Riley Hill first came to IslandWood as a 5th grade student in our School Overnight Program and recently came back to participate in the program, but this time… as an educator! We just loved this story and asked if she’d be willing to share her reflections on the experience in a Q&A below.

When did you first experience IslandWood?

My first experience with IslandWood was when I was in 5th grade in 2011 with Adams Elementary in Seattle. (I was delighted to find out they still attend IslandWood with their 5th graders every year.)


What do you remember of IslandWood through your eyes as a child?

The things that stand out most from my visit as a child include being fascinated with the lodges and dining hall, being too scared to eat a stinging nettle, and kissing a banana slug. IslandWood felt massive back then, and there was a real concern of getting lost in the woods for good. There was a lot of excitement socially with the trip happening at the very end of elementary school. I remember being interested in the science and learning, however the excitement of being with classmates on an overnight trip was more exciting than anything. I was lucky to have the privilege of attending IslandWood while in grade school, and I am sure it had an influence on me becoming an educator as an adult.

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Riley participating in our School Overnight Program as a 5th grader in 2011.

What brought you back to IslandWood recently?

I was brought back to IslandWood this spring to support my students at Green Lake Elementary school in Seattle. At Green Lake, I work as a paraeducator in special education by supporting students in the Resource Room with academics, organization, and social skills. I chose to attend the trip primarily to support my students, but also because I formerly worked in environmental education at the Seattle Aquarium. It was incredibly exciting to visit again and see what memories returned to me.


Was IslandWood the same as you remembered? How was it different?

IslandWood was the same as I remembered it! During my recent trip, I was having constant flashbacks of my previous experience. There were many things I had not remembered until I returned and saw them again. It was extremely nostalgic to be back in the lodges, classrooms, and dining hall. It was amazing watching our students experience the joys of the tower and suspension bridge. There were some differences, namely as a chaperone there was a lot more work involved. There was no longer an organized eating of stinging nettles or kissing of banana slugs* (although the excitement was still there when we saw the banana slugs). During my experience as a child, to my memory, I didn’t go to the harbor. This was by far my favorite part of my most recent trip (as a marine science nerd). Overall, much of the experience was the same and I was very impressed at how the facilities and organization have continued to thrive throughout the years. It was awesome to see our students enjoying themselves during the overnight program and I am incredibly thankful we have such a great organization in arms reach.

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Riley on our campus in 2024 as a Green Lake Elementary teacher supporting students in their School Overnight Program experience.

*Although kissing banana slugs was a tradition in IslandWood’s earlier days, we ended the practice after determining that it likely didn’t have any positive benefits for the slugs and that we didn’t have their consent to kiss them!



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