Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Island School, Eleuthera

The reason we originally rented a car on Eleuthera was to visit The Island School. John and Wendy, cruisers we met at Staniel Cay, had highly recommended a tour of the school. Wendy’s two sons had done a semester here, and at least one also interned there later. So off we went.

Merle, the young woman who headed the Visiting Program and Research section and who had interned here, spent all morning giving us a private tour of the school and facilities. The school’s principal focus is a semester-long program for high school students. They cover all the subjects, but in a marine-related and pratical manner. For example, math classes aren’t just learning geometry or calculus, but learning celestial navigation, which involves lots of mathematical theory and skill. How cool is that! Students also conduct research in areas such as patch reef ecology, sharks, energy, and aquaculture, to name a few. The aquaponics research was fascinating, and quite productive. The basics: breed tilapia; raise the young in tanks (top photo on left); filter the tank water (which is highly fertilized with fish feces) and use the nutrient-rich water to grow lettuce without soil (bottom photo on left). They now harvest six pounds of lettuce per day—that’s a lot of lettuce. They’re currently feeding the tilapia with commercial fish food, but hope to produce their own food in the future. Also, they don’t yet harvest and eat the tilapia, but that’s in the works for the future. The students we met were high energy and enthusiastic. What a great way to get a jump on actually doing research: thinking of the questions, designing the experiments, and seeing the results. Of course, we’re biased, having spent our professional lives conducting research ourselves, but even so, what a terrific place to spend a semester. And the kids were quite enthusiastic. We were invited to stay for lunch, which was served buffet-style and included that wonderful fish-poop lettuce (just joking, it was delicious, and besides, natural fertilizer beats chemical fertilizer any day). These kids didn’t laze around; they came in, ate, and took off to their next task. They also were quite personable, some sitting down at our table just to talk with us about what they were doing. The facility tries to produce no trash—everything is recycled or reused in some way. Food scraps are composted or fed to the pigs; at semester’s end, they have a pig roast to show the kids where their food comes from. They also raise ducks for their eggs, plant and harvest their own herbs, fruiting trees and shrubs, etc. And the entire place is energy self-sufficient using a wind turbine and many many solar panels (see the array atop the dorm building below). Besides the full-semester program, they also are associated with a middle school in the nearby Deep Creek settlement, offer internships, provide a base for visiting researchers (along with helpful hands), and host school groups. All in all, an informative and fun visit.

1 comment:

  1. You guys must've been in heaven at that school. What a great day! Hilarious story about "renting" the car. Loved it!