Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Tag

Transformational Journeys

April, 2014

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

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Lasting Learning “STEMs” from Experience

November, 2013

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!

Paul Lamoureux,
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.

Between the Lines

June, 2013

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.

Youth Jobs – Stewarding Responsibility   Leave a comment

October 3, 2011

By: Paul Lamoureux, Program Director

As I tour around this beautiful island called Thompson, I can’t help but be reminded of all the great work done this past summer by Green Corps and Island Ambassadors, our two fantastic summer youth jobs programs for Boston high-school age youth.

Hand sculpture in progress

Perhaps their most visible work project is the “Hands” on the east facing meadow in the middle of the island. Two massive 20 foot “sculptures” in the shape of large hands signify the legacy of Hands-on learning on Thompson Island and, for me, showcase how creative and talented our students and staff are.  The hands were cleverly constructed from frames built of medium-sized tree branches and creatively woven with the invasive species Oriental Bittersweet and Phragmites.  The hands can be seen from a good distance, either over land or water, and are sure to instigate a conversation about the good work done on Thompson Island.

Complete Hand

The Green Corps and Island Ambassador youth jobs program are made possible through a partnership with the National Park Service.

Green Corps annually employs 25 high school students from Boston and their assignments focus on garden, trail, and facilities maintenance, including developing a composting and recycling program for Thompson Island. Youth also participate in life and work skills development workshops and are provided opportunities for peer leadership and mentoring development for other TIOBEC youth programs. 

Green Corps clearing trails

The Island Ambassadors program employs 15 High School students from Greater Boston whose focus is on park visitor services, public outreach, citizen science, and career exploration in the Boston Harbor Islands National Park area. A fundamental aspect of this program is that Island Ambassadors are protectors, providers, and caretakers of the park. Youth are trained to develop leadership skills and educate their communities about the Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area.

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Enrichment, Education, and Summer Learning   Leave a comment

August 10, 2011

By: Paul Lamoureux, Program Director

In the lab on Thompson IslandAcademics and enrichment: two promises that describe a powerful Summer Learning experience for 75 6th and 7th grade students from the Orchard Gardens K-8 School in Roxbury.

Building a team.They’ve just graduated from the first session of summer programming on Thompson Island and 200 students, teachers, park rangers, and family members are departing the Island in a bittersweet farewell. It’s dawning on the students that their incredible experience over the last five weeks has just ended. It is our fervent hope that they go back to their school better equipped for the academic rigors of the school year and as leaders of their school community. Certainly bonds among their peers and their teachers have been greatly strengthened through their common experiences.

Welcoming Summer Learning students to Thompson Island.The Summer Learning program has been packed with activities that served to prevent summer learning loss and give the students a strong head start on the upcoming school year curriculum. The key to these academically oriented experiences is they are place-based and hands-on, designed to be memorable and therefore lead to retention of the material.

When I say place-based, I mean on the beach collecting and sorting specimens (creatures, shells, plants, etc.) and recording, graphing, and analyzing the data. A lot more memorable perhaps when it is say, hermit crabs or sea glass on a Thompson Island beach rather than book-based activities in a classroom. Perhaps the “place” in place-based is the meadow, among waist high grass, where insect collection and identification occurs. Are the insects pollinators or decomposers? Or the “place” could be at the mouth of the recently restored salt marsh, where students collect water samples and test and record salinity levels. Or perhaps we are in the pristine salt marsh, removing traps that are filled with mummachogs, or Atlantic silversides or three-spined sticklebacks. (We don’t merely call them minnows in this program!)

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Outward Bound: An Inward Journey   1 comment

July 7, 2011

By: Paul Lamoureux, Program Director

Student and parent orientation with Course Director Will Carlson

Summer expeditions have begun on Thompson Island and three crews of 12 & 13-year-old students are at the beginning of what promises to be a transformational experience. Ten young women are participating in the Connecting with Courage (CWC) expedition and 18 young men are embarking upon two separate Passages expeditions. All of these courses are 12-day kayaking expeditions that will depart from Thompson Island after approximately 2½ days of training. As part of the course, students will paddle among and camp on numerous islands in the Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area. Students will learn kayaking, navigation and camping skills; however these technical skills are only the tip of the iceberg on a Thompson Island Outward Bound expedition.

All Thompson Island Outward Bound expeditions are based upon the Outward Bound Pillars of Compassion, Service, Physical Fitness, Self-Reliance and Craftsmanship. Unique to Thompson Island’s CWC and Passages courses are additional instructional objectives that address issues of early adolescence. Course curriculum addresses Courage, Responsibility and Emotional Freedom, as well as Finding One’s Voice (for CWC) and Positive Masculinity (for Passages).

For the early part of course, all three kayaking crews are working to establish roles, responsibilities, course structure and guidelines. Much of the time during the initial days on course is focused upon safety training and teaching students the important skills necessary for kayak “pods” to travel through the waterways of the Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area.

Gear safety check

Kayakers learn how to don and fit all of the safety gear, including paddle jackets, personal flotation devices (PFDs), spray skirts, hats, footwear and sunglasses. Students are also instructed in the use of whistles and signal mirrors, as well as the miniature flashlights and strobe lights that are affixed to each shoulder. Crews learn about the various parts of the kayak from cockpit and deck bungee to hatches and rudders. They also learn about parts of the paddle and conduct dry-land practice on how to use the paddles effectively to move the boat through the water.

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Inspiration and Transformation   Leave a comment

April 28, 2011

By: Paul Lamoureux, Program Director

Orchard Gardens Students and Gala Snail Activity

Gala attendees participate in hands-on activities led by students.

Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center’s Annual Gala was recently held at the Seaport Hotel and was an unmitigated success. More than five hundred people over flowed the Seaport’s largest event room. 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 regaling their charges with stories of Thompson Island experiences. Corporate volunteers, many of whom provide service days of physical labor on Thompson Island, were extremely helpful staffing the registration and silent auction areas. The teachers, principals, and most importantly the students we serve shared their Thompson Island experiences on stage and spoke about the great impact that Thompson Island has had on them and their schools.

An Island Classroom.

Boston's Island Classroom.

As I listened to students from the Orchard Gardens K-8 School in Roxbury, I felt extremely proud to work for Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center. Their stories reinforced for me the impact that our programs and our island have on people, in this case students from one of the historically worst performing schools in the state.

It was heartening to hear from the new Orchard Gardens principal, Andrew Bott, as well as from an award-winning science teacher, Erin Dukeshire, about how important Thompson Island experiences have been for their students. They discussed how Thompson Island program curriculum has been integrated into classroom curriculum and has helped jump-start learning. Thompson Island, they said, has also helped change the culture at the school and has created strong bonds, both among students and teachers, as well as among peers. Thompson Island program alumni are now student leaders at the school and are pivotal in aiding the school’s “turnaround” process.

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