Every Day a Difference

December 20, 2012

By: Paul Lamoureux, Vice President of Programs

The close of the calendar year always prompts reflections on aspirations and accomplishments. Here are some exciting highlights of Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center’s (TIOBEC) commitment to support Boston youth and those most at risk and most in need.

In 2012, TIOBEC increased the total number of Boston Public Schools (BPS) served to 35 and the number of BPS students served to 4,025. This represented an increase from 3,544 BPS students in 2011 and – two thirds of the total number of youth (6,099) served by our programs this year.

TIOBEC partnered with nine new BPS schools in 2012 including the Mather Elementary, Holland Elementary and Roger Clapp Innovation School from Dorchester, the Dearborn Middle and Tobin K-8 from Roxbury, the Eliot School from the North end, the Edwards School from Charlestown , as well as East Boston High School and the Mario Umana Middle School Academy from East Boston.

Our Summer Connections program implemented a new program structure that increased the dedicated academic time and effectively integrated leadership/character building opportunities with classroom time and field work. TIOBEC also developed new lesson plans incorporating American Reading Company’s English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum that focused on ecosystem studies and tied it to Thompson Island’s meadow, coastline, salt marsh, forest habitats.

New Voyager math curriculum was also added to the program and, for the third consecutive year, TIOBEC has significantly outperformed statewide averages for student improvement in Math, ELA, Initiative, Engagement in Learning, Communication Skills and Relations with Adults!

Based upon feedback from schools, partners and staff, the Environmental Connections program was extended from 2 days/1 overnight to 3-days/2-nights, significantly extending the amount of place-based, experiential learning time for students. And, after demonstrating a strong commitment to experiential learning and to Thompson Island by school administrators and teachers, Roosevelt K-8 School from Hyde Park was selected and added as a new participating school in the Environmental Connections program.

Thompson Island and the Boston Green Academy High School partnered to pilot a field science-based, experiential learning program for the school’s AP and Honors science students. The pilot program includes fall day trips and a multi-day/overnight spring expedition where students are immersed in all of Thompson Island’s ecosystems and geologic features. Curriculum developed in partnership with Boston Green Academy science teachers will be utilized throughout other models of the Connections Program as well as a platform for high school programs.

More than 200 High School and Middle School Students from Boston communities came to the Island on group scholarships as part of 2 day/overnight peer leadership programs. Students from the Roslindale Community Center, Trinity Education for Excellence Programs (TEEP), Fenway High School and Boston Community Leadership Academy were among the 2012 group scholarship recipients, many of whom reside in the same neighborhoods as our school Connections partners.

In 2012, TIOBEC’s family engagement efforts expanded as we hosted numerous family days on Thompson Island for family members to come on the ferry, tour the island and facilities and get a feel for the program. In addition, we hosted two large graduation ceremonies where we provided additional busses to transport hundreds of family members to our dock. We also expanded public access to include both Saturdays and Sundays from Memorial Day through Labor Day and encouraged all students to bring family members to Thompson Island on weekends.

On November 12, the Boston Globe published a fantastic editorial that contended that Thompson Island provided “A new way to excel on MCAS.” The article ended with the assertion that “More schools should partner with the Thompson Island education center. Most importantly, schools around Boston should look to the work on the island as an example of how teaching to the test can be done effectively.”

The editorial was followed up by a Letter to the Editor on November 17 that was entitled “’Living lab of Discovery’ has grown through collaboration.” The letter underscored the commitment of Superintendent Carol R. Johnson, and the entire BPS, in efforts to grow their partnership with TIOBEC.

It is fitting that I end this year’s blog with a tribute to our wonderful and committed staff. Our extremely hardworking and dedicated staff embodied passion and professionalism throughout the entire year. Even during the busiest and most hectic times – personnel across departments worked collegially, communicated openly, while demonstrating mutual respect and a common focus.

Invested trustees and advisors have also played a major role in this year’s success and have contributed across all aspects of the organization. Our corporate volunteer s and donor community have been incredibly generous and the youth of Boston (and beyond) are the recipients of all this hard work and generosity.

As we enter into the Holiday Season, I want to thank each and every member of the Thompson Island family for their commitment and contributions to our many achievements in 2012 and wish you health and happiness in the New Year.

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