sound like an appealing lifestyle to many people but for someone with as close a connection to the core experiences of the Island School lifestyle, her reaction was just the opposite. She discovered that yachting is “an industry of excess in every possible way, which continuously conflicted with my upbringing, referring to trash as ‘resources.’ I left yachting, at a loss for where to go next having always pictured myself making a career on the ocean, before I took my dad’s offer to try and improve the Island School uniform. It was from this opportunity that I ended up on a call with Devin and once again found my footing in building Querencia.” Devin has been busy since we last heard from him in May. He completed an internship with Milk Studios where he had been working with artist Laolu on his “Brooklyn Dreamscape” project.


Just as Devin was finishing up his internship and work with 2020 Vision, and Tegan was being tasked to work on the Island School uniform, the two were introduced over a phone call. Devin and Tegan brainstormed with Island School’s Chris Maxey and Bill Johnston of Recover Brands on how their ideas could be taken to the next level, beyond the world of fashion. The result of that call was Querencia Studio. Devin and Tegan settled on that name for largely the same reasons. For Devin, the word Querencia “describes a safe place, a haven in which one feels at home. The Island School was certainly that for me.” For Tegan, she agreed with Querencia Studio as the name because she truly wants “it to be a safe haven for artists, scientist, and revolutionaries to plan, build, and create a more sustainable future for all of us.” Since then, Tegan and Devin have been hard at work creating an expanding range of products that currently includes long sleeve and short sleeve shirts as well as hoodies. The entire first collection is being done in collaboration with Recover Brands.


Devin and Tegan both have goals for the future of Querencia Studio. Both of them want Querencia Studio to become a model platform of sustainability in the world of fashion and beyond.  As Devin states, clothing is just “our first pursuit, and will certainly be a constant in our product output, but we are really taking on a multidisciplinary strategy. We want to explore any project that might provide us with an opportunity to innovate sustainably.” Tegan was inspired by her time in Europe, “where you have to pay for a plastic bag when you get your groceries, I was baffled that the US has not implemented such a system. It is disturbingly hard to get a to-go drink not served in plastic with a plastic straw”. She wants to see Querencia Studio take on “all aspects of conservation and the sustainable revolution, from the implementation of law to limit the amount of plastic waste in the world, to the hands on of getting out there and picking up trash from the streets and beaches”. With the current rate of implementation of their ideas, the Island School has no doubt that the Tegan and Devin will accomplish their goals.


Both Devin and Tegan were inspired by the Island School when creating this project. That much is obvious from the name Querencia alone, but for both of them, it runs much deeper than that. Tegan grew up on the Island School campus with the result that the school is “so much a part of my identity as a person that I owe it credit, to some degree, for every decision I’ve ever made, and Querencia is no exception”. For Devin “The Island School is at the heart of what we are doing. The Island School teaches you what a full day looks like. You’re up early and you’re moving, you’re constantly soaking in information. That’s now our day to day attitude with Querencia.” The next step is to begin to bring about change in the fashion industry.


Devin and Tegan have recognized and seized what they see as a unique opportunity in the fashion world. What they are creating is going to go beyond the “in the moment” trend of Green Fashion that many companies are focusing on right now. Querencia Studio is instead designed to cater to, as Devin says, “people who are willing to have a full understanding of a product before they invest in it. We are telling a story with each project we do. We feel the next wave of consumers will all demand the type of story we are telling, the story that explains where the garment is made, who makes it and what it’s made of.” The end goal is to set an entirely new, raised standard in both what a product is and what it stands for.

Devin and Tegan, all of us at The Island School are in your corner. We wish you the best of luck and cannot wait to hear about the successes of Querencia Studio! To checkout Devin and Tegan’s work, check out their website and Instagram page.