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:

Hurricane Matthew Update #2

To the Island School and CEI family and friends,

Thank you for staying in touch with us. We very much appreciate your concern and we will continue to do our best to keep everybody updated.

This morning brought an energized and vocal morning exercise. Being the last group exercise for a few days (and a long exercise track day), the students gave it their all.  Pancakes and sausage were served afterward in a cool and breezy dining hall. The skies are gray and blue and the water is choppy though still a classic Bahamas blue.

Students in Communications Seminar storyboarding their next project

Classes are carrying on as usual today with students grabbing cameras and microphones to do interviews around campus. The communications seminar class is focusing on telling stories about people’s experience with storms in the past in audio and video form.

Campus is busy with final storm proofing and organizing. Deep Creek residents are moving onto campus today as well and sharing space with Island school faculty and staff.

Students conducted interviews with faculty and staff about experiences with storm in the past

Students will be located in one of our newest and most secure buildings on campus: the Center for Sustainable Development. This building is the ideal location on campus to ride out the storm. It is located about 15 feet above any predicted storm surge, it has an open floor plan which is ideal for communal living , and the entire building was constructed on four of the largest cisterns ever built within the organization, storing over 200,000 gallons of water. Electricity will also be run off of generators if our supply is interrupted.

Center of Sustainable Design
Center of Sustainable Development where students will be housed beginning tonight

We continue to prepare and are expecting a big storm. We are continually checking NOAA’s website to track the storm and monitor any changes in the storm’s path or severity. We understand how difficult it is to be at home watching the news. One of our gifted educators, Elidieu Joseph, is from Haiti and we all took some time to think about the people of Haiti who right now are weathering the storm with so little in the way of resources.  It makes us appreciate all that we have.

Thank you all for the continued support and confidence. As always, please reach out to our team with any questions or concerns.


US Office Number: (609) 620-6700




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.

Alumni Spotlight: Carter Brown (Sp ’09)

Our bus came up a short hill, rounded the last corner and before us was a sign marking the entrance. The Island School! As we crunched and bounced down the pockmarked driveway lined with hundreds of conch shells, all 48 heads on board were swiveling from one side to the other and back again. To the left was a fleet of boats, to the right a huge wind turbine and straight ahead a cluster of buildings with blue roofs. The bus came to a halt halfway around a circle with a tall flag pole in the middle, flanked by two thatch-roofed gazebos. A moment of silence descended on the group and then was broken by a loud voice crying out from the entrance of what we soon learned was Boys Dorm. “TODAY IS THE GREATEST DAY OF YOUR LIVES!!!!!” yelled the man we came to know as David Miller as he ran, beaming, towards the bus. A chorus of nervous giggles was the response inside the bus. We learned later that night from Chris Maxey, “you are here to save the world.” This was the beginning of the Spring 2009 semester at The Island School.

David Miller preps Spring ’09 to snorkel the wreck
David Miller preps Spring ’09 to snorkel the wreck

While at The Island School I learned that I could swim 4 miles in the open ocean, ooids can be studied for math class, how to drive a boat, use a sextant, conduct interviews with locals, and connect with people and places in ways I had not known was possible. I learned that Fritter is both a food item and an adored animal. That was the better part of seven years ago. The best part is even though it felt like a devastating ending when day 100 came and we had to leave the Island, it turned out to be just the beginning. For me, it turned out that the day I arrived on The Island School campus really may have been the greatest day of my life because I would not be where I am now without those first harrowing moments stepping off the bus into a new way of life. I know many alumni feel the same.

After leaving, The Island School became as essential to me as my own heart. I received no greater reminder of that than during the summer of 2010. I woke up to the sound of feet clomping up the stairs outside my bedroom. As per usual, I rolled over and pretended to be asleep, hoping that my parents would have mercy on my laziness. My door clicked open and I heard a deep inhale of breath followed by a loud, drawn out note. This was a note which I had previously associated with only one place in the world. It had to be a dream I told myself, but I had to look just to see. I rolled over again and standing in the doorway to my room was Chris Maxey himself, brandishing a conch horn and preparing for another blast! I doubt I have ever leapt out of bed faster as Maxey hurried me down the stairs and out the door for a run-swim and yoga session along the Jersey Shore. That morning, Maxey taught me that I could leave The Island School, but that The Island School would never leave me.

Maxey and Carter after the surprise run-swim.
Maxey and Carter after the surprise run-swim.

The Island School showed me that there was a life to create in my greatest interest. From the moment I left I knew I was going to be an environmental scientist. I came home convinced that I was going to change the world, that I had all the tools I would need to do it, and that I could start that very day. Needless to say, I set myself up for immediate failure and frustration. I couldn’t understand why it was so hard to change someone else’s opinion. Why couldn’t my friends recycle? Why couldn’t my town have a community compost? Separated from my friends and teachers I had made at the Island School, I felt lost. But slowly I learned to pace myself, to take success and progress in smaller chunks. Others in my semester had similar arcs of progress, and we encouraged each other to keep going.

Eventually, everyone in my semester graduated into college. We had spread out across the country, but we were still Island Schoolers. We sought each other out at events like the 15th anniversary reunion in Boston or bumped into each other in chance encounters on a street. I attended Hobart and William Smith Colleges. I signed up for all of the environmental and biology classes I could during my first semester. My fervor and eagerness to continue my path to becoming an environmental scientist was, at the time, seemingly impeded by having to take a class called Storytelling, with a professor named Charlie Temple, along with my bio classes freshman year. Little did I know that one class would have a profound effect on me, to the point where I altered my double major in Environmental Studies and Biology to accommodate an English minor. I excelled when I could communicate with people instead of attempting to communicate with a microscope. This realization was a critical struggle that I wrestled with throughout college because I was so thoroughly convinced that I needed to save the world, as Maxey had told my semester years before, and that science was the only way I could do that.

Fellow Sp‘09ers Eduardo Lopez and Walcott Miller return to campus for 2015’s Reunion
Fellow Sp‘09ers Eduardo Lopez and Walcott Miller return to campus for 2015’s Reunion

I finally found my answer only months ago. After graduating from HWS, I accepted a position as The Island School’s Alumni Educator which planted me for a full year back on Eleuthera. I was put in touch with all of the Class Agents from all semesters, while also being an advisor to a group of students. In many ways, it felt like I was completing a cycle and returning home. I coached swimming and freediving, helped lead community service and co-led a Down Island Trip. I spoke weekly with alumni from all over and turned their stories into blog posts. I even had a hand in the 2015 CONCHtribution and 2016 1-for-100 campaigns. To top it off, I had two advisories of my own filled with the most incredible students.

At the end of both the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 semesters I received a letter from an advisee that brought me to tears because of the writing’s elegance and simple beauty. Those letters showed me that I had made a tangible difference in at least two lives. My advisees taught me that there are an infinite number of ways to change the world. Freed from the burden of a destiny I had shackled myself to, I am now a fundraiser at a medium-sized environmental charity in Philadelphia. Professor Temple from my Storytelling class five years ago might be proud to know I tell stories for a living. And each day I get out of bed as if Maxey were in my doorway, with a conch horn, telling me to do my part in making this world a better place.

Island School alumni become Shark Explorers

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 


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.