Guest blog post by Science Educators Robin Chernow and Rachel Kimpton
How do we teach leadership? Is this a skill that can be taught? These are questions we have tumbled around throughout the summer with each group that has visited. We recently hosted students from Deer Isle- Stonington, our last high school program of the season. Their high school features a unique “Pathways” program, in which students choose to focus on either arts or marine science and take classes that relate specifically to those topics. The Pathways program also emphasizes student self-directedness and collaboration among their peers. As educators, Rachel and I were really excited that a school provides such an opportunity for students to be the drivers of their own education. The majority of these students were freshmen and just beginning their own Pathways. Their trip to Hurricane was an opportunity to build cohesiveness within and across the Pathways groups. When they stepped off the boat, we could tell these students were ready to make the most of their brief, two day visit to Hurricane Island.
Rock climbing was the first team challenge. Students rotated through the roles of climber, belayer, and backup belayer. Even in the moments when students were not actively belaying or climbing, they encouraged their peers and provided suggestions regarding route options. Some students reached the top of the quarry facade numerous times on numerous courses, and all students made it to the first ledge of the rock wall, a group goal that was set midway through the climbing session. For me, the most exciting part of the climbing session was seeing students tackle the first ledge to meet the group goal, and then continue up the wall of their own accord. Another standout moment was seeing one student make it up a tricky ledge, after nearly 20 minutes of struggling, exploring, and thoughts of quitting. That student overcame the challenging part of the wall thanks to his own persistence and patience, coupled with encouragement from his peers. Later, this same climber verbally guided another student over the wall, sharing route options and confidence in his peer.
After a snack break and a tarp flip challenge as a warm-up, we set out for some fun team-building challenges. “Research rover” is a competition in which teams direct their blindfolded teammate (the rover) towards an object (marine debris). Each round is more difficult as fewer commands are permitted. “Looker, runner, builder” is a game in which teams of three delegate themselves to one of the three roles. The goal is to construct a statue that replicates one that only the “looker” can see. The runner relays instructions from the “looker” to the “builder” regarding the construction of the statue. These were a few of the games that brought out great moments of laughter and growth, ultimately preparing students for their bigger challenge the next morning.
On their second and final day, Pathways students were ready for the task with the highest stakes: the raft challenge! Not only were Arts Pathways students competing against their Marine Pathways counterparts, but their teachers were observing their collaboration styles to give them feedback. Both Hurricane staff and program participants alike love this challenge; it’s a great opportunity for students to practice design, real time problem-solving, working as a team, and incorporating individual strengths, while making a literal splash and learning from failure. Each team made its way across the ice pond one way or another. We celebrated their perseverance and hard work by jumping off the pier into the ocean at low tide.
With each group that comes to the island, we aim to ensure that the trip is as meaningful as possible. This becomes challenging with school programs that are only 24 hours long, especially when we are accustomed to delivering week-long programs in the summer. As Rachel addressed in a previous blog about working with Fryeburg [hyperlink?], how much can we accomplish in 24 hours? We think part of the success of our programs is the power of the place the students are in. Even though these students live on an island, Hurricane permits them to escape from phones and the goings on at school, home, or even at a job in order to really focus on their personal and group goals. For Pathways students, their time on Hurricane Island allowed them to contextualize their learning within their chosen “path” within the journey ahead. It’s always exciting to be with students at the beginning of their school year as they are in the process of setting intentions and reflecting on who they want to become. We love that students and teachers continue to choose Hurricane as their site for such growth!