Friends, Family, and Alumni,
The Fall 2016 semester is flying by. Because we’ve been so busy, it feels like only a few short weeks ago that we were unpacking our things and circling around the flag pole for the first time, but it only takes me realizing all that we’ve explored and accomplished over these past 70 days to realize just how long we’ve been here.
Time is definitely a challenging concept here. We often say, “Every day feels like a month and every month feels like a day,” simply because of how fast everything moves, but also acknowledging all that happens in one day. The way that I’ve learned to define time here is by the friendships and incredible connections that grow on a daily basis. The Island School is a really special place in that you are constantly surrounded by interesting, kind, and extremely supportive individuals that care so much about your own personal success. The friendships that I have created here with my peers are indescribable and so cherished, but my valued relationships aren’t limited to students. I find myself having a new, thoughtful conversation with a new member of faculty, a member of CEI, or a hardworking individual from the farm just as often as I do with my close peers. Both types of relationships are easily attainable and immensely valued by all of the students here. The community and connections that I have established here are two of the main reasons that I have become so attached to this place I now call home.
These wonderful connections only deepened and expanded over our three-week Expedition period. As we were split up into four different Kayak or Sail groups, people were worried about leaving their beloved routine and friends for three weeks, but little did we know all that was ahead of us. I embarked on a 9-Day Kayak trip the first week of Expeditions and was really excited about the bonding of my group, the friendships I’d be able to deepen, the solo experience, and all of the adventures we had ahead. I knew it was going to be both a challenging and rewarding week, but what I didn’t understand was how happy I would be when I’d return nine days later.
Solo fell towards the beginning of my kayak trip and I couldn’t be happier that it had. The exciting 48-hour experience that all Island School students think about when they apply had finally arrived and it was more emotional than I’d anticipated. While leaving one of my best friends at the very beginning, we both broke down into tears, not from sadness, but from feeling so much excitement and anticipation all at once. Once I had settled into my spot and looked out at the beautiful beach and ocean in front of me, the tears immediately ceased. Where I was and the incredible opportunity that was lying in front of me instantly made me so appreciative. During my solo, I was forced to live in the moment, taking the experience minute by minute. I was so content for the duration of my solo as I was able to reflect, write several pages in my placebook, and recharge. Coming back together with my group afterwards was one of the happiest moments I’ve felt here and it enabled us to have finish our last 5 days on a really high note.
As we kayaked back to campus the morning of Day 9, many of the faculty and students were out on the jetty cheering us on as we finished our final stretch. Seeing campus and the community we had missed so much filled our boats and bodies with pure excitement. As we reunited with the rest of the groups, the dorms and dining hall were full of nothing but stories and happy spirit. This energy carried over onto our Down Island Trip that followed. Exploring the island as a unit as we discovered the several impacts of tourism on this country was really interesting, eye-opening and our group was just overall excited to be back together for another 5 days.
All 50 of us are back on campus now, finding ourselves back into a pretty steady academic routine. As well as coming back together as a community, it’s crunch time for our research classes, we’re preparing for our art show, and our respective run and swim tracks are reaching our max-workouts before the 4-mile swim and half marathon. Campus is buzzing as we begin to prepare for Parents Weekend. We’re all very excited to welcome our parents to campus and share all that we’ve learned in just a few short days.
Shark Explorers is a Cape Town based diving company that focus on changing people’s perspectives on the oceans’ top predators. Each year we bring in four Island School alumni to become part of our team. We continue to build on the love for ocean life, that was gained while in The Bahamas. The internship program is based on the idea of “Education Through Experience.” The core values and tools that the Island School gives young people to thrive in Eleuthera, are the same values that allow for our interns to openly welcome the adventure and experience of the Shark Explorers Internship Program in Africa. The 21 day program, held in August is full of scuba diving in and around the kelp forest and working as a crew member on the Great White Shark cage diving boat. We organize multiple excursions all over Cape Town to take in the sights and sounds of this amazing corner of the globe. For example, one day is spent on a game drive to see the big five land based animals of Africa. The program also includes getting involved with ongoing research as well as supporting some of the top shark scientists and NGOs. The Shark Explorers Internship strives to be the next stepping stone for those of you that have been inspired by what the Island school has to offer and are enthusiastic to learn more about the ocean. It’s has been nothing short of a pleasure to host our 2016 interns and we can’t wait to take on four more alumni for our 2017 program.
Take a look at what they had to say about the program:
“Even though this internship’s three short weeks are dwarfed by the incredible three months students were given at The Island School, we interns have enjoyed days jam-packed with just as much adventure as you’d expect from a day in the Bahamas. The Cape Peninsula and Cape Eleuthera may not have many similarities that are readily apparent, but working here at Shark Explorers has felt like a perfect extension of our semesters thousands of miles away. We’re living right by the ocean, in a small town on a peninsula, as part of a close-knit community of people who are incredibly excited about what they’re doing down here. Sound familiar? Brocq Maxey and the rest of the Shark Explorers team have made this a fantastic three weeks, and we’re excited to share what we’ve been up to with everyone!”
– Harrison Rohrer (F ’13)
“After doing our open water certification in 28 ˚ C water at the Island School, it was a difficult adjustment to dive in 14 ˚ C water. We encountered a few species of sharks endemic to this region while diving: the Pyjama shark, the Catshark, the Dark shyshark, and the Puffadder shyshark. My favorite dive was a shore dive off the off of Simons Town and in just a few meters of crystal clear water through the kelp forest. Another awesome dive we did was at the pinnacles and we gained experience dealing with surface currents, poor visibility and depth. We also did a few dives with Cape fur seals, which were a lot of fun, and on the last night we did a night dive.”
– Dana Biddle (SP ’13)
For me, the most exciting part about working with Shark Explorers was serving as a crew member on the White Shark cage diving boat and helping out with research done by the Shark Spotters organization. Everyday, Shark Explorers runs a morning trip and an afternoon trip for tourists who want to see great whites in action. The morning trip would leave the dock around 6:30 AM so we would be able to watch sharks feed on seals in the early morning light. By watching the tactics these sharks used to hunt seals, it is easy to see how truly spectacular these animals are.
– George Crawford (SP ’13)
While we were blessed to have great weather on most days we did have a few days where we could not go out on the water. One of these bad weather days we spent driving 3 hours away to go on a game drive. We saw hippos, elephants, giraffes, lions, chetahs, alligators, rhino and my favorite, zebras! This was a very unique experience because it allowed us to see not only another part of South Africa but it gave us the opportunity to learn more about the animals’ roles in African society.
– Olivia Wigon (SP ’14)
Please contact Brocq Maxey for more info at:
Instagram: @brocqmaxey @shark_explorers
“In order to discover new Ocean you need the courage to leave sight of the land.”
Lying on the decks of the Sharpie Schooners we watched the sun peek over the wide open expanse of Caribbean Sea. Our morning routine began like this most every day. Wake up at six, put away the sleeping boards, sing the Bahamian national anthem, jump in the water for a morning swim, climb back on the boats for breakfast and chores. Finally when tasks were completed and crew members were dressed in full sun protection, the sails came out and we were off.
Our expedition started on the 22nd of June when the expedition team took up residence at the newly constructed basecamp, located behind Water Polo Cut, which features tent platforms, an outdoor shower, fire pit, and a “private” beach. After dinner and some time to settle in, we circled up in the boat house to discuss expectations. That first night we acknowledged what an amazing and challenging opportunity this course would be for everyone involved.
It is my strong belief that to adventure in the natural world one must be present. One must establish a sense of place, a bond and relationship with the land. Place-based education challenges the meaning of education by asking seemingly simple questions: Where am I? What is the nature of this place? Students are presented with the opportunity to become a part of the broader community rather than an indifferent observer. The Island School promotes this type of learning, and this course was no exception.
We spent the first week of the term on campus on learning the basics of sailing skills, marine ecology, and expeditionary living. We were pioneers plotting our journey into uncharted territory. Finally, we were ready. And so, we went.
Our expedition departed Eleuthera in the pre-dawn hours of June 30th, setting the course west 30 nautical miles across the rolling waters of the Exuma Sound. A true epic crossing was had, complete with compass and charts, waves washing over the gunwales, deep blue water, and a touch of seasickness. After eight exhilarating hours, land was sighted. Shortly thereafter we arrived at Halls Pond Cay, our first stop in the Exuma Islands.
Anchored off a white sand beach in turquoise water, an initially exhausted crew got second wind. Our first afternoon in the Exumas was spent relaxing in the shade of trees, and snorkeling the nearby reef. The students and Island School teachers were equally thrilled by the abundance of tropical fish and other marine species. Every so often someone (mostly me) could be heard exclaiming in excitement through their snorkel, a practice that continued for the duration of the trip.
The next morning we traveled to Warderick Wells Cay, headquarters of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. We were met by a staff enthusiastic about our endeavor, and happy to spend some time talking with our group. Throughout the afternoon we learned about the marine protected area, fishing regulations, the Bahamas National Trust, and the history of the Exuma Islands. The time spent at headquarters helped the students to conceptualize the importance of their scientific studies on a large scale, and served as the launching point for their research.
At the beginning of the program during our on campus week, students were presented with four on-going research projects through the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI), and then chose to take on the project which most interested them. The topics of these projects included Queen Conch, sea urchins, lionfish, and grouper.
The bulk of our expedition was an experiment in living, working, sailing, and researching as a contained unit. It was an experience in self-awareness, group mentality, and leadership. Personal space is difficult to come by on a 30ft sailboat, especially when it is inhabited by eight people. Throughout our trip we all experienced emotional, mental, and physical obstacles. Our true growth lies in the fact that our group learned to acknowledge and deal with personal frustrations, to be vulnerable, and to rely on and trust in each other. After two weeks exploring the Exuma Islands, our crew crossed open water and returned to Eleuthera, following the path we had taken before. But we were not the same.
Reflection, in my opinion, is a key component in realizing and solidifying change. The final component of our expedition was a 48 hour solo. During this time students had the opportunity to sit alone with their thoughts, write in their journals, and rest. While sitting completely alone and in silence can certainly be an arduous task for most, the students came off of their solo time with a new appreciation of their experience and understanding of themselves.
Now that the first ever Expeditionary Summer Term has come to an incredibly successful and joyful end, we can reaffirm our initial thoughts to be true. This program was in fact an amazing and challenging opportunity for everyone involved. Some of the highlights of our final week back on the Island School campus include: the final Epic Snorkel physical challenge, research symposium, Parent’s Weekend, and kook of the day assignments. Our graduation and course celebration was filled with laughter, friendship, and even a few tears.
Throughout the past month our 13 pioneer students gained the means and confidence to approach challenges in all aspects of their lives head on, and I have no doubt that they will continue to do so. When asked on the very last day of the course whether they would do it again, each and every one stopped to truly think it over, and then said yes.
“The pioneer island school expeditionary program was a unique experience never to be relived the same way. Through genuine experience learning and harsh hardships that strengthen your fundamentals. You often find who you are and settle your priorities. Being on campus and living and seeing this beautiful lifestyle is undeniably life changing.” – Sebastian Alvarez, EST 16’
Students visit the Island School’s facilities, including the aquaponics farm, to learn about sustainable living.
Hi! I’m Elodie Marran. To tell you a few things about myself: I’m a rising senior in high school, I live in London, England, and I was nominated as Cacique last night along with Matthew.
Yesterday marked the beginning of classes for the Island School summer term students. The people in the tourism and development class embarked on an adventure down the island for three nights for the class and their 24-hour solo. I started my sustainable systems class, which I’m super excited about, and we began by discussing what sustainability means to us and how to best achieve your goals of sustainability in a place. In the afternoon my class went over to the center for sustainable development where we learned about solar energy and actually constructed our own grid-tied and off-grid solar systems that powered lights and fans. After dinner we had an evening class where we watched Food Inc. I have already learned a lot in my sustainable systems class and, even after the first day, I found some new topics of interest that I want to explore more in depth.
Anne, one of the summer term instructors, answers students’ questions regarding the way that the Island School and Cape Eleuthera Institute operate.
On Thursday morning, the Island School summer term students had a community run-swim along with the resources team and the South Eleuthera Boy’s Camp. The run-swim was one with high spirits and motivation in everyone. From people helping others up the wall, which is a part of the route on these run-swims, to cheering everyone right to the end with high-fives and smiles once someone reached the flagpole. The reward of the tough run-swim was french toast and sausage for breakfast.
With everyone settling into their own daily routine at the Island School, the evenings have started to become quieter with everyone concentrating on their work or tired out after a full day of classes. It can be an exhausting day but we always get the most as one can possibly get out of a day.
Hey there! I’m Matthew, and I am a student in the Island School’s summer term! A little background; I will be an incoming junior next school year, and I live in Brooklyn, New York. I go to the New York Harbor School, a technical New York City public high school with a marine-based focus. I study marine biology as my focus, so I guess it was appropriate that I decided to attend the Island School! Ok, enough about me, more about what amazing things my classmates and I have done throughout their first week!
At this point, most of the students have received their SCUBA Diving certification from PADI. Very exciting! This process was a tough one, especially for me. In order for you to receive your certification, you must complete a list of skills underwater, some of which include breathing without your regulator, clearing water out of your mask, using a compass, taking off all of your gear and putting it back on, and many, many more skills. One skill in particular that I had trouble mastering was putting water in my mask and trying to clear the water. After the first dive, I asked Liz if I could sit out of SCUBA, and what did she say? OF COURSE NOT! As an Island School student, you must learn to persevere through challenging moments. Every student will have a moment they will struggle with, but here you will have to learn to cope with your struggles and overcome them. I think a lot of the culture of this school is determination and perseverance. So the next morning was a sleep-in morning, but the teachers noticed I was having some trouble, so they proposed the day before that I should come in early to try to master the skills I was struggling with. I agreed. I was freaking out, thinking about all of the worst possibilities that night, but when I got there, I lived in the moment and nailed it. In a couple of days, I was a certified PADI SCUBA Diver!
Sophie, a SCUBA instructor on campus, works with a student to help them clear their mask.
I strongly believe that part of the reason I was able to master the skills I had not already completed, was because of the great community and my classmates who supported me the whole way through. On the morning of the day that I mastered my skills, Adaam led a guided meditation. As I stepped on the edge of the dock, getting ready to jump into the water, I hear chants of my name. “Matthew you can do it!” “You got it, Matthew!” “I believe in you, Matthew!” I look to my right, and see all of my friends cheering me on, giving me so much confidence. I truly believe that because of that motivation, I was able to master my skills. The Island School community is such a special one.
Students jump from High Rock during morning exercise.
The island of Eluthera is full of wonders. Yesterday, we were given the opportunity to explore this adventurous place. Many people got up early to meditate at seven in the morning, while most enjoyed the rare opportunity to sleep in. The hundreds of beaches around the island attracted many of the Island School students during their time off. Going to the beach, finishing laundry and completing an essay were some of the many things juggled on the day off. In our free day we relaxed, discovered new things and prepared for the upcoming academic schedule.
Students visit Fourth Hole Beach to snorkel and relax on the sand.
Owen’s Day (cacique number 1):
Like many others, I tried to take advantage of the opportunity to sleep in, but of course that did not go as planned. The students who either woke up to say goodbye to Nathan (a student who had to leave early in the morning), or woke up to go to meditation made enough noise to prevent me from sleeping, which worked out in the end considering how quickly the day went by. After relaxing with some friends outside the dorm, we made our way to the marina store to enjoy some air conditioning and to do some laundry. After returning to school for lunch, I hung out with new friends and listened to some good music while writing a personal essay about our newfound connection to the land here on Eleuthera. After dinner it was off to night classes and then into our dorms until bedtime. I look forward to exploring the island more with the free days that we will be given in the weeks to come.
The Island School provides bikes to students to facilitate in our discovery of the island.
Mary Margaret’s Day (cacique number 2):
The girl’s dorm was up and about at around 6:50. Many girls ran to meditation in the morning while others took advantage of the sleep-in day. Later on, many students biked off to the various beaches while others stayed on campus to complete the essay that was assigned. Because everyone’s day was different, I will take this time to explain mine. First order of the day was the essay. Once completed, I went to Sunset Beach (a beach near the Marina). After swimming for a while, we decided to move on to a more adventurous destination. We went to Fourth Hole Beach. It is a secluded beach that looks incredibly close to a dream-like vacation destination. It was amazing. Despite my sunburned face, this day was easily one of my favorite Island School memories yet. Yesterday Island School students biked around the island of Eleuthera creating only one of the many amazing memories yet to come.
- Always always always wear a bathing suit during exploration time.
- Don’t be late to art class.
- When deciding over seconds or med check always choose seconds.
- Ketchup makes everything taste better. So does salt and pepper.
- Star gaze.
- Bug net bug suit (nothing else needs to be said).
- Roc the croc.
- Buy a pint of ice cream at the marina store and eat it all by yourself.
- Only put up the rainfly on the tent if it’s actually going to rain.
- Ocean showers are fun.
- Lighthouse sand will appear in your bed weeks after kayak.
- Don’t touch the poisonwood, just don’t do it.
- Keep your fleece. It gets chilly.
- Bring a fan.
- Don’t be afraid to cry.
- Don’t go anywhere without a water bottle.
- Get lost in the inner loop.
- Hide your wrappers.
- Get enough sleep but…
- Choose free diving over sleep.
- Actually choose anything over sleep. You can sleep when you get home.
- You can go a day or two (or three) without showering (probably not four though.)
- The key to good dish crew is lots of soap and awesome music.
- Even if you get connected to the Internet don’t use it for social media.
- Perform at coffee house.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously.
- Call your family during phone time. They miss you.
- Baby oil = even more bug protection.
- Research is important, even though you don’t get a grade.
- Sing as loud as you can in the dorms.
- Don’t count the days.
- Get to know the staff including CEI, CSD, and Deep Creek staff.
- Get cups from Mr. Henry’s.
- Your bike is the key to IS freedom. Take care of it.
- Take time for yourself.
- Appreciate toilet paper when you have it.
- Don’t be late to dish crew.
- Buy Peter Z’s cookies. It’s worth it.
- Get weird.
- Don’t count the time make the time count.
- Puddle jump.
- Take pictures but don’t obsess over taking them.
- Never ever worry about how much food you are eating.
- Watch movies curled in bed with a friend.
- Go in the ocean every single chance you get.
- Oatmeal Fridays are the bomb.
- Sing your heart out during the national anthem.
- Wind is a really really good thing.
- A grape fruit rind makes the well water taste ten million times better.
- Embrace your solo. When else will you be able to spend two days on your own.
- Repeat the question.
- Eat off the plants on campus.
- Oatmeal Friday rocks.
- Don’t lose your headphones.
- Sit in a hammock on the porch.
- Smell your clothes to determine wearability.
- Dress up for fancy dinners.
- Querencia is awesome. Take it seriously.
- Play cards.
- Look like a scrub and own it.
- Sleep in on a Sunday and don’t regret it.
- Go to church.
- Be patient.
- Ask Questions.
- Don’t forget laundry day under any circumstances.
- Stay up late.
- Don’t break the nature.
- Don’t obsess over the time.
- Take your watch off.
- Watch the sunrise and the sunset.
- Cover yourself completely with sand.
- Beware of the DIT van stench.
- Only wear shoes when 100% necessary.
- Get mojo and take everyone else’s music.
- Flush the toilet but save water.
- Do your history readings.
- Avoid the poo poo garden.
- Sand awareness.
- Share your clothes.
- Share in general.
- Beware of sand bears.
- Sing loud and proud during the Bahamian national anthem.
- You’re going to lose stuff. It’ll be ok.
- Don’t do your DOL at 10:25 the night before.
- Don’t do any homework at 10:25 the night before.
- Go triking in the horseshoe.
- Scrambled brownies are delicious.
- Cheer your heart out during the half marathon/ super swim.
- Challenge yourself.
- Be present.
- Say thank you.
- Be honest to yourself and to others
- Remember this is your family for 100 days. Love them.