A week of school on Witch Island

A week of school on Witch Island

A different kind of learning experience

Fifth and sixth graders at South Bristol School (SBS) enjoyed a different kind of learning experience the week of September 18. Along with their teachers and Education Director Sarah Gladu, they commuted to school at Coastal Rivers’ Witch Island Preserve every morning in two small boats.

South Bristol School students head toward the boat in the morning The Island Program takes place every other year, and offers an unforgettable opportunity for students to experience place-based learning right in their backyard, while tapping into Coastal Rivers’ expertise in nature education. Each day, the students participated in all the same subjects they normally would, but delivered and experienced in a different way.

art class on the shoreOn the island, the kids hiked, created observational art, kept journals, built shelters, wrote with the five senses, composed music, worked on skills like estimation and measurement, took scientific species counts, worked with the Fibonacci sequence, and studied biodiversity. Sarah also wove Wabanaki studies into each day, telling traditional stories and teaching about wild edibles during walks around the island.

building a shelter in the woodsAccording to SBS teacher Jason Bigonia, highlights for the kids included being near the water all week, getting to ride a boat to the island, hearing and retelling Wabanaki legends, shelter building with Sarah, and “finding animals, dead and alive.”

SBS Principal Chuck Hamm was also able to spend two full days on the island. “…Students were afforded some much needed time outdoors simply being kids. “While I tried to be an observer and assistant to the SBS teachers …, I couldn’t help but get involved. We held our traditional classes like Art, Music, Science, and English Language Arts, and students were afforded some much needed time outdoors simply being kids.”

The Island Program exemplifies what’s called the “whole-child approach” to teaching favored by Coastal Rivers. This approach supports and nurtures all aspects of a child’s learning and development, from social-emotional development, to the arts, literacy, math, and science. By encouraging and responding to kids’ natural curiosity, it makes them eager to discover and learn more.

Of course, doing all of that on a beautiful island right in their back yard adds something wonderful all on its own!

Morning commute, art class, and group photos contributed by Chuck Hamm.