This sense of wonder: an interview with Mr. Rizley about the island school

During the summer of 2019, Mr. Rizley and Mr. Tweedale had the chance to travel to the Island School, a boarding school on an island in the Bahamas. Mr. Rizley spoke about his experiences and how the Island School might even serve as a sustainable example for City to strive toward. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Is there anything new you learned during this trip that you’re looking forward to sharing with your classes this year or anything you found really exciting that you might want to share with the readers of the school newspaper?

I think that the biggest thing I learned at the Island School is that place-based education is awesome! It reinforced the idea that people learn better when they’re immersed in the experience. Some of the activities on the recent ESS trip came directly from the Island School.

For students interested in visiting the Island School, how would they go about doing it?

There will be informational meetings in the winter/spring so just keep an eye out for announcements. After the informational meeting there will be an application process, part of which will involve getting a letter of recommendation from a teacher.

The Island School, being an island, has to be careful about reusing and preserving their resources. Do you think any of their techniques could or should be employed at City?

They are maintaining permaculture (systems that sustain themselves overtime) right on sight to grow food on the grounds that could be consumed by people at the school and I don’t see why we can’t do that. We do have some apple trees planted here but we should expand larger gardens. We also have some composting but it would be neat to study composting or vermiculture (using fungi to compost waste and create nutrient dense food). I think this would be a great IA (internal assessment) idea.

Some of the species living near the Island School are rare and human presence is going to have at least some impact on them; do you think the benefits of the Island School out way the risks to wildlife and why?

I think the Island School is a perfect location for what it’s trying to accomplish because one of their main goals is place-based education and it constantly fostered this sense of wonder and awe that made me want to keep learning. Because of their goals and missions they have far less impact on the island than the rest of the human population.

The Island School is in the Bahamas, which have suffered badly from Hurricane Dorian. Do you know if the Island School has been affected by the hurricane?

The Island School has not been at all affected by the hurricane. In fact only one island of the hundreds in the Bahamas was affected.

Does sustainable thinking and design make communities better prepared for disasters like this?

The Island School helps create resilience in people in many different ways. It makes people more resilient intellectually, physically, and emotionally, which are all going to be needed in any type of disaster. A simple thing is that most of the island is covered in a non-native species that gets destroyed in a hurricane but the Island School has been planting native plants that have evolved to resist hurricanes. So, undoubtedly, the design of the school itself helps people survive. The fact that they use rain caps and solar power helps them when the grid goes down so they can access things like energy and water. Part of sustainable thinking is about creating resilient and sustainable systems that are not reliant on large scale human networks.


Former Editor in Chief of The City Voice, finally graduated City High Middle School as part of the Class of 2022.