Brookwood School students and teachers recently headed back to Massachusetts after their school’s first visit to Cape Eleuthera Institute. During their 6-day adventure the group was able to learn more about the sustainability initiatives in practice around campus and explore some of the local environments. After visiting these places, students were able to develop a better understanding of the impact that they as individuals and humans have on the marine environment.
Students started off their adventure with field lessons in coral reef and mangrove ecology. When snorkeling to explore these areas, many were surprised by the warm water temperature and the abundance of colorful fish. So different from the coastal waters back home in the New England area! The group spent a lot of time in the water; they snorkeled above the aquaculture cage, explored some patch reefs, swam in a blue hole, visited Lighthouse Beach, and even went out on a night snorkel!
One student describes his snorkeling experience, “Some of the best parts of the trip are the parts I didn’t expect. First of all, we snorkel A LOT. From snorkeling at night (terrifically terrifying), to snorkeling at 6:30am, to snorkeling in water the color of blue Gatorade, I snorkeled more than most people do in a lifetime. I never got sick of sand dollars, conchs, sea stars, and crabs.”
Another afternoon, everyone had the chance to split up into smaller groups and get a firsthand look at what some of the research groups were currently up to. One group went out seining with the flats ecology team, another helped dissect a lionfish, and the third learned about conch and its importance to The Bahamas. The next day, Brookwood took a mini down island trip and had some time to sit and reflect upon their journey. Disconnected from internet and electronics, many felt that the trip was a challenging and enlightening experience. Students were challenged to step out of their comfort zones, work together as part of a community, and to be inquisitive about their surroundings. Below, a few students describe some of their experiences:
“The trip offered incredible amounts of leadership opportunities. We were entrusted with the inner workings of the place, like working dish crew, which was actually one of the most valuable experiences of the trip. At the Island School there were almost no rules, so we had a lot of freedom. Also, in the airport we had to take care of ourselves.” – Brookwood student
“I came up to release my first fish from the seine net; it was a juvenile barracuda. It must have been trapped after we had scared them into the net and in a crazed frenzy to get out it had gotten stuck. I felt its heartbeat and the life pulsing in it. I slowly removed its fin from the net and flattened it and pulled the fish out carefully. I held it for a minute watching it’s large teeth ebb and flow with the waves and then it suddenly burst from my grasp. Leaving me yearning for the comforting heartbeat.” #fishlover #cuda #flats – Ben Gibson
“We jump off things a lot. This morning we jumped off a bridge, this afternoon, a cliff. My drive to see what was in the water got me through my paralyzing fear of heights, something I never anticipated.” – Brookwood student
“The Island School campus is awesome because it is such a tight-knit community. In Massachusetts, of course I’d say, “Hi,” “Excuse me,” or “Sorry” to a stranger, but I’ve never experienced a full-blown conversation with an adult while waiting in the lunch line. Now, this might seem like it’s not a big deal, but there are not many people here at all. Everyone is so friendly: natives and travelers from all across the world. I feel 100% more confident talking or just waving to complete strangers. And they appreciate it, I think, because they always smile and wave back. And, everyone works together, which definitely contributes to making this place so friendly.” – John McKean
Overall, Brookwood was thrilled with their visit and could hardly wait to share their experiences with family and friends. Students and teachers left Eleuthera feeling inspired by their newly acquired knowledge of sustainable systems and ready to put it into practice upon return to Massachusetts. The program was a great success and many students are already encouraging younger siblings and classmates to participate next year!
If you’d like to read more about Brookwood’s adventures, you can check out their blog here.