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Island School travellers experience service and science in the sun
  • Group of students posed around a stone sign that says The Island School

Full, active days and eye-opening environmental experiences were hallmarks of the 2023 Island School trip. On Saturday, December 2nd, a group of eight Trinity College School students, led by chaperones Brandon Black and Taylor Herrington, travelled to the Bahamas for a week of service in the sun, in conjunction with the Week Without Walls.

A long day of travel on Saturday brought the group to the Island School, a sustainable institution that provides visitors with opportunities for hands-on learning about conservation and deep insights into the ecosystems of Eleuthera, an island in the Bahamas archipelago.

Sunday saw an early start for the TCS group, including a campus tour and a swim test, followed by a scenic bike tour. Students Elyse Brown and Cederic Hamilton say, “Before finishing our bike trip, we stopped for a swim and snorkel, spotting a stingray, a school of bar jacks, and many other species of fish. Heading back, we biked to the local marina and saw both bull and nurse sharks; Ms. Herrington was particularly excited (and totally not scared at all...) over the sight of her first shark!” In the afternoon, students enjoyed learning about the island’s mangroves, and the day ended with a lesson on sharks and their importance to the ecosystem.

This information was put to good use on Monday when, following a morning spent exploring ocean sandbars (including free facials using the ooids), the group took part in shark research activities. Lily Wright and Natalya Viznyak write, “In groups, we accompanied the researchers from the Cape Eleuthera Institute in their shark research project in order to determine the effect of pollution on the sharks.” Students were able to catch one shark on the baited lines, in order to measure and collect data, then tag the shark before releasing it. “It should be said that our school was lucky enough to be the inaugural group for this activity and we were so happy to have caught a shark and be able to experience field research!”

Another highlight of the trip was the chance to meet students from the Hawkens School in Cleveland, Ohio. The groups shared an early morning workout on the beach on Tuesday. Also that day, students were able to put newly acquired knowledge of local fish and coral into action. “We accompanied a coral research team and set off on a boat to the other side of the island to go snorkeling. We saw some parrotfish, baby stingray, brain and finger corals, a school of surgeonfish, grunts, wrasse, butterfly fish, angel fish, as well as many others,” say Laura Wiesler and Wolfgang van Gulik. The afternoon was spent with students of Deep Creek Middle School, assisting in data collection through a beach clean-up activity.

Day five of the trip saw the group head to High Rock, where students jumped off a platform into the water. A lesson on lobster harvesting was followed by a research activity. “This consisted of heading off onto the boats, checking lobster ‘condos,’ handling and measuring baby lobster, and then placing the young lobster in the condos,” explain Stafford Conrad and Mitchell Pogue. After lunch, the students volunteered at an early learning centre as reading buddies for children aged 3-11.

The following day, Thursday, was all about service. The group put in many hours assisting at One Eleuthera Foundation’s farm, including tending the lettuce plants, transplanting roughly 2,000 lettuce sprouts, and working in the greenhouse to fertilize the ground and plant bell peppers. The day also included a tour and lessons on the unique agricultural history and challenges for growers on Eleuthera, as well as a special farm-to-table lunch.

The last full day on the island was perhaps the busiest yet, with the group travelling down island with stops along the way to further explore features such as one of the “blue holes” or “ocean holes” created through erosion over thousands of years; the Governors Harbour Library, one of the island’s oldest buildings; the natural Glass Window Bridge; and one of the largest cave systems in the Bahamas. The day concluded with a bonfire on the beach and a chance for everyone to reflect on their experiences, including sharing the best and most challenging moments (“high and low tides”) as well as what they will take away from the trip.

For the chaperones, Mr. Black and Ms. Herrington, the “high tide” was the chance to lead such an engaged group of students. “It was a true pleasure to see this group of students make lasting memories, forge meaningful bonds, and accept each other for their authentic selves.”