Program #1:  
Introduction to
Buzzards Bay

Why Buzzards Bay is special and how Penikese Island fits in, including exercises in compass directions, and reading a marine chart (map). 


MA Frameworks Areas: 

Earth Science & Systems; Ecosystems (Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics); Earth & Human Activity; Connections & Relationships in Systems; Graphical Displays (maps, charts, graphs, and data tables.)

Program #2:
Introduction to the
Intertidal Zone

Why the intertidal zone (the area between high and low tide) is an interesting and challenging habitat, the diverse organisms living there and how they survive in this mini-ecosystem. Includes discussion of the rack zone. 


MA Frameworks Areas: 

Earth Science & Systems, Ecosystems (Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics), Animal Structures & Processes; Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity; Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits.

Program #3:
Tern Nesting Colony
on Penikese Island

The history of terns being almost driven to extinction for their feathers, their natural history and VERY long migrations, where they nest, with a unique opportunity to go into the nesting area (normally off limits) and see nests with eggs and hatchlings. 


MA Frameworks Areas: 

Earth & Human Activity; Ecosystems (Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics); Animal Structures & Processes (behaviors); Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity; Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits.

Customized Curriculum 

Additional lesson modules (aligned with MA Frameworks) addressing social studies, history and literature are in development. 


Penikese is happy to collaborate with teachers and schools to deliver exactly the lessons you imagine!

You Can Also Bring Students
to the Science
- Virtually with Zoom

Virtual Discovery Days open with an online video, “Penikese Island: Adventure Awaits” to introduce Penikese Island, describe its location and highlight the boat trip to the island.  

Each live virtual field trip is a 20-30 minute Zoom-based classroom (or virtual from home) session with expert educators on the island teaching students about interesting aspects of the island's natural and cultural history.  We work with teachers to customize curriculum to meet their classes' individual needs and interests.

While we broadcast live from Penikese Island, a classroom teacher or school administrator back ashore hosts the Zoom sessions (with our technical assistance). We keep each session focused and condensed so as not to exceed students' online attention spans, and we aim for a small number of participants in each session (including teachers and parents) so that questions can freely be asked and each participant can be actively involved throughout the lesson.

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Upcoming Events

  • 7:45am Vineyard Haven Ferry Chaperone to Camp
    Meet at 7:45am
    Vineyard Haven Steamship Ferry Terminal
    Meet at 7:45am
    Vineyard Haven Steamship Ferry Terminal, 1 Water St, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568, USA
    IMPORTANT: Chaperone Service is Available Only for Vaccinated Campers. You must sign-up (please follow links) to send your camper to Woods Hole with the Penikese Chaperone.
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Island Facilities 

The main living quarters are modeled on a 19th century New England farm house and built, in large part, using salvaged beams found on and around Penikese Island. The house uses solar panels for nominal electrical needs and wood for heating and cooking. It has hot and cold running water, indoor and outdoor showers, and a clean composting Clivus Multrum toilet facility. It can be used in any season of the year. There is additionally a one-room “schoolhouse” building and a spacious workshop or studio building. Educational programs are run in the various Penikese buildings and at stations spread across Penikese Island.

Health and Safety on Island

PIS has long experience making sure that its programs and facilities are as safe as possible. For many years licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Early & Secondary Education (DESE), PIS has safely transported hundreds of people to and from the island over our 45 plus year history. DESE has even commended PIS on our health, safety and emergency protocols. In case of medical emergencies, the US Coast Guard Station at Menemsha (Martha’s Vineyard) and Boston MedFlight helicopters are prepared to respond.

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Experiential Learning About Science, Art, History, and Cape Cod's Natural Environment

Programs on Penikese Island

Continuing our long tradition promoting education through the unique, pristine, and beautiful environment of Penikese Island, we are focused on providing local schools and educational organizations with the unique opportunity to discover Penikese, by spending a day (or longer) visiting the Island.

Studies show that spending time in nature improves children’s emotional and physical health, stimulates creativity, and promotes learning. As a remote, uninhabited bird sanctuary, Penikese Island allows visiting students to explore the natural environment away from the many digital distractions surrounding them.

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Student Day Trips
on Penikese Island

Penikese Day Trips are more than just a “field trip.” Natural and historic wonders abound on Penikese Island, which is a peaceful, unspoiled setting, far removed from modern distractions, where learning and discovery can be nurtured. The curriculum for any Penikese trip is customizable for each school. We support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)-focused and nature-based educational themes in particular, but we have also hosted art classes and a series of trips featuring a literature and social studies curriculum based on the young adult novel, Beyond the Bright Sea (addressing the history of the leper colony on Penikese).

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Environmental Studies

Penikese programs “bring students to the science” through experiential learning, where students directly interact with our Buzzard's Bay island environment. Penikese Island is a thriving sanctuary / laboratory, home to over 150 documented species, including protected raptors and water fowl.

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Our Island Curriculum

The island's curriculum focuses on areas such as Seashore Exploration, Nature Photography, Marine Biology, Oceanography, Biological Illustration, Botany, and more.

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Our Students

We offer courses to students from 4th grade through high school. Students come to Penikese Island because they want to experience nature first hand, and are provided with hands on science, art and history education that is customized for the unique nature of Penikese experiences.

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Our Island Educators

Island Educators enjoy the opportunity to develop topics beyond the scope generally found in traditional classrooms, and can concentrate on showing students how to explore and appreciate the special Cape Cod, Buzzard's Bay and island environment.

General Program Information

Our 7th-12th grade residential outdoor education and team building programs inspire students to explore, discover, and learn through exciting field study activities, group building initiatives, fun songs, active games, and living together in a community.

During Penikese Overnight Programs, trained educators lead students in scientific field studies where students can explore, discover, and learn about the natural world through fun activities on the trail and in remarkable outdoor environments. Our island educators are experts at taking material taught in the classroom and creating supplemental curriculum in the outdoors, and field studies can be tailored to teachers' particular subject interests or state standards for a specific grade. Let us know what your interests are and we will create an unforgettable Penikese Island science camp experience for you and your students!

Penikese Island Discovery Lessons & Activities

Study Nature, Not Books

Here are some ideas and suggestions around Lessons & Activities. Please use these topics to shape your lessons with campers during Penikese Science + Nature Camp sessions. This list is a map of All Current Lesson Modules

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Penikese Can Work with Your School 

Penikese Island School wants to make school trips easy, smooth and 100% enjoyable for every teacher and student, regardless of class size, age, focus or special needs.


PIS supports scheduling, organizing, and planning needs for student trips, including curriculum suggestions and delivery, and weather contingency plans. We arrange for school administrators, teachers and their funding agencies to visit the island ahead of student trips to help them develop an understanding of activity level design for their intended student audiences.

Most of the trips are from Woods Hole, taking approximately 55 minutes on our USCG certified vessel with a licensed captain. We can accommodate pick-up and return to other harbors around Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound.


PIS provides all trips with at least one “Island Steward” tour guide to introduce groups to the fascinating history and natural wonders of Penikese and assist with curriculum delivery. Island Stewards have expertise on the island and know its history and systems. They are versed in Penikese’s wildlife and the sanctuary’s regulations, and with safety and emergency protocols. All Island Stewards are CORI-cleared.

2019 Visiting Schools / Programs

  • ​Adult Visual Arts (Cape & Greater Boston women’s group) 1 Day

  • Lawrence School (7th and 8th grade Art classes) 1 Day (2x)

  • Martha’s Vineyard HS (VINE Program, special needs high school students) 4 days, 2x

  • Duxbury Bay Maritime Science Camp (high school students studying ocean health) 1 Day

  • Dharma Voyage (Westport High School students/rowing and natural history) 3 days

  • Martha’s Vineyard Schools Girls Science Mini-Camp (middle schoolers) 4 days

  • Morse Pond School / pilot (5th and 6th graders, two trips in 2018 and 2019) 1 Day (2x)

  • Morse Pond School / FEF (6th graders, 7 trips fall 2019, 7 trips planned for Spring 2020) 1 Day (14x)

  • Mashpee Public Schools (full 4th Grade, Science & History) 1 Day (6x)

  • Marine Biological Laboratory graduate training program (adult science researchers) 1 Day

  • Sea Education Association High School Interns Program (based in Woods Hole) 1 Day

“I was sold from the moment I was told of Penikese's history as a

science laboratory, school for young men, and bird sanctuary. 


Penikese Island is a place of exceptional beauty, mystery, and peace.

Large enough to get lost on, but small enough to have a sense of the whole,

Penikese is a point of sacred geography. Taking a group of fifteen high school kids

to this island was one of the best and most impactful experiences I have had as an educator. It was great to see how the kids flourished in this unstructured environment away from technology and normal social roles. It also provided a truly unique opportunity

for me to connect with students and colleagues.”

–Middle School Teacher from Sturgis Charter School Teacher, Hyannis