Sea School welcomes seasonal help for summer camps
One seasonal marine educator and four camp counselors were added to the Sanibel Sea School staff this summer to help with the organization’s summer camps.
“We hire four to five camp counselors each summer that will work for 13 weeks, which is the duration of our summer camp season, along with two weeks of training and preparation,” Director of Education Nicole Finnicum said.
The Sanibel Sea School begins posting available jobs in January, or February for the summer camp positions. The applications typically have a deadline of April.
“We look for camp counselors that have experience with kids, either in a teaching, or camp environment,” Finnicum said. “Also, we look for people that absolutely love working with kids and have a passion for sharing their love of the ocean. We have many counselors that return year after year because they had such a great experience with us.”
This year, Briana Sebastian, who found the job through an email posting, was hired as the seasonal marine educator, and has the responsibility of teaching many of the day classes.
Sebastian, originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania, attended the University of Pittsburgh where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in biology. She then went to St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas where she received a professional science master’s degree in environmental management and sustainability on May 13.
Although this is her first summer with the campers, she said she really enjoys when one of the youngsters realize something she is teaching them.
“It finally clicks with them and they are so amazed and so excited,” Sebastian said.
She hopes to gain a better appreciation for nature and the environment during her tenure with the organization.
“We teach them to be kind, to all living things, and the educators do their best to do the same and I would hope they pick up on that,” Sebastian said.
The camp counselors hired for this summer include Nicole Funk, Rachel Tammone, Kaity Seitz and Chris Pasion.
“Camp counselors are the backbone of our camp. They lead and help create the activities, lead surf paddle races and are leaders in our campers and Counselors in Training,” Finnicum said. “Each counselor has a new day group for every week of camp and they lead that day group through all of the activities during the day.”
Each week, on average the Sanibel Sea School welcomes 50 campers. The organization runs 26 different weeks of camp at three locations – the flagship campus on Periwinkle Way, their Sundial Beach Resort location and at Canterbury School in Fort Myers.
“We also offer educational half day classes at our flagship and Sundial campuses,” Finnicum said.
Tammone, a University of Miami graduate, heard about the Sanibel Sea School from one of her professors. The Newburgh, New York native graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in marine affairs and ecosystem science and policy this past May.
“I hope to pursue a career in marine science education and conservation,” she said. “I want to inspire people to appreciate and protect the ocean.”
Funk, who hails from Lexington, Kentucky, has visited Sanibel every year since she was born, and had noticed the Sanibel Sea School through passing, and witnessing individuals wearing red Sanibel Sea School shirts leading groups in the water.
“When I saw that Sanibel Sea School was hiring summer camp counselors, I got so excited and had to apply,” Funk said. “I never would have thought I would be given this opportunity, so I am very grateful.”
The rising junior at the University of Kentucky is studying natural resources and environment science with a minor in Spanish. After graduation, Funk hopes to gain more experience in environmental education, sustainable agriculture and social justice related work.
“I am really thinking about applying to be a Peace Corps volunteer somewhere in Latin America doing something environment related,” Funk said.
Pasion, who is from Labanon, Ohio, is a student at the University of Cincinnati studying biology and English, who hopes to continue his education and become a professor, or high school teacher. He heard about the Sanibel Sea School through Johnny Rader, a friend of his, and Sanibel Sea School lead marine science educator.
Seitz, a Canal Winchester, Ohio resident, admitted although she has been visiting Sanibel since she was a baby, she only recently started looking further into what the Sanibel Sea School was all about.
“I just finished up my freshman year at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio where I study environmental and marine science,” she said, adding that she thinks she would like to go into and environmental education type of career.
During Tammone’s time at the Sanibel Sea School she hopes to inspire the youngsters and help them realize that the ocean is an amazing place to play and explore, all while feeling comfortable.
“I think the Sanibel Sea School helps make the kids feel comfortable in the ocean and helps them understand more about the marine environment,” Tammone said. “The kids take away a better understanding of what lives in the ocean and how they can help protect it and make it a safer place.”
Funk said she is looking forward to seeing the campers make discoveries because she remembers how amazing it was exploring the island as a child.
“I’m so ready for kids to have those experiences and grow their love for the world they live in,” she said.
Funk believes the Sanibel Sea School empowers kids, while teaching them they are smart and can have a positive impact in the world.
“The camps give the kids freedom and hands-on learning while helping develop respect and love for nature, which can develop into a sense of personal responsibility for caring for nature,” she said.
Seitz said she believes the Sanibel Sea School gives the kids a sense of freedom that they do not have anywhere else.
“They are allowed to do pretty much anything, within reason. Our only rule is to be kind. As long as they are following that it’s all good,” she said.
Pasion said he believes the Sanibel Sea School impacts kids by giving them a different kind of appreciation for the ocean, one that is tangible.
“They are able to experience the marine life first hand that they normally would only read about in books,” he said. “I also think it’s important because it offers them a structured environment outside of school allowing them to make friends and have fun. But, also gives them the opportunity to learn new and interesting things.”
Seitz said she loves spending time with the little ones, especially when they become captivated about everything because it is contagious.
“When they get excited it gets me even more excited. They are just as pumped about the 20th crab they find as they were about the first. Their enthusiasm makes you remember how cool everything in this world really is,” she said.
With any new experience, the counselors are hoping to gain personal growth throughout their 13 weeks at the Sanibel Sea School.
“I hope I will gain a better understanding of how to make children feel confident and safe in the ocean and how to inspire them to love and care about the ocean,” Tammone said.
For Funk, she hopes to gain a personal confidence.
“I also hope to gain lots of knowledge about marine life,” she said. “Most importantly, I hope for great friendships and relationships with my campers and co-workers.”
Seitz hopes the experience will give her more insight of what she wants to do with her life.
“But, more importantly I hope this makes me a better person. I want to be more patient and kind with everything around me. I haven’t been working here for long and those things are already happening,” she said last week. “I see nothing but good things to come.”
Leadership experience is one of the top things Pasion hopes to take away.
“I hope to gain more leadership experience over this summer, working with a range of different ages,” he said. “I also think I will take away a lot of great stuff from the curriculum as I find marine life to be super cool. (I) am looking forward to learning more about it.”