Science and service under the Bahamian sun

An enthusiastic group of Trinity College School students engaged in experiential learning about environmental issues and the wonders of the natural world during a week-long trip to the Island School, located in Eleuthera, Bahamas.

The “science and service” trip, held in conjunction with Week Without Walls, departed on Friday, November 30th. Over the weekend, the group of 13 students got settled into their lodgings at the Island School and learned about some of the sustainable technologies being used by the school. Students analyzed their carbon footprint, and gained a new understanding of their impact on the planet. In the afternoon, the group grabbed snorkels and masks and went out to discover the ocean right in front of the dorms, learning to identify many invertebrates and tropical fish. Sunday wrapped up with a session of stargazing, made all the more incredible with zero light pollution to interfere with the view.

Monday saw the group travel down island to visit the Banyan tree, a magical place that looks straight out of Narnia. Next, was a stop to a 600 foot deep ocean hole where students practiced cliff jumping. The island has many naturally occurring inland “holes” that connect to the sea through underground cracks and chambers. The water coming in from the sea erodes the soft rock that forms most of Eleuthera and large caves often result. Students were able to explore one of these caves, bats and all! Monday afternoon was spent learning about the harmful impact of microplastics on our oceans, and then taking part in a beach clean-up. Students were absolutely floored by the sheer amount of plastic waste on the beach.

One of the favourite activities of the journey took place on Tuesday, when students and chaperones assisted the Cape Eleuthera Institute with its turtle data collection program. This included photographing and measuring the turtles. Then, small, temporary cameras are attached to the turtle so that researchers can view its movements and behaviour. Students were thrilled to view some of this footage themselves. Later in the week, students also had the chance to work with shark researchers to catch, measure and tag nurse sharks at the marina in order to collect data. This work was made all the more powerful for students after having watched the documentary Racing Extinction, which included information on the unethical practices involved in hunting sharks for their fins.

On Wednesday, students eagerly took part in service at the Deep Creek Middle School garden, where they spent hours weeding, hauling rocks to create walking paths, replanting gardens, sifting soil and planting new flowering trees and bushes. Other service activities included daily chores and projects at the Island School itself, such as watering the gardens, shredding plastic for recycling, assisting with converting cooking oil into biofuel, collecting eggs and caring for the animals (including grooming the pigs and chickens!). Students even put their construction skills to work to build a biopod, a large compost structure used to break down kitchen waste.

Much of Thursday and Friday were spent on the water, beginning with cliff jumping at High Rock, chances to explore the coral reefs and snorkel at Lighthouse Beach. There were even opportunities to relax and just soak up the sun or play games like flag football or spikeball on the beach.

Throughout the week, students took part in several lessons on local marine ecology and wildlife, from studying the coral reefs to witnessing a lion fish dissection. They also had daily workouts to keep their energy and spirits up. But it was hardly needed as all of the students dove into this adventure with 100% commitment.

Thank you to the Island School group for its hard work, great attitude and wonderful ambassadorship of TCS: Sam Arbour, Damon Gregoris, Hunter Straughan, Mason Outerbridge, Jack Moser, Sam Bliemel, Anthony Soles, Bella Savard, Avery Herr, Vanessa Lolmari, Fiona Miller, Eliana Rodriguez Gallardo and Mary Baker.

- By Suzy Hall and Justin Murphy, faculty chaperones