Last June, 15 Upper School students along with chaperones, science teachers Tim Allerton and Ann Dolan, spent a week at The Island School, a self-sustaining environmental research center, near the southwestern-most tip of Eleuthera, The Bahamas. Although a jaunt to the Bahamas may sound luxurious, the intrepid team withstood two-minute military showers and daily dish duty as they learned about environmental issues, the ocean’s ecosystems and about themselves in the process. “The kids have to put themselves out there,” Allerton said. “In Eleuthera, they don’t have the creature comforts of home, but it’s a cool place to learn about sustainability.”
While there, the students observed the institute’s experiments on raising fish sustainably in a complicated net system in the open bay. The institute grows seaweed and mussels in one area which is then harvested to feed the local fish. The researchers examine what predators are attracted to the fish. Generally, sharks are caught to have their blood drawn and tested for stress hormones. The sharks are then weighed, tagged and released. One day, the group spotted several tiger sharks and a pilot whale and its offspring. As the group’s instructor was reeling in a 12-foot tiger shark for its diagnostic testing, the shark bit through the line creating an unforgettable moment for the students.
The institute's instructors introduced the students to other marine research such as the hydroponic garden loop on site. Tilapia are raised in a location whose water is then siphoned off to feed the hydroponic garden. In another stage, the water is filtered through the plants and re-circulated back to the fish.
Naturally, the experience in Eleuthera offered the students plenty of physical challenges while getting a tan. Each morning the group would wake up at 6:30 and engage in the famed Monster Run-Swim routine where the students would alternate running on the beach, swimming through a small channel and running back on the beach again. Allerton explained that the manager of the institute was a former Navy Seal, and the man’s daughter was KO’s educational host so the week was organized thoroughly.
In addition to their research, the students snorkeled, cliff jumped, explored a cave system on the north end of the island where they learned about the geology of the island and camped overnight on a pink sand beach.
On the last night, the students debriefed about their experience and discussed their high and low moments on the trip. “Some of the students were homesick, and they were proud of the fact that they made it through the week. The other students who had more travel experience were very helpful and supportive and coached the students through their discomfort. They would say ‘I understand, but it’s going to be OK.’ It gave a chance for the kids to step up and be leaders,” said Allerton.