Archive for the ‘Dorchester’ Tag

Best.Gala.Ever.

April, 2013

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


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Impact of the Connections Program on Students, Teachers and School Culture

March, 2013

By Paul Lamoureux, Vice President Programs

On March 5th, donors and trustees visited the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School in Dorchester to learn how Connections has impacted the teachers and students who have participated in the program. The “Lilla G.” is located within the Circle of Promise, an area in Boston designated as in need of extra support by the Mayor and the Superintendent. Sixth grade math teacher Meghan McGoldrick and several of her students shared highlights of their learning experiences on Thompson Island.

Students, Teachers, Donors and Staff interact in Meghan McGoldrick’s classroom


Meghan kicked off the discussion by talking about the school’s introduction to Thompson Island through the one-day Harbor Connections program in 2010. At that time, her sixth grade students visited Spectacle Island on a cultural history lesson with Thompson Island instructors and National Park Rangers. The memorable expedition followed preparatory classroom sessions about the Boston Harbor Islands National Park, chart making and interactive math lessons that attempted to determine how long it would take to get to Spectacle on the ferry (based upon distance, time and speed).

Math teacher Meghan McGoldrick (center) discussing the benefits of the Thompson Island experience


Meghan’s enthusiasm inspired other teachers within her school to participate in Harbor Connections trips as well. Meghan then began building the expedition into her 2011 curriculum to extend the impact of the classroom and field-based lessons.

It was at this point, based upon the clear commitment to Harbor Connections from both teachers and school administration, that Thompson Island invited the school to join the coveted Environmental Connections program. Meghan was effusive as she described her elation at the selection of her 6th graders to come to Thompson Island for 3 days and 2 nights in the spring of 2012. She immediately began coordinating efforts with Thompson Island staff and other Lilla G. teachers, particularly her 6th grade humanities teacher partner, Jessica Lider.

Environmental Connections Students exploring the Salt Marsh on Thompson Island


In preparation for the expedition, the teachers integrated reading, science and math curriculum into their lessons that would be directly relevant to their time on Thompson Island. This was then followed up by classroom visits from Thompson Island and National Park staff with additional relevant preparatory lessons, to insure an impactful and memorable 3 days and 2 nights on Thompson Island. Meghan was also quick to point out that the myriad benefits of participating in Environmental Connections included social-emotional skills, as well as academics.

Respect, communication and collaboration were the “order of the day” on Thompson Island and reinforced school values according to Meghan. Visible outside of Meghan’s classroom were the five team flags created by the students on Thompson Island during the 6th graders spring expedition. Each flag colorfully depicted all of the positive behaviors and values that group members wanted in their crew. Also listed were behaviors that group members did not want in their crew, such as put-downs, violence, and disrespect. Group members then each signed their flags as they would a contract, indicative of their intent to embody its positive values. This concept of a full “value contract” helped guide the students during their time on Thompson Island. Now, however, these values returned to the school and were observed each day as everyone gathered in the lobby for morning meeting. These values became part of the inspiration for the newly developed Lilla G. Academy Creed! According to Meghan, the Thompson Island experience has clearly had a positive impact on school culture.

Lilla G. Frederick crew (Los Lobos) with their team value flag (now hung in the Academy Lobby!)


After Meghan finished dazzling the guests, the students each relayed their most memorable experiences from the island expedition, accompanied by island photos projected onto the classroom screen. The students were articulate, passionate and humorous. Highlights included their joy for exploring and identifying creatures in the salt marsh; reconstructing skeletons of small mammals from Owl pellets; working with peers and challenging themselves on the island’s ropes courses; feeling like they were in college spending overnights in dorms; learning map skills and orienting themselves throughout the island; or simply being immersed in nature in beaches, meadows and forests. Oh, and of course, they had to gush over “how awesome the food is on Thompson Island!”

Environmental Connections students explore the coastal ecosystems under the watch of a National Park Ranger


After a question and answer session, students became ambassadors and led tours of the fairly new and impressive school complex.

Lilla G. Frederick 7th grade students, who were the highlight of the school visit, accompany a generous donor


Hosting the Thompson Island board of trustees meeting in Meghan’s classroom was the perfect way to end the day, and further reinforced the importance of our partnership with Boston schools in need of community support. Meghan and Jessica reiterated the importance of the Connections program to their school, to them personally as “holistic educators” and most importantly to the students they so passionately serve. Once again, the teachers discussed what a meaningful program Environmental Connections is and the benefits to academics and social-emotional learning, as well as to school culture. They explained that now, after their first double-overnight experience on the island, they have woven preparatory lessons based upon the forthcoming spring expedition even more tightly into their classroom lessons in humanities, math and science. But, perhaps even more importantly, they saw the benefits of the program in opening students up to a world of possibilities, whether as a scientist or as someone who just wants more out of themselves and out of life. According to the teachers, a trip to Thompson Island in the Connections program is almost magical in the way that it stimulates a student’s heart, mind and body.

Lilla G. Frederick 6th grade Students on their last day on Thompson Island last spring


Environmental Connections: Nature, Team-Building, Academics and FUN!

June 26, 2012

By: Paul Lamoureux, Vice President of Programs

Even before summer officially begins, June ushers in the truly busy season on Thompson Island. Taking advantage of the (mostly) nice weather, events, conferences and Outward Bound Professional programs are all in full swing. Youth Harbor Connections and Peer Leadership programs are already occurring at a rapid rate so that schools from Boston and beyond can take advantage of these programs prior to the end of the school year. However, before Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center truly begins its summer season, the Spring Environmental Connections program must occur.

Beginning with the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School of Dorchester, followed by the Rogers Middle School of Hyde Park, and finally the Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School of Roxbury, each of these schools sent more than sixty 6th grade students to spend three days and two nights on Thompson Island. For most of these urban youth, the Environmental Connections program was their first time away from home.

This spring marked the first time that the Environmental Connections program has expanded from two days to three days. Lead teachers Steve Greene from the Rogers, Meghan McGoldrick from the Lilla G. Frederick, and Erin Dukeshire from the Orchard Gardens were all energized by the extended length of the program and the added time for science, math and English Language Arts curriculum, as well as immersion in nature, team-building, peer leadership, and “just plain fun” activities.

Rogers Middle School 6th Graders touching science through a jellyfish in the salt marsh.

The Rogers school had the added excitement and challenge of a spring Nor’easter that hit the island during their stay. Students and staff alike were undaunted as rain jackets were donned and young people headed out in the rain for island exploration and weather and water curriculum. As you might imagine, the weather and water curriculum was particularly relevant.

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From the Gala to the Islands: Demonstrating Student Impact and Community Support

May 7, 2012

By: Paul Lamoureux, Vice President of Programs

Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center’s Annual Gala was recently held at the Seaport Hotel and was the most successful event in recent memory. More than 500 people filled the Seaport’s largest ballroom. Student ambassadors and young alumni from Thompson Island Outward Bound programs acted as guides, shepherding attendees from the many hotel entrances to the registration areas while revealing stories of Thompson Island experiences.

Principal Teresa Harvey-Jackson of the Marshall Elementary School in Dorchester spoke about the impact of the Summer Connections program on the students who attended, as well as on her larger school community. As Principal Harvey-Jackson made her remarks, teachers and students from the Marshall Elementary School and the Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School in Roxbury shared the stage with her to the delight of the audience.

According to Principal Harvey-Jackson, Marshall School students returned after their summer experience on Thompson Island “changed.” The following is excerpted directly from her remarks.

“What is truly remarkable about this story is how a five-week program for 40 students made a difference for all 90 rising fourth graders. The fourth grade teachers and I had observed how difficult the third grade year had been for some of them, especially our children who struggle with emotional and social needs. However, when they returned in the fall they looked different. They were happy and chatted about their summer learning. During writer’s workshop they eagerly shared stories about the island. Their vocabulary had grown. They were more curious. They also behaved differently. They were nicer to each other. In cooperative math and reading groups they worked well together. They filed through the building modeling appropriate behavior. I was beginning to think they had been hypnotized but they were still their loud, animated selves at lunchtime in the cafeteria.”

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