Hands-On Learning at Thompson Island

For the past nine summers, Boston middle schoolers have been learning on a 204-acre island classroom through Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center’s Connections program. From ropes courses to salt water marshes, students who visit the island have the opportunity to experience hands-on science and participate in fun and challenging character-building activities.

Since 1833, Thompson Island has continuously offered educational experiences and opportunities for growth to youth in Boston. Since partnering with Boston After School & Beyond’s Summer Learning Project in 2010, Thompson Island has seen evidence of success through measured growth in academic performance, social-emotional development, leadership skills, and community service.

“The past decade of concerted effort is a testimony to the power of combining research, collaborative funding, progressive policy, shared social, emotional and academic metrics, and a community of practice that brings together the K-12 educators and youth development programs to share best practices and drive continuous improvement,” said Arthur Pearson, President and Chief Executive Officer. “Boston is an exemplar of a national movement in whole child, community based education.”

For five weeks during the summer, the Thompson Island ferry transports students from the city to the Island, where they spend the mornings learning about its ecosystems and organisms before exploring the island to gain hands-on experiences with those same ecosystems and organisms each afternoon, in addition to participating in team-building activities or creative projects.

“I think our balance of academics and student character development, both as an individual and a part of a team, makes the world of difference,” said Gemma Falivene, Professional Learning Manager.

From designing outdoor basketball courts and practicing yoga on the beach to creating a book on the species of their choosing to climbing the 64-foot Alpine Tower, the unique experiences participants in summer learning have on Thompson Island give them confidence in their abilities and help them develop character and a comfort with nature. As a result, students leave the island more informed citizens, who feel prepared to lead and achieve in their schools and communities and beyond.