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  • Would you like to be an interpreter rather than just a greeter?  When most people hear the word interpreter, they think of someone who translates the meaning of one language into another. In a museum, zoo, or park setting, interpreters "translate" the meanings of artifacts, collections, events, and physical resources into a language that helps visitors understand these resources.  If you would like to learn how to be an effective interpreter, please visit these two links:

Foundations of Interpretation Curriculum Content

Foundations of Interpretation


An Interpretive Guide to Outer Island


  • Mattabesic Native Americans in Stony Creek lived on the Thimbles during the summers for the abundant fishing.

  • During the Revolutionary War, all the trees in the Thimbles were cut down so British warships couldn’t hide.

  • Addison Emery Verrill, 1st Prof. of Zoology at Yale, built the first house in 1889; he was Curator of Yale’s Peabody Museum at 25; brought students out for workshops.

  • Leonard & Grace Weil, bought it in 1927; after the stock market crash in 1929 they lived in the boathouse (now the marine lab) to save on expenses; they made the island self-sustaining by raising animals (goats, ducks, rabbits, chickens, dogs, a burro) & vegetables; Grace became one of the area’s first lobsterwoman; they had four children who loved playing on the island; son Danky died in a boat fire.  Grace planted moon garden in memory of her son near the dedication plaque.

  • Basil Rauch & Elizabeth Hird, 1964; he was Professor of History at Columbia University; she was an architect and founding member of the Killingworth Land Trust; they often entertained guests with musicians on a stage they had built.  Mrs. Hird donated the island in 1995.


  • Outer Island, and the other Thimbles, is made up of pink granite bedrock; the islands were once hilltops before the last ice age (20,000 yrs ago); the weight of the mile-thick glacier compressed them to the size they are today.

  • The Thimble Islands are much geologically sturdier than Faulkner’s Island, Long Island, Block Island, & Cape Cod, which were all formed from moraine deposits (rubble).

  • The Thimble Islands are an archipelago (ark-i-PEL-ago), a chain or group of islands; the Hawaiian Islands are an archipelago.

  • Long Island Sound was originally Lake Connecticut, connected at both ends, but melting glaciers gradually raised the water levels, opening up both ends.

  • Large boulders on the island are glacial erratics dropped off as the glacier receded.

  • Stony Creek pink granite was used at the Peabody Museum (Torosaurus pedestal), Statue of Liberty, and Smithsonian; there is still a working quarry there today.

Plants & Animals

  • Outer Island has several habitats, including sandy beach, rocky beach, salt marsh, tidal pools, tidal flats, and an upland habitat that supports trees, flowers, and other assorted vegetation.

  • Beach Rose (Rosa rugosa) is abundant, with fragrant pink or white flowers; it’s an invasive species.

  • Most flowers were probably planted by previous owners; daffodils, daylilies, and foxglove.

  • An Eastern Prickly Pear cacti population is on the northern end; it is native to New England.

  • Poison ivy is pervasive, but produces berries which provide food for birds.

  • Invasive plants include knotweed, garlic mustard, and black swallow-wort.

  • Mammals- only voles have been seen.

  • Marine- invasive Asian shore crabs have displaced Green Crabs, which were also invasive.

  • Several geese nest each year; also occasional Oyster Catchers.

  • Many sea birds can be seen: cormorants, white egrets, terns, and several species of gulls.


Thimble Islands & Faulkner’s Island

  • Legend says that Captain Kidd buried some treasure here.

  • 23 of the islands are inhabited.

  • Largest island is Horse Island (across the channel from Outer Island); owned by Yale University’s Peabody Museum.

  • Migrating seals may be seen on the rocks and shoals in the Spring.

  • Faulkner’s Island is a unit of the SBMNWR; it has one of the few remaining nesting colonies of endangered roseate terns in the Northeast; it also has the largest common tern colony in CT.

  • Built in 1802, Faulkner’s Light is the 2nd oldest lighthouse in CT; commissioned by Thomas Jefferson (New London Harbor light is tallest and oldest in CT).

  • It is almost 6 miles from Outer Island but only 3 miles from Guilford; size is about 5 acres and is slowly eroding.

  • During the War of 1812, the British landed on Faulkner’s and told the lightkeepers they had nothing to fear if they kept the light on.

Outer Island Unit

  • Elizabeth Hird donated the 5 acre island in 1996 in memory of her husband Basil, to be used for wildlife protection and education.

  • Part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, which is comprised of 11 units stretched across 70 miles of Connecticut’s shoreline.

  • Important stopover for migrating birds in Spring and Fall.

  • The only island in the Thimbles that is open to the public for wildlife observation, photography, picnicking, and relaxation.

  • Elementary through Graduate students come out for environmental education and studies; part of CSU.

  • Public events on the island have included Art Day (photography, painting, sketching), Seaweed and Jellyfish events, and Family Day.

  • National Parks vs. National Wildlife Refuges: National parks serve visitors; in a refuge the  emphasis is on managing biodiversity and protecting natural resources.

  • Friends of Outer Island is a volunteer organization working in partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; they provide volunteer docents on weekends and assist with maintenance and improvement of Island facilities.

Visitor Services Volunteer Guidelines


Note: Some of these steps will already be completed by the island keepers, if present.


  1. Outer Island is open to public visitation from 8am to sunset; volunteers should plan their work shifts accordingly.

  2. Call the island keepers ahead of time at 860-961-4263 to be picked up by boat to start their shift.

  3. If the island keepers are unavailable, take the water taxi or personal watercraft, then notify the island keepers of your presence.

  4. Keep in contact with island keepers throughout the day, asking about group reservations or if any other tasks/projects are planned. Volunteers and island keepers should work collaboratively whenever possible to accomplish scheduled tasks.

  5. Opening the island:

  1. Get the keys for the education building and lavatory at the lockbox outside the lavatory.

  2. Ensure the visitor information cart is out on the deck and the visitor log with pen or pencil is available. The cart should also have the donation receptacle and enough OI magnets, brochures, etc.; extras should be in the volunteer cabinet inside.

  3. Set up two spotting scopes on tripods at the pavilion and have a least one set up on the sundeck.

  4. Post the “Island Open” sign in its bracket on the education building, then display the American and “Open” flags.

  5. If there is more than one volunteer present, one volunteer should patrol the island and pick up any trash that has floated ashore; there should always be someone near the pavilion to watch for visitors.

  6. Ensure the lavatory is clean and has enough hand sanitizer, toilet paper and paper towels.

  7. Check all decks, pathways, and walkways for unsafe conditions and cleanliness.

  8. Wear your Visitor Services Volunteer badge; this identifies you as someone who can answer questions and provide assistance to the public.

  9. Interacting with visitors:

    1. Throughout the day there should always be at least one volunteer in position to welcome visitors to the island. Greet them as you would greet visitors to your own home, i.e., at the door.  If they come by ferry or private boat, meet them as they step onto the dock; identify yourself by first name and inform them you are a volunteer for the refuge.

    2. Kayakers should be greeted in the same manner on the beach and advised to bring their boats up far enough if the tide is coming in.

    3. Ask visitors if this is their first visit; that will be a clue as to how much support they may need during their stay.

    4. Ask visitors to sign the log and note the various items (magnets, brochures, etc.) they may take home with them.

    5. Ask visitors if they'd like a tour of the island; if they decline, describe the areas that are open to the public and point out the locations of the lavatory and sundeck. If they want a tour, there is a docent guide on the cart to help you describe the history and geology of the island.

    6. Visitors are allowed to access the tide pool and rocky intertidal zones only when volunteers or island keepers assist them and are present.

  10.  Throughout the day volunteers should routinely patrol the island looking for unauthorized landings (other than beach or dock); if found, politely ask the visitors to go around to the authorized landing area at the dock or on the beach.

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