IslandWood is a valuable model for other service organizations that wish to develop in a thoughtful, thorough, and community-centered way. We feel honored to help in their ongoing development and we encourage you to visit their beautiful site so you can see for yourself what a valuable regional resource IslandWood is becoming. Please read on, and visit their web site. Better yet, find a way to support this important work, and see what it does for your heart.
IslandWood is an innovative outdoor learning center located on 255 acres near the site of the former Port Blakely Mill on Bainbridge Island, Washington. The land contains six distinct ecosystems: a forest, cattail marsh, bog, stream, four-acre pond, and access to a marine estuary on adjacent public property. Founders Debbi and Paul Brainerd conducted two years of research, community meetings, focus groups with teachers, children, scientists, artists, and historians prior to the construction of campus buildings, outdoor field structures, and trail system. IslandWood piloted its education programs in Spring 2002 and began its first year of operation that September.
School Overnight Program
During the school year, IslandWood’s primary focus is to provide an exceptional residential outdoor learning experience for 4th, 5th and 6th grade students in King and Kitsap Counties, regardless of their ability to pay. Many of the schools have a significant number of students from low-income homes. In the seven Seattle schools that receive the highest priority scholarship funding, the number of students that qualify for free- and reduced-lunch range from 75% to 98%. IslandWood is committed to providing scholarships to as many students as possible. Washington State has a mandated curriculum in these grades that includes the study of earth science, land & water, and ecosystems. Each week of the school year, approximately 100 students and their teachers live on campus for four days and three nights, totaling more than 3,000 children and 250 teachers each year.
Students spend a majority of their time at IslandWood engaged in hands-on learning activities while exploring the diverse ecosystems at IslandWood, including second-growth forest, an organic garden, cattail marsh, a bog, four-acre pond, and a stream draining into a Puget Sound estuary on adjacent public land. All of IslandWood’s educational activities integrate the use of technology with scientific inquiry and artistic expression in learning experiences as students explore the interconnectedness of natural and cultural communities that inhabit the Puget Sound region.
IslandWood’s core campus also serves as a model for environmental sustainability and features a number of green-building technologies and materials that help to maintain and restore the pristine campus. The U.S. Green Building Council recognized IslandWood with a LEED (Leadership in Environment and Energy Design) Gold Rating® for ingenuity in environmental sustainability.
School Partnerships Program
IslandWood enhances relationships with schools by establishing and maintaining ongoing support prior to, and after students visit the campus during the four-day residential program. IslandWood educators serve as liaisons in each of its partner schools to incorporate the residential experience at IslandWood with the yearlong learning progression back in the classroom. Initially, IslandWood liaisons visit classrooms prior to the IslandWood residency. This provides schools with an orientation to the IslandWood experience while allowing our educators to gather input to tailor learning experiences relevant for each classroom in our partner schools. After the IslandWood experience, liaisons return to their partner schools to review lessons learned at IslandWood and to assist classes in identifying and designing a community learning project. Examples of student projects include monitoring streams, organizing neighborhood clean-ups, restoring native habitat and local wetlands, creating school gardens, and initiating recycling projects in the schools’ own neighborhoods and communities.
Graduate Residency in Education, Environment and Community (EEC)
The graduate program at IslandWood is based on the principle that a more sustainable future demands knowledgeable, committed and reflective educators. Developed in partnership with the University of Washington, the ten-month residency draws on the best practices of experiential, environmental and multicultural education, using natural and cultural environments as a context for learning. All courses are held at IslandWood and are taught by full-time IslandWood faculty. During the ten-month residency, graduate students complete 39 credits and earn a Certificate in Education, Environment and Community. Following the graduate residency, students can choose to complete one of several master’s degrees at the University of Washington or a Master in Teaching/Teacher Certification from City University.