A small campus making big waves
The community at Cape Eleuthera is modeling a shift toward a more livable future. For all who come to live and learn at Cape Eleuthera, there is an opportunity to discover that people can make a difference – that we can begin to turn the tide and effect positive change in the way we live.
The concept for The Island School evolved when Chris Maxey was a teacher at The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. In 1996, Chris Maxey received the Joukowsky Fellowship from The Lawrenceville School allowing him to work towards his Masters in Marine Resource Management at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami. During this year-long sabbatical, Chris began his research work in sustainable aquaculture. He formed the US non-profit Cape Eleuthera Marine Conservation Project (now the Cape Eleuthera Foundation, Inc.) and began to set the framework to build a school and research station at Cape Eleuthera in The Bahamas.
Prior to the founding of The Island School, Chris hosted student groups on Eleuthera. Some were middle school students from New York, others were from Eleuthera, and some camps were both. Lawrenceville teachers gathered in July 1998 at Cape Eleuthera to design the Island School curriculum at the first 'teacher conference' - a tradition of experiential education technique practice and sharing that has continued uninterrupted each summer since. What started out as a master's research thesis, and a set of student field trips then became a full academic campus with semester students the following year.
1998 Construction begins
In the fall of 1998 construction began to build a campus.
1999 - The Island School
On March 15, 1999 Pam and Chris Maxey welcomed 22 students and 6 faculty members from The Lawrenceville School to launch the first Island School semester. The Island School and The Lawrenceville School continue to work in collaboration on projects, but now students come from over 250 schools across the U.S., Canada and The Bahamas.
2001 - Deep Creek Middle School
The Deep Creek Middle School was founded in 2001 as an independent school for local Bahamian students in grades seven through nine located on the southern end of the island of Eleuthera. The school aims to increase access to alternative education methods and offer an experiential approach to the Bahamian curriculum. It is fully endorsed and recognized by the Bahamian Ministry of Education. In 2014, Deep Creek Middle School enrolled 45 students from 11 different Eleutheran settlements.
2006 - Cape Eleuthera Institute
Cape Eleuthera Institute was born out of the growing need to expand both research and sustainable systems initiatives operating under the auspices of The Island School. The completion of the first phase of the Cape Eleuthera Institute was celebrated on March 31, 2006 by the Rt. Honourable Perry Christie, Prime Minister of The Bahamas, in the company of members of his cabinet, other government officials, Cape Eleuthera Foundation trustees, scientists, educators, students from The Island School and the Deep Creek Middle School, and generous supporters. Powered by the sun and built from green materials, the campus of the Cape Eleuthera Institute demonstrates an unparalleled opportunity to live, work, and study in a cutting edge atmosphere.
During the celebration, the switch was thrown on the power system marking nearly five years of effort to develop the first integration of solar and conventional power systems in The Bahamas. This renewable energy not only provides power to all buildings on campus, including a 5,000 square foot flow through seawater system, but its outflow also indirectly helps rehabilitate a mangrove creek on our campus that had been disturbed by previous development.
With the completion of two 12-bed dormitory buildings and a unique timber framed classroom and common space, the Cape Eleuthera Institute now has the capacity to provide unique opportunities for research scientists interested in the local terrestrial and marine environments, or for professors and teachers wanting to provide their students with a holistic experience that combines conventional research in tropical sciences with the message of sustainable development and design.
2013 - Early Learning Center
The Early Learning Center represents the application of the educational philosophy of The Island School. The Foundation recognizes that young people are often society's most impressionable artists, musicians and explorers. In this small classroom we recognize both ways to support families of faculty and staff while also getting closer to our vision of a campus hosting programs for Pre-K through PhD students.
Though it officially opened in May of 2014, the Center for Sustainable Development has unofficially existed since The Island School started in 1998.
Our location, at the south-western tip of Eleuthera, Bahamas, is an ideal location to tackle “one planet living” challenges on a micro scale everyday. The Center for Sustainable Development models a sustainable ecological footprint through:
Environmental management practices. The Center for Sustainable Development continually assesses and reduces the campus's impact on atmosphere, ocean, freshwater, and land ecosystems. Successful projects, including mangrove restoration, constructed wetlands, and artificial reef formation, demonstrate the Center for Sustainable Development's mindful responses to uniquely evolving environmental challenges.
Human consumption and waste management. The Center for Sustainable Development examines and seeks to improve The Island School campus's interaction with energy, water, food and waste-stream systems. The campus renewable energy infrastructure, permaculture program, and resource management practices exemplify the campus commitment to live within its means, now and into the future.
Putting students to work solving real world problems. Place-based learning. Expeditionary learning. Getting physically fit. Maturing. Being part of a team, a tribe. Creating knowledge, not consuming it. All of these have been essential parts of The Island School for each student and teacher. But the challenge of proving the value of the semester abroad experience to the 'real world' - where standardized tests mark a student's potential and future, and grades seem to weigh the value of a student's personality - that heavy burden has always been on families and students. The mis-match between what is important, what is meaningful, and what gets measured in traditional schools couldn't be bigger or more profound. The argument for why this is true is all around us - from Sir Ken Robinson's great TED talks to the Most Likely to Succeed documentary. Things must change - and Island School is again leading the change.
So in 2016 we helped found the Mastery Transcript Consortium as one of 14 founding board members - with 60+ schools now joined as members- in an effort to broadly transform how students get feedback in school. It's a revolution that's needed because it will change what is taught in school to be relevant for students, their future, and for all of us. It's the best representation yet of our Island School philosophy being put to work making change beyond our campus - the tail wagging the dog - and we glad to be doing it in collaboration with the great schools who already believe in creating a new future for education.