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Manatee Elementary School spends day with Sanibel Sea School

By Staff | May 3, 2017

Sanibel Sea School Director of Education Nicole Finnicum shows a third grade student from Manatee Elementary School how to paddle while surfing last Thursday at the Sanibel Causeway. MEGHAN MCCOY

Excited third graders stepped off their bus Thursday morning and gathered under a tree for a class picture on the Sanibel Causeway before being separated into three groups of 10 students to dissect a squid, surf and look for sea creatures with nets.

“It was awesome,” Cam’ra Sheard, a third grade student, said.

Her favorite activity was surfing because “we got to stand up,” and she learned new skills with Sanibel Sea School Director of Education Nicole Finnicum.

Each student, who wished to try surfing, had the opportunity to do so with the assistance of Finnicum. The students patiently waited for their turn while standing in the water. After a student climbed onto the surf board, the student behind them gave them a push as they finished the trip to Finnicum while paddling. The last few minutes of their time at the surfing station afforded the students the opportunity to test their balance as they attempted standing up on the board while going back to shore.

Mareni Sigala, also a third grade student, said her favorite part of the few hours on the Causeway was participating in the squid dissection.

Two third grade students find the lens of the squids eye last Thursday MEGHAN MCCOY

Lead Marine Science Educator Johnny Rader gathered the students under a cabana on the causeway where two or three students sat together around a tray for the squid dissection. He spent time explaining the difference between a squid and octopus before each of the students had the opportunity to dissect the squid in search of particular parts, one of which was the lens of the squids eye.

As the students learned more, the excitement grew as they discovered what they were tasked to find.

“It was fun,” Sigala said, adding that they will write about their experience when they returned to school.

Once they were done, Rader took the ink from the squid’s ink sac to draw tattoos on the students – many of which choose either a dolphin, shark or seahorse.

At the last station, the students had the chance to go swimming, while finding sea creatures with nets, with Marine Science Educator Carley Todd. One of the finds was a dwarf seahorse, which Todd spent time letting the students look at, hold and share information about the sea creature.

A dwarf seahorse found by staff of the Sanibel Sea School. MEGHAN MCCOY

“It’s the best day of the year,” Christina Leber, the students’ third grade teacher, said. “I love it and they love it. The instructors work so well with the kids.”

Sanibel Sea School Director of Communications Leah Biery said Manatee Elementary, a school located in the Tice neighborhood, had its first visit with the Sanibel Sea School last April.

“We had been working with a few private schools in Fort Myers that were having their end of year field trip at the Sanibel Sea School. We realized that the kids were having a really good time and this tends to be a really slow time of year for us because it is after spring break and before summer camp,” Biery said.

The staff at the Sanibel Sea School enjoys teaching people, wether it’s paying visitors or through one of their many outreach groups because it is part of their mission.

“We realized that the programs were going really good with the private school groups and we were excited to reach out to public schools in Lee County to let them know we offer field trips, offer scholarships and we would love to serve them,” she said.

For many of the third graders, surfing was their favorite part of their field trip. MEGHAN MCCOY

The first group that attended was with one of the Sanibel Sea School’s old camp counselors who began teaching in LaBelle.

Biery said he brought his students to the island for the Sanibel Sea School program.

“Then he kind of put the word out to all of the other teachers in Lee County that they had a great experience and we started to get a lot of phone calls. So, Manatee Elementary School was one of the ones that called right after he brought his students,” Biery said.

Last week two third grade classes traveled to the Causeway with approximately 30 kids on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Since Manatee Elementary School is a title-one school, the Sanibel Sea School offers them a scholarship each year.

For many of the third graders, surfing was their favorite part of their field trip. MEGHAN MCCOY

“It makes my heart happy,” Leber said of working with the Sanibel Sea School and providing her students with the opportunity to visit the island. “I love my relationship with them (kids).”

She said her students who went on the field trip last year are still talking about their experience in the ocean.

The Sanibel Sea School is also working with Orangewood Elementary School, Allen Park Elementary School, Ryma C. Page Elementary School, Tanglewood Elementary School, Canterbury School and Pine Island Elementary School this spring. This past October, the school also worked with The Village School of Naples.

“We gained a lot of school groups this year, which we are really excited about,” Biery said. “We love hosting school groups.”

She encourages teachers to reach out to them, because the Sanibel Sea School can always work out a program that suits their curriculum and their budget.