Island Updates

June Smidgens

Guest blog post by Science Educator Teddy Simpson

Picture everyone huddled in groups, in the classroom, on the porch and rocks beside. On the final full day of the program, the students from Abington Friends School in Philadelphia sprawl about working on their final poster presentations. The windows in the classroom are the best: tall and wide along the east face of the building, Hurricane Sound a basin down the hill, constant and bright. The space feels cinematic, surreal enough that it warrants an honest debate as to whether or not it is a productive learning environment. The light on the wood floors and frames is distracting, but the peace the space inspires is second to none. For now I am on the “pro” side of the debate. Facilitating the final weave of their research experience, I am feeling a little scattered. I bob from group to group, chatting about carrageenan, admiring their meticulous snail sketches, looking down at the galley and out toward Greens Island. My mind dances then plods, like a novice’s needle at a sewing machine (does this simile land with the Island Update’s reader demo? I think I nailed it). But the students play foil to my mind, continually surprising me: they approach me with specific questions about rephrasing methods or interpreting a calculation. They want the details to be right, the lines to be straight, the facts correct.

 Abington students collecting data in the intertidal

Abington students collecting data in the intertidal

I explain this moment, small amidst our week together, to say this feeling is not unique. There are myriad times that I have been surprised, supported, challenged by this community in the short while I’ve been here. Hurricane constantly pokes us in the cheek, saying, “look at me. Don’t forget where you are and who you’re with.” During the final campfire with Appleton School, I was poked again. These eight students - after having moved through each day on the island with unending and exceedingly extroverted joy - spoke eloquently about the relationships they’d built with their classmates. They paused. Their silence, their pause, reminded me once again that this place brings presence and intention to its inhabitants. We move curiously among old spruce and sea spray, wondering how these lichen or those wind turbines came to be. It is infectious. When, toward the end of a program, I see how this attitude has rubbed off on students - well, that’s surprising. And I don’t ever want it to not be.

 A particularly windy evening on Gibbons Point

A particularly windy evening on Gibbons Point

Subscribe in a reader