Sanibel Sea School is sharing the ocean with one student at a time
The mission statement for the Sanibel Sea School is to “improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time.”
But when that person doesn’t have the opportunity to experience all that the ocean has to offer, the Sanibel Sea School will bring the ocean to them, or vice versa.
That’s what the Sanibel Sea School’s outreach programs do, by introducing the importance of the ocean to the young, developing mind.
Once a month, the Sea School works with several landlocked student programs, either in a classroom environment, or the opportunity to bring the students directly on the Gulf of Mexico’s doorstep.
“We take programs which are landlocked and the students who have no opportunity to see and experience the ocean, despite living 20 minutes away, and give them the chance to visit it,” said Sanibel Sea School Captiva Campus site manager Brooke Linn. “We get them to interact with the ocean as much as possible.”
During a Sea School visit to the Gladiolus Learning and Developing Center in Fort Myers last Friday, Linn taught a group of young kids ages of about 5 to 6 years old, about squids.
Linn explained how squids adapt in the oceans and survive. She dissected a squid for the kids to see what makes it tick, while giving the opportunity for a direct hands-on experience.
“In the classroom, we want them to be hands on, touch the marine life,” Linn said. “That is what the Sea School is all about, hands on experiences with the ocean.”
Saturday morning, the Sea School hosted the Pine Manor educational program, for teens 13-14. The Sea School transported the students via bus to a Sanibel beach, where they were able to investigate the wrack lines, which contained the bevy of washed-up marine life from the recent storms.
Sea School Marine Science Educators Spencer Richardson and Angel Seery, took a group of Pine Manor students on a beach walk, while answering questions and pointing out the variety of marine life which washed up on shore.
“Because of the storms, we are finding out a little bit more of which we usually don’t get to see,” Richardson said. “We are seeing things like mermaid purses, lightning whelk casings, sponges and some stone crabs which washed up. We also are seeing some mantis shrimp, which we don’t see very often, because they are more of a deeper water species.”
Pine Manor supervisor Shari Clark said the program partnered with the Sea School about five years ago, and the benefits of the opportunity to visit the Gulf and learn about what it has to offer has been great.
“We have many repeat students who come and they are learning the basics of marine life and why they are there,” Clark said. “It’s fun and interesting watching the kids learn.”
One of the students who was out on the beach Saturday morning to witness the massive wash up of marine life was Katelin Alcy, who likes the water, but was surprised to see all the wildlife on the beach.
“I’ve learned why all the dead fish on the beach have no eyes, it’s because that’s what the birds go after right away,” Alcy said. “I also learned the Snowy Plover is one of the smallest birds on the beach, too.”
While much of the Sea School’s outreach programs is done by volunteer hours by the educators, it also is aided by the funds raised at their biggest fundraiser, Octifest, which will be held Saturday, March 19.
The event will be held bayside on Causeway Island A, where the featured item will be the majestic sunset. There will also be other fun events going to make it a memorable experience.
But the opportunity to help shape young minds and influence them on the importance of the ocean, is just as fun and rewarding for the Sea School educators.
“The younger kids are my favorites, because their imaginations are so big,” Linn said. “They may not have an idea about an animal living in the ocean and they end up learning so much. I love kids and seeing them get excited about something I am so passionate about, is an awesome and rewarding feeling.”