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Sanibel Sea School opens Captiva campus

By Staff | Aug 11, 2010

Sanibel Sea School Lead Educator Michelle Beaumer looks on as Sofia and Benjamin Rothenberg and Nicholas and Matthew Bottiglieri try to move fish from the bucket to the aquarium.

“It’s like a parade of fish!” said Sofia Rothenberg as she and her fellow Sanibel Sea School classmates began dropping the morning’s catch into a salt water aquarium.

The six-year-old, whose hair was still wet from snorkeling in the Gulf of Mexico, pressed her face to the glass and marvelled out loud at the various species of fish that she proudly helped catch during the Tuesday morning excursion.

Sofia was one of the very first attendants of the Sanibel Sea School’s new campus at South Seas Island Resort.

For three years, the Sanibel Sea School has been enriching the lives of children and adults through education and exploration of the islands’ exciting marine life and natural history.

“Our experience is really transformative education — an educational experience so powerful and fun that it changes how kids see their place in the world,” said Dr. Bruce Neill, Executive Director of Sanibel Sea School. "Jacques Cousteau once said that ‘we conserve what we love.’ The more we experience and learn about the marine environment, the more we love it — and the more we choose to protect it. It’s that simple."

Sanibel Sea School Captiva is located in the heart of South Seas among the pool complex, the Nature Center, Scoops and Slices and the H2Whoa! Family Water Park.

After South Seas Managing Director Rick Hayduk enrolled his daughters in the Sanibel Sea School’s summer camp — and his girls came home everyday raving about their experience and sharing all the information they had learned — he and Neill began talking about the possibility of opening a campus at the resort.

According to Carolyn Hudson, Director of Communications and Community Relations for South Seas Island Resort, opening a Sanibel Sea School campus was a natural step in the resort’s ongoing efforts to cultivate more family and kid-friendly programs for guests.

“We’ve always had something to offer kids, but since we’ve moved to our new branding — family, nature and comfort — we are now very focused on programed activities for toddlers, kids, ‘tweens, teens and families,” Hudson said. “This is just another phase in the evolution of our family programming and we couldn’t be more thrilled.”

And Hudson says the location of Sanibel Sea School Captiva couldn’t be better.

“It’s located right in what I would call the heart of the resort at North Pointe. It’s where the action is — only steps away from the pool complex and the H2Whoa! family water park, the nature center is next door and Scoops and Slices is right across the way.”

Bruce Neill tells the students (left to right, Nicholas Bottiglieri, Sofia Rothenberg, Matthew Bottiglieri) about the fish they caught that day, which included needlefish and pompano.

Under the tutelage of Neill and Michelle Beumer, Lead Educator for Sanibel Sea School Captiva, four youngsters — including Sofia — had the opportunity to explore the wonders of the Gulf of Mexico on the debut day of the organization’s newest location.

“I think it went very well,” Beumer said. “The kids were really excited. It’s always nice to hear the kids screaming in excitement. We were snorkeling, and every couple of minutes I’d hear someone screaming because they saw a fish. It was really cute. Sofia was really excited when she saw the first fish. It was a really good first day.”

“The first day went great,” Neill agreed, “It was absolutely successful. But don’t ask me — ask these guys.”

“We saw a blue crab!” Nicholas Bottiglieri said.

“And we saw a swimmer crab!” Matthew Bottiglieri said.

Benjamin Rothenberg, age four, takes a look in the bucket containing the fish he helped catch Tuesday morning.

“We caught fish and went scuba diving!” Sofia said.

And both Sofia and her brother Benjamin agreed that, when asked what their favorite part of the program was, “I liked everything the best!”

As the morning session of the program came to an end, the Rothernberg siblings greeted their mother, who had come to pick them up for lunch, with “Mommy, we caught needlefish!” and “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy! I loved it so much!”

When posed with the choice to stay for the afternoon session or to return for the next day’s morning session, Sofia adamantly proclaimed, “I want to stay — and come back tomorrow!”

Though the Captiva campus is currently only available for South Seas guests, the original Sanibel Sea School on Sanibel Island is open to the public.

Marcia Kimball, owner of Giggles in Chadwick’s Square, talks to Matthew Bottiglieri, standing, about their morning excursion. Also picture are Nicholas Bottiglieri, getting fish out of the bucket to move to the aquarium, and Sofia and Benjamin Rothenberg.

South Seas guests, ages six through 13 can sign up for either the morning (9 a.m. to noon) or afternoon (1 to 4 p.m.) session for $55, or experience a full day, including an a la carte lunch, for $90.

For more information about the Sanibel Sea School, go to www.SanibelSeaSchool.org or call 472-8585.

South Seas Island Resort is located at 5400 Plantation Road and on-line at www.SouthSeas.com.