Guest blog post from Science Educator Josh Adrian
I'm couple of days out from my Middle School Island Ecology program, and I’m sitting down to reflect a little further on the week. Immediately after the students departed on Saturday afternoon, we cleaned up and spent some time debriefing the program. Reflecting on your own takes a little more of a step back though, and I didn’t think I could start much sooner than now.
Trying to sum up my reflections on seven days of glorious weather spent exploring Hurricane Island with nine incredible middle school students is tough. When thinking of how to draw it all together, one thing comes to mind. Energy.
No, this is not a post about Hurricane Island’s numerous sustainable systems. (Shameless plug. Boom. Nailed it.)
So much energy circulated the island as the week took shape and played out. It started the moment the Equinox approached the dock with the students. I felt it. I did a little dance on the edge of the dock. (Phoebe knows. Ask her about my little dance.) I couldn’t help myself. For two weeks I had been pouring over island history, flora and fauna guides, and lesson plans, pulling together the Island Ecology program. It’s always exciting, but there is a lot of work there, and so the moment where the focal point of the week, the students, actually show up, you remember why you’re so excited.
From there the energy just grew. As the students stepped off the boat, every one of them brought a massive amount of energy. Their past experiences and enthusiasm to learn and become part of the island community kickstarted everyone that Sunday. It was infectious. By dinner time, staff who could have easily snuck away to their cabins for a quiet evening opted to play cards and games and hang out with the students. Other visitors chatted with them and shared excitement for the week ahead. And while arriving on an island knowing no one at the beginning of a seven day visit is daunting, the makings of a group of good friends was already in the works.
All week we hiked around the island, discovering the various layers of Hurricane’s ecosystem. From the ocean and granite bedrock, to the trees and creatures living in them, we explored various corners of the island to understand many aspects of the natural community there. Feeling the energy of the students as they asked questions and expanded their understanding of the space around them was incredible. They quickly got to know each other and used that interconnectedness to expand their knowledgeand energy further. At one point, when challenged to build a raft worthy of getting two separate teams across the ice pond, the students were so enthusiastic to work and play we went past our two hour goal by a full hour! And who am I to put a cap on that energy?
The energy brought by the students was not the only energy present that week though. All the staff shared incredible passion for the program with the students throughout the week. You could sense the way the students picked up on how concerned the staff were for their work on the island and respected that energy. Every single one brought something unique to the table and found a way to share it with the students. Whether it was Rachael’s passion for sustainable systems on the island, Michelle’s passion for trees, or Silas’s for woodworking, that energy helped them to grow to feel a part of the community and to understand the place they were in.
By the end of the week, we had built a communal energy. What was once individual, was now shared. At one point, I stepped out of the lab after dinner to walk towards the galley, and a soccer game had started. A game that at the beginning of the week only involved a student or two was now the whole Island Ecology group and several staff. I grinned as I thought that it perfectly summed up the week. Those soccer players brought energy to the island, and as they shared it, it consumed all of us as it was built into the community. We all put some energy into it. Much like the flywheel that maintained the energy for the quarry workers so many years before us, the community we made kept that energy going throughout the week. I often times think about what I’m doing with my path in life, and find that through all that I’ve done, community has been the constant that has drawn me in. There is no shortness of that here, on Hurricane Island. The energy that community provides is contagious. We all come to the island with lived experiences and all of our individual selves to share, but whether we’re students, teachers, or the casual visitor, we share out that lived experience. You can feel the energy from all that, and each week, the community feels a little different by the energy that is present. I seek that in everything I do, and it was apparent the students from Island Ecology felt its strength as well.
We took photos, talked about future visits, and waved goodbye as the Equinox took the students off the island. By the time they were a hundred feet from the dock you could feel the energy fading. It was incredible, and invigorating. That energy won’t ever quite get recreated again, and it is worth documenting and cherishing. I know the students will hold onto the memory of the energy we all felt while we explored, and learned and grew together. And I hope they carry that memory forward to seek that energy in all they do.