Nine Linker students participated in a seven day expedition to The Island School in Cape Eleuthera, The Bahamas. Students learned to live on a green campus powered by renewable energy that recycles its waste; engaged in science research around marine ecology; discovered the people and environment of The Bahamas; and stretched themselves through daily exercise and community responsibilities, snorkeling, island exploration, swimming, camping, and other challenges that encouraged each student to develop leadership and teamwork skills.
Link students, chaperoned by two members of Link’s staff (Maria Pilar Paradiso, head of school, and Greg Silver, director of admission and high school placement), were introduced to sustainable living in very tangible and powerful ways. The water they drank and showered with was collected from the rain. They learned to be mindful of the amount of water used and the amount of time used showering, as they were limited to one minute showers. Students also learned to adjust their eating habits. The food they ate was made with locally grown ingredients. Leftover food on everyone’s plates was either composted or fed to pigs on campus, causing them to consider the amount of food taken from the buffet offered at meals. Students considered the use of electricity, limiting the time that lights were on, particularly during the day. They thought about containers and how products can be recycled. Students visited the farm and orchard that grows some of the food cooked on campus and the biodiesel production facility that converts used cooking oil from cruise ships to fuel for vehicles. Finally, students learned about the ways in which waste water can be filtered by the mangroves and even used to fertilize gardens. This exposure to sustainable living was quite shocking for students, but it is this radical departure from their normal lives that leaves a lasting impact
Students participated in a variety of activities during the week that broadened their horizons and provided new exposures. They had the chance to learn about aquaculture systems and do some research with tilapia and puffer fish as well as learn about aquaponics systems. They attended a presentation about shark presentation and took a field trip to observe the shark research team in action. Additionally scientists spoke to them about the important turtle research happening at the facility.
During a Down Island Trip, the group visited the Glass Window – the narrowest point on the island, where the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean are separated by a rock formation and an Ocean Hole – a body of water fed by an underground cave connected to the ocean and made up of salt water, brackish water and fresh water. They camped on the beach and explored local caves and a banyan tree plantation.
For most of the students, this was their first travel without families. From the air travel in general to the small plane to get to the island of Eleuthera, from the bunk living and sharing of bathrooms to community meals, from the daily exercise to daily chores, from being away from home to getting up at 6:15 am, students were challenged to respond maturely to new situations and experiences. Each day, they circled up to discuss the day’s activities and select a cacique to lead the following day. They responded beautifully to all they encountered and took advantage of most opportunities presented.
Overall, this trip was “the trip of a lifetime.” Students stretched themselves beyond their comfort zone, explored new things; came to better understand their fears, capabilities and passions; learned how to be “green” and support a more sustainable environment; engaged in hands-on science exploration; and discovered the outdoors in an ocean community.
Link appreciates the generosity of Novartis Pharmaceuticals for providing the funding for this unique and exciting educational experience our students.