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 science-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).
Student Day Trips to Penikese
Place-based Environmental Education
Field Trips begin on the water, as students ride through the waters of Buzzards Bay or Vineyard Sound on our 36-foot MV Richard S. Edwards, they are introduced to navigation and follow the route on their own laminated charts. As they pass by the Elizabeth Islands chain it is quickly revealed that they have remained undeveloped, looking much as they did centuries ago. After arriving on Penikese, students are introduced to life on the island with a guided walking tour of Penikese that includes an overview of the history, topography, animals and plants of Penikese, and the surrounding tidal and ocean environment. They explore this uninhabited island wildlife sanctuary: learning about coastal and grassland ecology, reflecting on pre-colonial, colonial, and modern use of the island, observing birds and seals through binoculars, walking the beach to examine the intertidal ecosystems, experiencing the effects of marine debris, collecting shells, touching seaweed, and turning over rocks to find crabs.
Sample Day Trip Itinerary
Depart Woods Hole dock (at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
Arrive at Penikese; split into two groups that alternate morning activities
Island tour (cemetery, leper ruins, cistern hill)
Beachcombing activity; collecting (and learning about) plastic trash, found animals and shells, observing tides and discussing their physics
Break for lunch and unstructured discovery time
Examine found items with dissecting scopes, discuss biological niches & climate change impact; or biological illustration exercise: how does a drawing inform differently from a photograph? Make sketches and photos of items collected (or of those from the island collection)
Return to boat; depart for Woods Hole
Arrive in Woods Hole. Board buses for trip back to school.
“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.”