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Local youth learn about coastal ecosystems

By Staff | May 28, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED Captiva Cruises educator Richard Finkel discusses in a show-and-tell format what was found on the beach at Cayo Costa State Park with a group from New Horizons of Southwest Florida.

Local land-locked children had a chance to take a cruise, see marine life like dolphins and visit Cayo Costa State Park as part of the ongoing No Child Left on Shore initiative, as did island students.

In partnership with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Captiva Cruises treated New Horizons of Southwest Florida – a group of 39, plus chaperones – to the excursion on May 11. In addition, The Sanibel School’s fifth-grade classes were treated to the same adventure on May 13.

Captiva Cruises educator Richard Finkel explained that New Horizons of Southwest Florida – an after-school program that provides youth mentoring – has taken part in the initiative in the past.

“But a lot of these were kids that have never been taken out before,” he said.

The group cruised around the Pine Island Sound before traveling to Cayo Costa.

PHOTO PROVIDED A New Horizons of Southwest Florida program participant holds a spider crab.

“There were dolphins that the kids got to see along the way,” Finkel said, noting that the group had an opportunity to check out the manatees that frequently visit McCarthy’s Marina on Captiva, as well.

“The dolphins are always a hit,” he added.

Arriving at the state park, they did some beachcombing and explored the shore.

“Then we go over and talk about things we found on the beach,” Finkel said of one educational component to the trip. “It’s kind of a show-and-tell of all the things we find on the beach.”

The youth also had an opportunity to enjoy the water.

PHOTO PROVIDED Captiva Cruises educator Richard Finkel poses with the fifth-graders from The Sanibel School.

“There was a manatee cruising on the beach, too,” he said. “And a sea turtle popped up out there for a breath of air, which was neat.”

Back on the boat, they used a trawling net to learn about what was under the water.

“The kids were amazed at all the different types of life we pulled up,” Finkel said, noting that there were spider crabs and seahorses. “There were a few triggerfish and a pinfish that we pulled up.”

The group learned about the back bay estuaries and maintaining the ecosystems for marine life.

“They were amazed at all the life,” he said. “They kept using the word ‘awesome’ a lot.”

PHOTO PROVIDED A New Horizons of Southwest Florida program participant sees firsthand life under the water.

No Child Left on Shore was founded in 2010 by Finkel and former Captiva Cruises owner Paul McCarthy in partnership with the SCCF. It is an environmental, educational outreach project.

The initiative strives to provide experiential education opportunities for the children of Southwest Florida who might not have first-hand exposure to the coastal environment by any other means.

“Where they can learn firsthand what’s out there, and not just read about it in a book or hear about it,” Finkel said. “Learn how invaluable these coastal ecosystems are and how much life depends on it.”

Two days later, 33 fifth-graders and six adults from the island school hopped on a boat.

“We also are committed to working with the local Sanibel school and providing environmental educational field trips,” he said, noting that the fifth-grade trip has been taking place for years now.

Somewhat different, the school excursion tends to be tied into class studies.

“Once we were on the beach, the kids filled out some worksheets and recorded their observations,” Finkel said. “They sketched some of the things they found washed up on the beach.”

“They looked for evidence of other animals,” he added, noting that they examined sponges, corals and shells onshore. “It was really documenting the life they found and the different species they found.”

The students enjoyed some wildlife sightings, including a variety of birds and dolphins.

“No matter how many times you see dolphins that never gets old,” Finkel said.

No Child Left on Shore is funded by donations raised by the SCCF, with Captiva Cruises providing reduced rates. Each participating group typically arranges its own transportation and chaperones.

Individual donors can earmark funds to the SCCF for the initiative.

Those interested in supporting the initiative or who have questions about it can contact the SCCF at SCCF@SCCF.org or 239-472-2329 or Captiva Cruises at info@captivacruises.com or 239-472-5300.