Program Profile: Thompson Island Students Learn through Exploration of Native Ecosystems

IMG_0661Engaging students with hands-on learning and adventures in nature, Thompson Island Outward Bound transports students from the city to the great outdoors, expanding on the traditional classroom experience to build students’ character and comfort with nature. Youth at this SLP site have enjoyed a range of unique experiences on the island this summer, from studying animal species to climbing ropes courses and taking field trips.

“Each student becomes an expert on a species they identify with, and [they] are writing books all about them to share at our Publishing Party at the end of the program,” Gemma Falivene, Connections Program Manager, said. “Our students have also climbed our indoor climbing wall and many of our character-building low ropes elements.”

On a typical day, students arrive on buses and meet in small groups before boarding the ferry to Thompson Island. They spend the morning in blocks of academic classes in which they learn how different animals adapt to the island ecosystem. Students break for lunch before either exploring the island with National Parks Services Ranger teachers or learning through enrichment via the Outward Bound philosophy of team building and character development.

This year, the program has experimented with implementing a new block on Fridays which allows for expanded student choice.

IMG_2232“We’ve implemented a new block into our schedules on Fridays where students propose activities that align with the Outward Bound Pillar of the week, and then get to participate in activities like (self-reliance) designing and building outdoor basketball courts, (physical fitness) yoga on the beach, and (craftsmanship) knot tying and friendship bracelets,” Falivene said.

In addition to the daily activities, Thompson Island brought students on a field trip to Lovells Island. According to Falivene, students had a blast exploring the intertidal zone and increasing their knowledge of ecosystems and animals through experiential learning.

Youth have spent this summer building physical fitness skills and establishing expertise on a particular species, culminating in climbing the 63-foot Alpine Tower and creating a book about their animal of choice. Through the unique blend of activities on the island, students will leave Thompson Island stronger—physically, socially, emotionally, and academically—than they were at the end of the previous school year.

“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,” Falivene said.