As the world finds itself noisier, busier and more technological than ever, an intimate reconnection with nature and each other is of significant value. At The Island School, students participate in an experiential learning curriculum and personal development, which empowers students to make that connection. Our Spring 2020 students are already benefiting from this style of education with an action-packed first week on campus.
Students began their first day on campus by getting acquainted with their new environment. In their first morning activity, led by leader Chris Maxey, students focused on reinvigorating childlike curiosity. Students laid down on the beach, encouraged to rub their faces in the sand. This lesson aims to foster a more playful and intimate connection with nature. Dirtying their faces is symbolic of their willingness to get literally in touch with nature and learn in a visceral way, much like the ways in which children learn from the world.
Experiential learning at The Island School utilizes the wisdom of nature to ground students in the present and reinvigorate a love for learning. Students, who may have never even seen the ocean, swam to a small boat wreck just off of our campus, while observing and collecting marine life: large crimson sea stars which suctioned themselves to palms, the glorious and fragile Queen Conch, and students bestowed a kiss on the strange, but harmless, wrinkled sea cucumber. These are intimate experiences in nature, not just a textbook analysis. This hands-on approach builds compassion for nature and plants a seed of inquiry that asks students to learn through their visual, aural, olfactory, and tactile senses. I asked Island School student Jackson Cabral how he felt about the first day of lessons and he remarked: “it was the most engaging, applicable learning that I’ve had in awhile.”
The Island School also encourages students’ personal development. Another activity of the first week was “Learn to Explore.” Students took vans and bikes to a variety of well-known and hidden locations on the Cape. Bikers stopped at the marina, thrilled to see that nurse sharks lay docile on the floor of the marina channel. They continued to Sunset Beach, noting its spectacular view, and were encouraged to return to watch the sunset which gives the beach its name. Afterwards, the majority of students were led to 4th Hole Beach (this beach is named for its location on the 4th Hole of a golf course – since abandoned – that existed from a past resort).
During this exploration, students were tasked with finding an item that reflected their goals for their Island School journey. All 53 students shared a variety of items: a number of beige, striking, spiraling shells; square chips of blue cement from the abandoned infrastructure of past resorts; flexible, black coral fans; and an antique bottle filled with sand. All were brought to life with metaphors for personal and collective journeys. One student compared the funneling of a cone-shaped shell he found to the funnel of knowledge and collective support of the new community, noting that many journeys are initially vague and uncomfortable, but gradually become focused and intimate, with clarity in the center.
The Island School’s initiatives empowers young leaders to live sustainably and effect positive change for the health of others and the world, while gaining the self-confidence to step out of their comfort zone and explore the external world as well as inwardly towards their personal development. Upon reflection on the first week, Island School student Elyana Verdi shared a story: “On the very first day, Maxey talked about how thankful he was, and how us being here is a call to action; he then blew the conch horn. That call to action feels true, there is so much support for us to figure out our specific calling, and it has only been 6 days, but we all feel like we will figure it out while here.”
Here’s to the discovery and inspiration ahead for the Spring 2020 Island School class! They have been busy during their first days on campus cultivating a deep love for nature, the spirit of learning and the power that lies in their collective support. This week students set off for a 3 day kayak adventure and have been completing their SCUBA certifications; students and staff couldn’t be more excited to continue the journey.