By Paul Lamoureux, Vice President Programs
The student speakers at the April 9th Gala were truly remarkable, poised, mature and confident young people with a great sense of humor and healthy sense of self. It was so gratifying to see how they had blossomed into such impressive young adults since their involvement in Thompson Island programs six years ago. I was truly blown away by them and ultimately humbled to be part of an organization that can have such impact on the youth of Boston and beyond.
Suzanna, now 17 and a junior in Boston, shared that her experience on Thompson Island uncovered a whole new world of possibilities. She began to view learning in a broader context and, for the first time in her life, discovered learning could be touched, felt and experienced in a way that was joyful. On Thompson Island she could explore areas of herself and academic subjects in new and wonderful ways. She now truly feels empowered to learn, explore, grow and succeed…. in the real world. She feels free to be herself. Wow! I was so impressed by her speech and the young woman she has become.
For Tre, it was apparent that his experiences on Thompson Island guided him towards a path of leadership and service. His time working with students with intellectual and developmental disabilities and volunteering with the Food Project in homeless shelters was inspired, according to Tre, by his transformational experiences on Thompson Island in 2007. Now 19 and entering college in the fall, Tre went on to eloquently describe that he was, in fact, transformed not changed. He differentiated between the two concepts by saying that “change, is turning someone into something you want them to be. But transformation is removing any fake wall that was built and helping us to see the world, others and ourselves for what we really are and see the potential and power we all possess!”
I am truly grateful to both Tre and Suzanna for sharing their experiences in such a thoughtful and profound way. You’d never know that they were speaking onstage under bright lights in front of 500 well-dressed adults. To say I was proud and awed is an understatement. The standing ovation given by the assembled guests says it all. They touched many, many people that night and I am so thankful that I could play a part in their “transformation” based upon my involvement with Thompson Island Outward Bound.
To read Tre and Suzanna’s full speeches, please click here: www.thompsonisland.org/about-us/news-and-current-events
On Thursday, November 7th, Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center hosted a reception for our most generous donors at the MIT Museum in Cambridge. It was a wonderful opportunity to thank patrons for their support and to keep guests abreast of the latest trends in education and of Thompson Island initiatives. Numerous student ambassadors greeted the 100 guests and regaled them with stories of personal learning experiences from Thompson Island programs.
The venue for the evening was the modern, chic and colorful MIT Museum that provided a fitting backdrop to highlight TIOBEC’s initiatives in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) experiential learning. The speaker, Dr. Erika Ebbel Angle, also focused on this topic with remarks that described the importance and necessity of providing students with a high quality STEM education. Dr. Angle is a Biochemist with her PhD in biochemistry from Boston University, the CEO of Science from Scientists, and a former Miss Massachusetts.
Dr. Angle has agreed to be this month’s guest blogger and the transcript of her powerful speech is included below. I want to once again thank all of the incredibly generous Thompson Island donors. We wouldn’t be able to change lives through challenge and discovery without you. The 6,500 youth served annually (and their families and schools and teachers) thank you, too!
Vice President Programs
Photos from this wonderful night are available here
Dr. Erika Ebbel Angle:
Thank you to everyone at Thompson Island Outward Bound Educational Center for inviting me to be a part of this evening’s Islanders Reception. I hope to be able to share with you some brief thoughts about the importance of STEM education, how it played an important role in my life and why supporting the Thompson Island Outward Bound Educational Center in its programming effort is so critical.
Providing students with a high quality STEM education is quite possibly one of the most important challenges and necessities facing our educational system today. STEM job growth exceeds other job growth areas by double, sometimes more. Salaries earned by those in STEM fields are on average higher allowing for greater career flexibility and quality of life. Our very global competitiveness as a nation cited by thought leaders from the president to others like Bill Gates hinges on our ability to maintain a competitive educational edge above other nations. In this growing global economy this is becoming more and more challenging. We are struggling to stay ahead of the curve, to stay on top and to keep instilled in our children the desire for hard work and academic excellence.
Here in Massachusetts, statistics indicate that the educational system is one of the best in the country. Students perform better in STEM subjects as compared to their age matched peers in other states. We have programs including one that I started nearly a decade ago called Science from Scientists which sends real scientists into the schools during the school day to help improve test scores and spark interest. Efforts are being made to help students in STEM. However, the fact that Massachusetts is leading the United States in STEM education is similar to the analogy that “in the land of midgets, the short man is a giant.” The US ranked 17th in science out of 34 countries in a recent US news report study. Further compounding this problem is the lack of student “interest” in STEM even when there is competence. It is in this area where I believe the Thompson Island Outward Bound plays a critically important role.
Students may score reasonably well on tests, but that does not mean they will actually PURSUE STEM degrees after college. Amazingly enough, these important seeds are planted when a child is between the ages of 3 and 12 with elementary and middle school being a truly crucial time in a child’s development regarding personal identity. Numerous scientific and anecdotal studies have shown that if a child is not interested in a subject, no matter how talented he or she might be, he or she will NOT pick that area of study to pursue. Thus, this is why the work of – Thompson Island is so critical.
I stand before you as an example of someone who was won over by science due to being exposed at an early age. As a resident of the Bay Area in California, we made frequent trips to Half Moon Bay in search of fossils on the beach. We were even taken out on boats in San Francisco bay where we caught fish which we studied and identified, then returned back to the ocean. I was also a frequent visitor at The Exploratorium which combined interactive hands-on experiments with eye-opening demonstrations and presentations from practicing scientists.
This love of science led to my getting involved with science fairs and I started working on an independent science project at the age of 10. I worked on this project for 8 years, went to MIT for undergrad and then BU for my PhD. My love of science has now led me to be co-founder and CEO of CounterPoint Health Solutions, a Bedford based biotech company specializing in developing early prediction diagnostics and therapeutics for incurable diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson and diabetes. Exposing youth to science sparks interest at a young age. My love for science started when I was 10. I’m still doing it more than 20 years later.
Tonight we are here to celebrate the kind of STEM programming that contributed to my excitement about science as a child. Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to visit Thompson Island for an entire day. As I unplugged from the stresses of the normal “city day” upon arrival, I was introduced to the exceptional, charismatic staff who are responsible for running the day to day programming. They were eager to share information about their work and stories about the youngsters participating in the current program.
As we visited the island, we stopped to spend some time with various school groups participating in different activities I witnessed excited, enthusiastic children studying the sea life and sea creatures, learning about ecosystems and participating in team building activities. These students, many of whom had never been outside of their communities and would likely not have had this opportunity had it not been for the Thompson Island program, experienced first-hand the beauty of nature, the interrelationships of plants and animals, the importance of ecosystems and the real world applications of science.
Thompson Island is an incredibly valuable, unique resource and I was very much impressed with the quality of the lesson plans, the engagement level of the children, the professionalism of the staff and the enthusiasm of the classroom teachers who had been bringing their students to the island year after year.
This program works. Love of science may start in the classroom, but it grows through making the science real, in real-life contexts and situations. This is what Thompson Island does.
Thank you all for attending this evening. We thank you for supporting the Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center. The work and programs being run here are truly needed and will be a part of training and inspiring the next generation of scientists who will be our future doctors, engineers, scientists, and teachers.
By Paul Lamoureux, Vice President Programs
Recently I spent the day touring Thompson Island with Forbes writer John Farrell. We traversed the island from “stem to stern” and John was truly amazed by the island’s myriad features, facilities, challenge courses, ecosystems and infrastructure. Whether it was the north end tide pools and eroding cliffs that provide the perfect “classroom” for intertidal or geology studies, or the south end Alpine Tower high ropes course area that provides an unmatched platform for character, trust and team-building, John clearly saw how beneficial our programs are to the youth of Boston and beyond. The pristine salt marshes, the amazing island history, and its proximity to Boston were icing on the cake. I’ll let John take it from here in his own words, as we’ve posted his article and accompanying video from Forbes.com in the TIOBlog this month. Read on and you’ll get a sense of how inspiring a Thompson Island visit can be to the uninitiated.
September 11, 2013
Historic Harbor Island Inspires Students To Take The Lead
By John Farrell (Source: Forbes.com)
I stood in a large meadow of Thompson Island in Boston Harbor, historic home to philanthropic educational institutions going back to the early 1800s.
Paul Lamoureaux, the VP of Programs for Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center, was literally showing me the ropes of the non-profit organization that works with the National Park Service and Boston public schools to introduce thousands of inner city kids to the wilds of nature –less than a few miles from where they live.
You’d have to look hard from several spots on this refuge to know Boston was anywhere in sight at all.
And that impression is one of the inspirations for the Outward Bound program, Lamoureaux told me, a program which has turned Thompson Island into a training ground for future leaders.
Standing in the meadow on the south west side of the island, we can face the huge Alpine Tower of the Challenge Course. While behind us, we can see where the tidal flow comes in and out of a salt marsh on the north side, facing Boston.
“We’re looking at the Back Bay,” said Lamoureaux. “The Back Bay used to be all salt marsh. And of course, the South Bay used to be all salt marsh –it was all part of the Charles River Basin.
“So, to show kids, when they come out, to bring them down to this side of the island, talk about the importance of the salt marshes–their continued importance as a nursery, as a filtering spot, how important they are to the larger ecosystem…”
“…and then to have the point come home to them–because they can see the city skyline here, and realize– ‘We’re right from there!’ –just how close they are to their own city, it’s pretty powerful.”
Lamoureaux turned to the challenge course, the two huge platforms in the middle of the meadow where students can rope-climb and clamber up structures–Alpine Wall and Tower– that look at least 100 feet high to me (they’re 60 feet).
But even with helmets and harnesses on their backs to prevent any fall, the task appears daunting (and I demurred from an invitation to try it out myself).
“This is sort of the icon of the challenge-based aspect of our program,” said Lamoureaux, “and the salt marsh is sort of the icon of the curriculum based aspect of our program.”
The challenge course is all about goal-setting, and overcoming fear, encouragement, support of team members, commitment, trust, he said.
“It’s just a potent platform for their training–and it will stay with them. These kids get something that they can draw on for the rest of their lives.”
Outward Bound’s emphasis on environmental projects also gets a lot of inner city kids excited about science. And that’s another point in its favor. It helps boost their grades.
Last year Outward Bound’s Connections program — which includes student groups from fifth to eighth grade– served more than 4,300 youngsters from 35 different Boston public schools. The program brings the students to the island for one-day and three-day expeditions to explore the woods and salt marshes and tidal inlets.
For older students, between the ages of 12 and 17, a Summer Expeditions program brings them on sailing and kayaking expeditions–and climbing and camping expeditions for those who prefer keeping the ground under their feet.
At the top of Outward’s proverbial pyramid of activities, stand the Green Ambassadors, high school students who’ve completed the earlier programs and are now in a position to work for six weeks of the summer, managing environmental preservation projects, and helping to teach and train kids in the intro programs readiness training and how to work in teams.
For many kids in Boston’s inner city schools, it’s like a trip to another continent.
“It must have been April when I was eleven,” Roisin Kirby of Boston’s Hyde Park district told me. “Educators from Thompson Island came to my school, the William Barton Rogers Middle School, to meet with students and introduce us to the organization.”
Initial meetings in class included games to work on team building. But they told Kirby and her classmates about an opportunity to take part in a five day stay on Thompson Island– to learn the Outward Bound mission, to gain a hard work ethic, to acquire team building skills — and to escape from the city.
“I was so excited, after school that day I told my parents about it and they said I could do it,” she said.
Kirby considered herself an outdoor person by nature. But she was not prepared for how enthralling she would find her first visit to Thompson. Every summer afterward, she returned for more advanced programs, and as soon as she was old enough, she applied for a job.
“When I was applying, I could choose between being a Green Corps member or an Island Ambassador. The Green Corps took part in landscaping projects and invasive species removal. I was interested in manual labor and I wanted to learn about different plants and animals on the harbor islands. I got the job and started in July of 2011.
“I thought my job was so cool, because I didn’t know anyone else who had a job like mine. All my friends were babysitters or waitresses or sales associates at random retail stores and I got to take a boat to work everyday.”
Working for Thompson Island Outward Bound has inspired Kirby–now in college at University of Massachusetts, Amherst–to pursue an outdoor career. “It has been a dream of mine to join the Peace Corps after I graduate college and working for Outward Bound has given me skills that I know I will use if and when I am selected to be a Peace Corps member.”
In September 2014, Kirby will begin a two-year Associates degree in Horticulture.
For Lamoureaux, a Boston native who loves the outdoors himself, reaching students like Roisin Kirby is what the big picture is all about.
The video I shot below offers a few highlights from Thompson Island at the height of summer.
Click here to view the video!
By Paul Lamoureux, Vice President Programs
The Boston Bruins created a buzz of excitement on July 15th as their rookie prospects tackled trust exercises and climbing walls to build teamwork, communication and conflict resolution skills. The 23 prospects boarded a morning ferry to Thompson Island where they participated in an Outward Bound Professional (OBP) course as part of the Boston Bruin’s Player Development Camp. Off the ice, they were pushed out of their comfort zones and driven to new limits.
The challenges they faced and lessons learned are all similar to the experiences our young people enjoy every day through Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center programs. Throughout their OBP course, activities were documented on social media by Caryn Switaj, Boston Bruin’s Digital Content Specialist and crew. Thompson Island youth alum immediately recognized their location and excitedly announced their favorite team was engaging in the same activities they have experienced. Boston’s young people flooded Instagram and Twitter with comments and tweets:
“This is teambuilding and getting to know one another on Thompson Island. I’ve done it before!”
“I climbed this Alpine Tower this summer! It was way fun and challenging!”
“Hey (tagged all his Thompson Island friends)! They are going to Thompson Island just like we did!”
This year more than 6,500 young people will be able to discover the same excitement and life changing activities as the Boston Bruins prospects, as well as more than 1,500 adults in OBP courses. Below is a blog post and social media photos from the Boston Bruins prospects’ big day. It paints a great picture of the challenges all kids face on the island, whatever their age.
We are very thankful to Bostonbruins.com for giving us permission to redistribute this material! All coverage was produced by the Boston Bruins’ crew of Caryn Switaj, Jonathan Gotlieb and Brandon McNelis.
Prospects Taken Out of Their Comfort Zones
Monday, 07.15.2013 / 2:51 PM
By Caryn Switaj - Bostonbruins.com / Bruins Blog
THOMPSON ISLAND - After finishing up with the on-ice portion of Development Camp, the prospects traveled into Boston and out on the water for team-building activities on Thompson Island, part of the Boston Harbor Islands system.
In years past, the prospects have taken part in The Program, a military training based challenge that is physically grueling. This year, the “team bonding” time happened on the final day of camp. On the island, they’re taken through various challenges that test them with problem solving, leadership, and most importantly, teamwork.
“To serve and not to yield” is the motto for Thompson Island Outward Bound Professional, who organizes the programs for young kids, as well as specialized programs like the one today for the prospects.
Before the day started, the prospects were asked what they’ve learned this week throughout camp.
“Sky’s the limit,” said Anthony Camara. “You take out what you put in,” added Wiley Sherman.
The prospects then separated into two groups for activities. All week, they’ve been tested on and off the ice in many capacities. But on a day like today, while their athleticism helps them through low and ropes courses, the lessons become entirely about teamwork.
Trust and “learning by doing” are the name of the game. Throughout activities, they learn from mistakes and improve performance, while sharing advice.
One particular challenge that ended the morning involved the prospects hoisting each other over a 14-foot wall, one by one, until Brian Ferlin was the last one standing.
Then the real challenge began.
Anthony Camara, Malcolm Subban and Adam Morrison had to help him get over the edge.
Several ideas were thrown out: Dangle a leg, use Subban’s (extremely) long reach, rely on Camara’s upper-body strength. They decided on having Ferlin run up the wall and grab onto the trio. It took countless tries.
What was the magic method?
“A lot of teamwork,” said Ferlin. “I mean, I didn’t know how I was going to get over at first. So I was just sitting there watching the other guys go over. A little boost and seeing how difficult it was.”
“So I didn’t know, without the boost, what I was going to do – it took us probably around 10 or 15 minutes just to get it down.”
“Just trial and error and eventually me and Subban got the wrist going there.”
Trial and error. Teamwork. And a little encouragement goes a long way.
“It’s definitely a little chaotic and stuff once everyone’s pushed out of their comfort zone out of their limits,” said Zane Gothberg, who has emerged as a leader during his fourth camp. His vocal leadership helped give Subban, Ferlin and crew the vote of confidence they needed to get over the hurdle – literally.
“It makes for an interesting morning so far, but it’s obviously fun to learn from each other, learn how to react in certain situations with each other,” said Gothberg.
“You learn and react with different situations and stuff with all the guys here and that’s how you really get to know each other is in those uncomfortable situations, resolving the conflict together, and doing it productively.”
The morning altogether resulted in a variety of learning experiences – and the day was just half over. The prospects were set to take part in high ropes courses and rock climbing, and Gothberg was appreciative of the process so far.
“Each different exercise had good aspects, good team bonding aspects so they all were very beneficial to the whole process.”
To get an even closer up and personal view of the Boston Bruins prospects’ OBP course please visit the following links:
Photo Gallery: http://bruins.nhl.com/club/gallery.htm?id=37368
Additional Blog Post: http://bruins.nhl.com/club/blogpost.htm?id=19057
Alpine Tower Climb from Chris Casto’s video camera: http://video.bruins.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=662&id=262878&lang=en
For more information about conducting an Outward Bound Professional course please contact Ellen Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org
More than 32 Boston Public Schools and 2,866 students have visited the island this spring as part of our Connections program. The impact of this program can be measured in many ways, but this month we provide special insight through the words of the boys and girls themselves. I’ve asked Communications Manager, Jaclyn Parks, to be the guest blogger and highlight some of what the Connections students have written about their experiences on Thompson Island. – Paul Lamoureux, Vice President Programs
Between the Lines
by Jaclyn Parks, Communications Manager
“When we were testing the water in the hydrometer and looking at different animals in the water, I was learning and having a good time, at the same time.” Alexus, Boston Teachers Union (BTU) Pilot School
This week we received an inspiring package of student thank you letters from the BTU Pilot School located in Jamaica Plain, who came to the island for a Harbor Connections experience. Every child’s letter paints a picture of their unique hands-on learning activities and its lasting impact. We thought, what better way to help you visualize a Harbor Connections program than through the words of the students who were in the field, getting dirty, exploring science and nature all while having fun?
The quotes below are from BTU Pilot School 5th grade students, however, the pictures are a combination of the 32 different schools we have served thus far this year.
A typical Harbor Connections expedition goes a little something like this…
Thompson Island instructors visit the school’s classroom to collaborate with the teachers and engage the students with the vocabulary, scientific instruments and outdoor environments they will experience.
After an exhilarating 20 minute boat ride, students arrive on our Island Classroom to participate in the Connections program. Connections integrates Massachusetts curriculum frameworks into hands-on field experiences for students in order to make learning fun, memorable and impactful.
Traveling around the island and experiencing many ecosystems connects children to nature and helps them grow an appreciation for the natural world.
At the end of their excursion, many students declare they never want to leave! They treasure their new memories and are thankful for the Thompson Island Outward Bound instructors and National Park Service rangers who have taught them so much. Both at home and in school they excitedly share their new wealth of information.
We would like to tip our hat to BTU Pilot School teachers Betsy Drinan and Erica Welch for having their students write the letters as a way to extend the learning experience as well as inspire our instructors and rangers to see up close and personal the impact of Boston’s Island Classroom.
By Paul Lamoureux, Vice President Programs
Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center, along with numerous university and research partners, has been installing and testing remote sensing technology that captures data, audio and video of the island’s flora, fauna, weather and geology. One of the desired outcomes for these resources is to enable Boston Public School teachers to extend their students’ island expedition back into the classroom with technology, data and lesson plans that build upon and complement the on-island experiential learning experience.
One of these technology partnerships also ties directly into measuring the effects of sea level rise, a hot topic in the Boston Harbor Islands National Park and in the scientific community as a whole.
An interactive map, called Surging Seas, depicting future rising sea levels from climatecentral.org
To focus on this important issue and to highlight one of Thompson Island’s primary technology project partnerships, I’ve invited Communications Manager, Jaclyn Parks to be our Guest Blogger this month.
Nature & Technology are BFFs
by Jaclyn Parks, Communications Manager
Technology is usually thought to be the culprit for keeping children inside. However, on Thompson Island technology and nature are working together to get children outdoors and interested in science. A partnership with the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMASS Boston), Boston University and Northeastern University has helped us strengthen this synergy by collaborating on a remote camera-based erosion study.
Most of us are aware of the growing concerns about global climate change, the expected rise in sea levels that could occur during the remainder of this century and increasing rates of erosion. Since 1920 Boston’s sea level has risen approximately 10 inches, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA). NOAA predicts Boston’s sea level will continue to rise as much as 6 feet by the end of this century. For more information about Boston’s sea level trends and projections visit the City of Boston’s climate webpage.
Remote camera technology used by the erosion study partnership on the north end of Thompson Island
UMASS Boston recently approached Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center to participate in a study to evaluate the use of low-power, low-cost networked smart cameras to study and manage coastal flooding. Thompson Island was chosen due to its close proximity to Boston and geologically dynamic shorelines. The Boston Harbor Islands are a unique geological formation called drumlins that formed from the recession of the Laurentide Ice Sheet during the last Ice Age, some 20,000 years ago.
The UMASS Boston/BU/Northeastern partnership has placed these smart cameras in areas of known erosion and beach movement to help clarify what exactly is causing rapid erosion and which weather types affect tide movements the most.
Beach movement, as deposition, on the east side of Thompson Island?
Thompson Island instructors are leveraging this study by incorporating components into our geology curricula. Students will use camera footage to learn about erosion, climate change, tidal movements, deposition and much more.
According to Alex Chu, program director for curriculum programs, “We will be using this scientific data to develop lesson plans that provide classroom-based access to island data and video that complement field-based science expeditions. Remote access to data will enable Thompson Island to expand our capabilities to deliver technology-based aspects of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curricula to schools. It also allows us to begin to deliver integrated scientific/technology field and research work that connects to next generation science standards, while offering students a realistic taste of how a future career in science might appeal to them.”
To view live footage from these erosion cameras visit www.cesn.org/live/thompson.php
We suggest you read the following abstracts if you’re interested in learning more about Boston’s coastal history, erosion and rising sea levels!
Effects of Rising Sea Level on the Boston Harbor by Duncan FitzGerald Boston University Department of Earth Sciences and Peter Rosen, Northeastern University Department of Geology
Drowned Drumlins, Battered Bluff, and Salt Marsh Sediments – Boston Harbor Through Time by Peter Rosen, Northeastern University Department of Earth and Environmental Science and Carol Wilson, Boston Universitiy Coastal Geomorphology
Mapping and Modeling Sea Level Rise by Ellen Douglas, University of Massachusetts Boston Environmental, Earth and Ocean Sciences
Effects of Natural and Anthropogenic Forces on the Geophysical Processes in Boston Harbor by Dr. Zoe Hughes, Boston University Department of Earth Sciences
By Paul Lamoureux, Vice President Programs
On April 11th, more than 500 Bostonians gathered at the Seaport Hotel to support Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center at the organization’s Annual Gala. The result was the most successful Gala in TIOBEC history, raising more than $575,000. The generosity of the participants was both overwhelming and humbling and I thank each and every guest for their support.
Channel 5's Randy Price, along with Principal Jeff Slater and students from the Curley K-8 school, onstage at the Gala
Emceed by Randy Price from WCVB TV Channel 5 Eye-Opener News, the evening consisted of a cocktail reception and silent auction, an inspirational video of students participating in programs on Thompson Island, remarks of welcome and thanks by TIOBEC President Arthur Pearson and a group initiative that I led (typically done by students on the island) that had the entire room on their feet and engaged.
Gala guests enjoy the interactive group activity led by VP Programs, Paul Lamoureux
Following a tasty dinner, there was a lively and extremely successful auction orchestrated by the entertaining Paul Zekos; moving remarks about perseverance and courage by North Star Award recipient Ryan Enright of Equity Office; and closing remarks by Chairman of the Board, Sandy McGinnes. Throughout the evening, current students and young alumni of Thompson Island Outward Bound programs circulated through the rooms, acting as ambassadors and regaling guests with stories of their experiences with Thompson Island and the transformative aspects of our programs.
Student ambassadors share Thompson Island stories with Gala guests
All of this, however, was the backdrop to the featured speaker of the evening, Jeff Slater, the Principal of the Curley K-8 School in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. Principal Slater was joined on stage by three of his 7th grade students who had participated in Connections programs on Thompson Island. Rather than try to summarize Principal Slater’s remarks, I have included them here in their entirety. I send my thanks to Principal Slater for agreeing to speak at the Gala and for so eloquently expressing the value of our programs to the assembled guests.
“My name is Jeff Slater and I’m the Principal at the Curley K-8 School. The Curley is a Boston Public School in Jamaica Plain with a strong academic program, a dedicated faculty and staff, an engaged parent community, and some of the best kids in the world! Our educational philosophy is about the development of the “whole child.” As the school leader, I believe in the balance between students’ academic success and the development of their social, emotional, and behavioral well-being. To that end, we look to partner with organizations that help us support that vision. For me, Thompson Island has been a critical partner in helping us meet those needs for our students.
Tonight’s theme is “Discovery of the Heart, Body and Mind.” Through our partnership with Thompson Island, I have had the unique experience of seeing first-hand how our students at the Curley are directly impacted in those areas. I see the Connections program as so important to our school that I have consistently invested the time to stay on the island during the entire 3 days and 2 nights. Spending this out-of-school time is a special experience for me as I watch the students flourish in a supportive learning environment that is completely new to most of them. Many students have never been on a boat or an island before. Most have very little exposure to the ocean, despite living so close to it. All are amazed at how close this “island wilderness” is to Boston when they gaze back at the nearby skyline.
One of the things I treasure most about our visits to Thompson Island is the opportunity it provides our students from diverse backgrounds to get to know each other in ways they otherwise would not. Students from various cultural backgrounds, English Language Learners, students with special needs – they all have the opportunity to learn together and participate in activities that help them to open their hearts and support each other in a unique learning environment. They learn the power of working together as a team and the importance of effective communication, mutual respect and compassion. I have the distinct pleasure of seeing how that translates back into the relationships that continue to grow and blossom when students return to the school.
Health and wellness is a key priority for us at the Curley. We strive to make sure that our students’ bodies grow as strong as their minds. Thompson Island helps us to support our work in this area by providing our students with physical challenges both individually and as a team. Also, students walk everywhere on the island and are constantly on the move between one learning environment and another. Whether challenging themselves on a ropes course or traversing the salt marsh, students are always active and engaged.
The development of our students’ minds is also a critical component of our experience with Thompson Island. Every year, their curricular specialists work with our teachers and staff to continually refine the academic components of the programming for our students. The process begins in our classrooms at the Curley, where the groundwork is laid for the lessons our students will be engaged in on the island. Careful effort is made to connect the learning on the island with the school’s Science curriculum. Hands-on activities help make the learning real for our students. What better place to learn about ecosystems than on an island with diverse habitats of beach, meadow, forest and marsh? How better to discover the interrelationships of organisms than through seeing them and touching them on an island filled with birds, fish, insects and small mammals…..including the bones they recover from Owl pellets in the Lab!
The amazing partnership that we have with Thompson Island provides our students with numerous benefits and the impact of student learning on the island lasts far beyond their actual visit. The relationships that are developed help to improve our school climate and culture. The physical activities contribute to our students’ success both on and off the playing field. And, the experiential learning helps to broaden our students’ thinking about the world they live in.
I am extremely grateful for the support that Thompson Island gives us in helping to meet the needs of our students. And, with your support, I look forward to continuing to grow and deepen our relationship as we work together to develop the hearts, bodies and minds of Boston’s students. Thank you.”
A 7th grade student from the Curley K-8 school steals the show while onstage at the Gala
The Gala was yet another reminder of the impact of Thompson Island programs and I’m truly thankful for the amazing generosity of all those attending the event. I’m extremely proud and grateful to be part of an organization that inspires such support from the community.
I also want to thank the students, their families, and other friends of Thompson Island who volunteered at the Gala. We couldn’t have done it without you. But mostly, I want to thank Principal Jeff Slater who so clearly demonstrated his passion for the value and impact of the Thompson Island experience.
Teachers from the Lilla G. Frederick Middle School in Dorchester attend the Gala to show their support