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School treats PACE students with ocean exploration

By Staff | May 11, 2016

Sanibel Sea School Marine Science Educator Spencer Richardson shared information about what the girls found while walking on the beach. MEGHAN MCCOY

Students from the PACE Center for Girls were treated to a couple hours on Sanibel the first week of May learning about the ocean, while some experienced swimming in the ocean for the first time.

Sanibel Sea School Director of Education Nicole Finnicum said Monday, May 2 was really exciting for the Sanibel Sea School because of the renewed partnership with PACE. She said they had partnered with PACE years ago before she had started working there. The outreach program, the first for the Sanibel Sea School, was initially launched in 2007 before being put on hold for several years due to logistics.

“I was excited to kind of bring it back into our institution and see the girls for the first time in a while,” she said. “It was exciting to get these girls out in the ocean because some don’t get the opportunity. For us to play a part in that is really meaningful. It was great to see their reactions.”

Twelve girls from the PACE Center for Girls traveled to Sanibel Monday morning to participate in a slew of activities put on by the Sanibel Sea School. The program offered to the center was free, thanks to generous support from Sanibel Sea School donors.

PACE Center for Girls Academic Manager Laurie Kemp said the students, 8th to 12th grade, earned the field trip through an attendance contest held in late February. Thirty girls qualified for the field trip, with a dozen attending.

Sanibel Sea School Director of Education Nicole Finnicum explained what kind of egg casing was found on the beach. MEGHAN MCCOY

“It’s a great opportunity,” Kemp said of the partnership with the Sanibel Sea School. “I’m excited the girls got to be beach side.”

Kemp said the day at the Sanibel Sea School meant a variety of things to the students, such as getting out of class for a few hours, a break from school lunch and a chance to visit the ocean. She said for a number of the girls it was the first time they had traveled across the bridge to Sanibel.

When the students first arrived they sat in a circle with Sanibel Sea School Co-Founder and Executive Director Bruce Neill. The group learned more about each other through sharing their name, where they were from and what their favorite sea creature was.

Neill also shared one of the assignments they would participate in during their field trip – writing. The students were responsible for writing at least 200 words of their experience, or anything else that came to mind.

Finnicum then sat with the girls and spent time talking about sea turtles and the beginning of the sea turtle nesting season. She said it was important to share information about the endangered sea turtles because the girls are growing up in Florida and it is important for them to know what is happening in their eco system.

Monica, a student from PACE Center for Girls, examines a sand dollar. MEGHAN MCCOY

“Not all kids have sea turtles nesting in their backyard,” Finnicum said. “It is something that they should be aware of because it’s a special time of the year. It’s an amazing thing that not everyone gets to see or learn about.”

While discussing how to help a sea turtles chance of survival, she touched upon the importance of keeping trash off the beaches, as well as lights turned off. Finnicum said some do not realize the impact trash has on the environment and how much trash washes up on the beaches every day. She said it was important to make the connection between the harms of plastic water bottles and plastic bags and sea turtles coming onshore to lay eggs, as well as the babies making their way to the water.

“These every day things we do might have a negative impact on them,” Finnicum said.

After discussions concluded, the girls and a few instructors from the Sanibel Sea School walked to the beach. The instructors and students collected trash as they walked towards the Lighthouse Beach, learning about the beach, and its many animals as they went.

Once the walk concluded the students had the opportunity to enjoy swimming in the ocean with the instructors.

Students from PACE Center for Girls enjoy time in the ocean. MEGHAN MCCOY

“I was so glad they got into the water,” Finnicum said. “A lot of them had a little fear of the ocean.”

After cooling off in the water, the students and instructors walked back to the Sanibel Sea School where they wrote a short two paragraph essay before enjoying hamburgers and cheeseburgers outdoors.

Monica, a junior at PACE Center for the Girls was among the students who earned the field trip. She said participating in the field trip meant she had an opportunity to help the environment. Out of all the field trip activities, she said she enjoyed picking up trash on the beach the most.

“You don’t realize how much trash there is on the beaches and how it affects wildlife,” Monica said.

Monday was the first time Monica had been to Sanibel. She said she loved the flow of the waves and the nice temperature of the water while swimming with her classmates.

?Sanibel Sea School Marine Science Educator Carley Todd talks with one of the students while in the ocean. MEGHAN MCCOY

“The beach is way cleaner and very blue,” Monica said about Sanibel.

Finnicum said they are looking forward to continuing their partnership with PACE Center for Girls in the future and hopefully seeing them on a monthly basis.

“Our hope is that they will go home with a sense of accomplishment after trying something a little bit out of their comfort zone, and that this confidence will translate to other areas of their lives,” said Neill in a prepared statement.

The PACE Center for Girls, which opened nine years ago, serves approximately 60 girls from 6th through 12th grade. The program, which is based on the Lee County schools curriculum, integrates academics and education with counseling. The counseling portion of the program is important due to the girls attending the center for various reasons, such as trauma, loss of a parent, academic failure and substance abuse with either the parent or student.

“PACE is a great place for regular teenagers that have something going on,” Kemp said.

She said the counselor works with the students as much as needed, which has a large impact in the classroom. If the student is experiencing a crisis the counselor can be at their side immediately.

One of the issues a student may face is coping with panic attacks. The counselor provides the students with many coping skills they can practice to calm down when experiencing an attack.

For more information about the Sanibel Sea School, visit www.sanibelseaschool.org. For more information about PACE Center for Girls visit www.pacecenter.org.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.