Archive for the ‘NPS’ 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:


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.

Nature and Technology are BFFs

May, 2013

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.

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

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


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

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

Place your bets on Outward Bound Professional

Winter, 2013

By: Paul Lamoureux, Vice President of Programs

During the frigid winter months our development department is busy preparing for the annual gala and other major donor events, our operation staff is overhauling and preparing the island for an onslaught of visitors, our sales staff is busy signing and re-signing events, conferences and programs clients, our youth programs staff is interviewing and hiring new and returning staff while preparing to serve 6,680 students in 2013, and our accounting staff is closing the books on 2012 and ensuring continued financial health.

While all of this planning activity is occurring, our Thompson Island Outward Bound Professional (OBP) staff is actually out in the field delivering high-value programs to corporate clients. Cutting edge, customized Outward Bound Professional programs are designed to enhance effectiveness for individuals, groups and teams… and can be delivered throughout the year in a wide variety of locations!

To honor the flexibility and professionalism of our OBP programs and staff, I’ve invited OBP Director, Ellen Harris to be our Guest Blogger:

Place your bets on Outward Bound Professional
by Ellen Harris

Have you ever thought about playing “poker” with your colleagues and instead of winning or losing, gaining insight about different cultures? In January, Outward Bound Professional worked with 16 leaders from 6 different countries who are in a Leadership Development program for a global company that’s an industry leader in healthcare.

The challenge? Well, we all know the changing face of healthcare makes doing business-as-usual obsolete, so how can leadership stay ahead of the changes?

Combined with topics on Innovation, Outward Bound Professional facilitators placed colleagues in fun and sometimes humorous situations to experience and understand how they and each other think! Through different activities, discussions included how to most effectively use resources, identify smart strategies, appreciate the impact of effective (or ineffective) communication, and determine when a team is in sync.

The result? Helping colleagues become aware of what they do best, and how to keep doing that together!

Thompson Island Outward Bound Professional offers winning strategies for positive and lasting change in the workplace throughout the year.

Ellen Harris can be reached at or 617-830-5114.

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.