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DC teens learning about environment on Sanibel

By Staff | Jul 17, 2009

Sanibel’s wealth of natural resources, wildlife and even scat are a lure to a group of high school students hoping to learn about the environment.

have been calling Sanibel home for the past couple of weeks.

Juniors and seniors from the Maret private school in Washington D.C are studying the island’s environment, ecology and wildlife during a three-week stay on Sanibel.

They are spending three weeks on Sanibel before heading out to the Keys where they will study about marine biology for a week.

Program director David Walker said students have been attending the program for the past 23 years.

During the program high schoolers learn about Florida ecology, birds, mangroves and wildlife. They also take an evening course in environmental literature and philosophy. Students must keep journals and work on an independent project. At the end of the program students are graded on each component of the course.

The course is considered helpful for students in putting together their resumes for college. It also inspires some students to become more interested in science, Walker said.

Walker said the students get alot out of completing the program on Sanibel.

“It’s a very unique place,” Walker said. “We love the way Sanibel preserves wildlife.”

During the course of the program, students meet with local agencies such as Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation and the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum to work on their projects.

Tess Sneeringer is thrilled to be working on her individual project – which is studying wildlife droppings AKA scat.

“I am looking for whatever I find,” Sneeringer, 17, said. “Everyday day is a new adventure.”

Sneeringer who hopes to pursue biology studies in college enjoys the experience she is having with her school’s program on Sanibel.

“It’s great to learn first-hand instead of from textbooks and web sites,” she said.

Aside from 20 hours of field work all of the students take turns cooking and preparing three meals a day for 26 people.

Typical teen summer time indulgences such as sleeping until noon, lounging around the house in pajamas and playing video games and floating in a pool are non-existent during the program. Here students must do chores at the rented Blind Pass Condominiums they are staying and cook for fellow students and staff. Though they get time to ride bikes around town, there is little room left for youthful shenanigans during their island stay.

“We keep them busy,” Walker said.