Over the weekend, Cape Eleuthera Island School (CEIS) celebrated the 7th annual Earth Day Fest hosted by One Eleuthera at the Center for Training and Innovation (CTI) in Rock Sound. As a day dedicated to celebrating and advocating for a healthy planet, this year’s theme was “End Plastic Pollution in Paradise”. The event embodied this theme by communicating the need to reduce our impact on the environment and emphasized CTI as a plastic bottle free recycling site. Community members joined together for good food, music, and an exciting educational experience focused on reducing plastic waste.
Eleuthera has been at the forefront of the strong environmental push being felt across the Bahamas since the start of 2018. As part of a small island nation, Eleuthera is negatively impacted by plastic pollution on a local and national scale with dramatic ripple effects on one of its most viable resources, the ocean. This environmental agenda has been strongly influenced and led by student activism. Students from South Eleuthera, as members of the Bahamas Plastic Movement and Deep Creek Middle School (DCMS), have successfully advocated for a ban on single-use plastics and styrofoam to the Minister of the Environment. The Ministry has committed to focus on the elimination and ban of single-use plastics and styrofoam containers for food and beverages by 2020.
The same student activists, among others, participated in the Earth Day Fest. Deep Creek Primary School (DCPS) Plastic Club and DCMS Eco-Club collaborated with Preston H. Albury High School and Mr. Will Simmons to educate community members on the issues surrounding single-use plastics and on some of the more sustainable alternatives. These included reusable Lutra bags and t-shirt bags designed and hand-crafted by DCMS Eco Club and DCPS Plastic Club members.
The day opened with a welcome speech by One Eleuthera after which community members, young and old, meandered through the various educational stations. Booths ranged from basket weaving, waste-to-art, renewable energy, and the marine environment. CEIS was invited to share our current exciting research and sustainability projects.
A model aquaponics system was set up, allowing staff from CSD to engage community members on the sustainability and benefits of this closed loop food production system. Engineers from CSD peaked curiosity with their solar set-up and shared the benefits of renewable energy alternatives.
Researchers from CEI engaged in discussions to #PassOnParrotfish and shared marine and environmental education. Participants were very interested in sea turtles and the research on plastic marine debris and the negative impact it has on marine organisms.
The event was an outreach opportunity to connect the local community with the work we do as an organization in relation to plastic pollution and ways we as a larger community can preserve the environment by living sustainably. Many people attended the event, closing the day feeling inspired and motivated to make a change in their behavior and relationship to plastic.
Over the mid-term break Island School hosted an overnight leadership development retreat on our campus for the Young Men’s Leadership Program (YMLP).
The first session started as soon as the boys had settled into the dorms, with a lionfish dissection. This invasive species, native to the Indo-Pacific region is prevalent in Bahamian waters. After learning about the menace this species is to the ecosystem the boys completed a lionfish dissection, learning about their anatomy and which spines are venomous and how to safely remove them.
The first morning brought a unique set of challenges. Our days began early and at a high intensity. Following prayer, the national anthem and and a pledge, we started morning exercise with swimming drills. The boys were coached and encouraged to refine their strokes under the watchful eyes of Stan Burnside and Chris Maxey. Once the boys got their strokes down and became comfortable in the water, we had a relay race.
After warming back up and eating breakfast, we had our first classroom session. During this time, we focused on the core value of YMLP “personal resolve”, the boys were taught the importance of being in charge of their own stories and the dangers of a single narrative. Following guided reflection and journaling the boys shared important stories from their lives.
The third day kicked off with the Island School’s most iconic morning exercise activity: the run-swim. In this grueling event the boys were guided through a course composed of running, jumping, swimming, climbing and much more. While each participant is encouraged to push themselves, the run-swim is actually a team sport as we start as a group and finish as a group, motivating each other along the way. After this endeavor, we worked on leadership skills. They boys went through drills that strengthened communication, responsibility and teamwork. Following these exercises the boys were treated with a sail to the Schooner Cays. The boys learned about the geology of the area while doing everything from raising the sails and steering the boat to dropping the anchor, getting their first taste of this often forgotten mode of transportation.
The last night was filled with reflection around the bonfire. Many of the boys expressed that they wished they could stay longer at the camp as it had come and gone so quickly. These feelings quickly turned to motivation and excitement as they realized that this is but the first of many retreats and adventures that they will embark on. It was truly a weekend to remember for everyone involved.
The Island School’s Young Men’s Leadership Program (YMLP) is an extracurricular mentorship program for eighth-grade boys from South Eleuthera designed to enrich their lives. There is an epidemic most cultures are facing with regards to young men. All over the world, they are less likely to graduate high school and more likely to get in trouble with the law. There are many causes for the plague facing our young men, thus the YMLP was developed to support young men in their different stages of youth development. While the program will tackle the problem from multiple angles, revolving around our core values: academic vitality, fearless leadership, personal resolve and global awareness. These values will be built upon throughout the program and during meeting times.
Currently, there are 9 boys from the 8th grade of Preston H. Albury in the program. The members meet twice a week on Tuesday afternoons and on Saturdays with program leader Stan Burnside. During the Tuesday meetings the focus is on supporting academics, with the boys helping each other with homework under Stan’s mentorship.
Saturday meetings are held on The Island School campus with a wide variety of topics covered. From working on conflict resolution to helping researchers perform surgery on crustaceans, the opportunities for the boys to learn in an experiential setting are limitless.
Last Saturday the Honorable Hank Johnson, Member of Parliament for Central and South Eleuthera came to campus to join in YMLP activities.
Hon. Hank Johnson has been committed to the future and development of his community for years. To this end, he has taken a special interest in this program since its inception in December of 2017. During his visit, the Eleuthera native shared his life story with the boys. This tale of perseverance and eventual success really resonated with the boys. One of the boys remarking, “It doesn't matter where you come from, you can be anything in life if you work hard.” Following his inspiring speech M.P. Johnson pledged his support of the YMLP program saying, “You have my full support because a program like this will change their lives. It is long overdue!”
Showing that he is a man of action, following his powerful speech, M.P. Johnson then accompanied the boys on a bike ride, challenging the boys to a race upon his next visit.
Last week, Candice Brittain (Director of Outreach and Partnerships), Meagan Gary (CEI Scientist) and Eric Schneider (CEI Scientist) attended the 8 th Biennial Abaco Science Alliance Conference in Marsh Harbour, Abaco. Hosted by Friends of the Environment, the conference attracted researchers, government officials, local stakeholders and a range of other conservation-minded participants from across The Bahamas and abroad. The conference hosted great scientific presentations as well as important networking opportunities for collaborative work. Candice presented on the ongoing parrotfish project in partnership with ISER-Caribe.
The first year of the project focused on fisher and consumer perceptions of parrotfish with the goal of developing long-term education and management strategies in The Bahamas. This year a communication campaign will be launched sharing the important ecological role adult parrotfish play in the marine ecosystem as the most dominant algae grazers on the coral reefs, maintaining healthy habitat for other important animals like grouper and crawfish (spiny lobster).
Meagan spoke about the spatial variation in green sea turtle diet. This is a part of a larger study that is monitoring seasonal and spatial fluctuations in seagrass growth and distribution and its influence on green sea turtle diet. The inception of this project was due to social survey results showing that a large percentage of people living in Eleuthera believe that green sea turtles eat fish and conch. Understanding green sea turtle diet is integral as ecosystem management continues to develop in The Bahamas.
Eric presented the early findings of several projects looking into the sustainability of the emerging stone crab fishery in The Bahamas. As this new export fishery develops, it will be increasingly important to ensure the science and regulations behind it are adequate. The presentation lead to conversations with a local fisher/exporter and several fisheries officers and managers that all showed interest in the research and eagerness to support the work moving forward.