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Sea School reaches more kids by working with Rec Center campers

By Staff | Jul 12, 2017

Sanibel Sea School Lead Marine Science Educator Johnny Rader taught Sanibel Recreation Center campers how to use their snorkel earlier this month. MEGHAN MCCOY

A partnership that began last year has resulted in the Sanibel Sea School reaching more youngsters, teaching them a valuable skill, one that will allow them to see more of the ocean.

Director of Communications Leah Biery said the partnership started last summer with the Sanibel Recreation Center after they asked the Sanibel Sea School to teach a snorkeling class for their campers.

“Of course we said yes because mission wise it’s a great return for us to be able to get more kids in snorkeling gear and teach them how to snorkel, so they can go out and enjoy it on their own,” she said. “Most of the kids are from the island, or they spend time on the island, so knowing how to snorkel is a really fun skill to have as a kid.”

The Sanibel Sea School sees the campers throughout the summer whenever a snorkeling class fits into the Rec Center schedule.

The class is typically taught by Lead Marine Science Educator Johnny Rader. He taught a group of campers about safety, how a mask and snorkel should fit properly and how to clean the equipment at the end of last month.

A young camper practices using his snorkel. MEGHAN MCCOY

“We teach the kids anything from how to put the snorkel and mask together; how to fit it to your face; how to make sure it has tight seals, so that water cannot get in; how to prevent it from fogging, and then we actually get into the water in the pool,” Biery said. “First we just practice floating on the surface of the water, by getting used to having our faces in the water with a mask and snorkel. Then we move onto practicing without any sort of floatation device.”

When the kids become good enough they practice free diving, which is the Sanibel Sea School’s ultimate goal. She said it’s important that the kids feel incredibly comfortable with free diving in the pool, so the skill can be practiced in the ocean.

“That is one of the best ways that you can see things in the ocean,” Biery said.

The use of the pool to teach kids how to snorkel tends to be a little easier because of perfect water clarity.

“I think it helps the kids feel less nervous. If they have never snorkeled before they know there is nothing to be afraid of in the pool. They can really just focus on the feel of snorkeling and they can see everything around them in an enclosed area,” Biery said.

Games were also played during the special camp instruction. As Sanibel Sea School Lead Marine Science Educator Johnny Rader explained the game of shark and minnows, one of the young campers got ready. MEGHAN MCCOY

Some of the Sanibel Sea School staff prefers snorkeling over scuba diving because of the freedom of not using the gear.

“You can stay in the water for as long as you want and if you get good enough at it you can dive deep enough to swim good distances under the water,” she said.

At the end of summer, Biery said a lot of times they will schedule a few trips to the beach with the Rec Center kids giving them the opportunity to practice their skills in the ocean.

The Sanibel Sea School works weekly with their own campers in terms of learning how to snorkel.