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Additional summer programs initiated on islands for youths

By Staff | Jun 9, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Registration for the city's Youth Summer Camp opened this week for Sanibel residents.

With the lifting of more COVID-19 restrictions in recent weeks and further reopening of the islands, additional entities and organizations are offering summertime youth camps and family activities.

The city began taking registrations this week for its Youth Summer Camp held at the Sanibel Recreation Center, while the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is launching its first-ever Virtual Summer Camp on June 10. In addition, the Sanibel Community House is offering daily cooking camps and more, and the Sanibel Sea School added extra virtual options this month for teens.


On June 8, the city opened registration for its Youth Summer Camp from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the recreation center for Sanibel residents. The camp will operate for seven weeks starting on June 15, with the final week ending on July 31; the camp will be closed on July 3 for the Fourth of July holiday.

The program to open to students entering kindergarten through eighth grade in the fall.

PHOTO PROVIDED Take a virtual paddleboard tour of Tarpon Bay during the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge's online summer camp.

To be consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended guidelines, the camp will operate at a ratio of one counselor per nine campers, the city reported on June 4. In addition, camp enrollment will be capped at 63 participants per week to meet the social distancing guidelines.

The camp will also operate with the following provisions:

– Intensified cleaning and disinfection of the facilities

– Increased promotion of healthy hygiene practices, such as hand washing

– Encouraged social distancing through increased spacing and maximizing outdoor play

PHOTO PROVIDED The Sanibel Community House is offering daily cooking camps for youths — with social distancing and cleaning guidelines implemented — as part of its summer programs.

– Sanibel Sea School/Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation to provide program enhancements

– Participation in the Lee County School District’s free breakfast and lunch program; campers may bring their own breakfast and lunch if they prefer to do so

– No field trips

– No off-site transportation in vehicles; there may be nature or fitness walks to adjacent lands, such as the Pick Preserve or J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

The city has entered an agreement with the United Way to operate as a provider of the LeeCARES Childcare Scholarship. Under the program, eligible families in need experiencing a COVID-19 related need will be eligible for a scholarship up to $1,250 per child, until the funding has been exhausted.

PHOTO PROVIDED Teens have another opportunity to engage virtually with the Sanibel Sea School this summer.

The approved use for the scholarship funds is registration fees.

The criteria for the scholarship are as follows:

– Furloughed as a result of COVID-19

– Wages cut due to COVID-19

– Laid off due to COVID-19

PHOTO PROVIDED From cooking and arts and crafts, to shell critters, a variety of Camps to Go kits are available at the Sanibel Community House.

– Family income impacted by COVID-19

– Left workplace as a COVID-19 caregiver

In addition, the city of Sanibel Financial Assistance program remains available for qualifying for families who are not eligible for the LeeCARES Childcare Scholarship.

For the registration packet, which includes additional information, fees, application and consent form, visit files.constantcontact.com/97af97e6001/0eb5573f-e2b2-4115-88ab-f6e86924b5f5.pdf.

The city strongly recommends bringing the forms completed to registration to save time.

For questions, email Recreation Director Trish Phillips at Trish.Phillips@mysanibel.com.

The Sanibel Recreation Center is at 3880 Sanibel-Captiva Road, Sanibel.


Building on the success and popularity of its #DingatHome virtual learning initiative, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s education team is debuting its free Virtual Summer Camp.

From June 10 through July 31, educators will host longer, natural science- and experiential-based learning videos on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. on the refuge Facebook page.

“While many families will continue to spend much of their time at home, we wanted to fill in the gap for kids who will be unable to attend day camp this summer,” Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland said in a prepared statement.

She is co-heading the Virtual Summer Camp project with Conservation Educator Sara Soderholm, whose full-time position is supported by the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge.

The virtual camp will consist of “Exploration Wednesday,” with activities like paddleboarding in Tarpon Bay and bicycle safety,” while “Experimentation Thursday” lessons will range from making a lava lamp to nature tie-dye. “Investigation Friday” will entail interviews with refuge experts, like Acting Refuge Manager Kevin Godsea, a biologist and a veterinarian.

“The videos will concentrate on teaching moments, but with interactive components that will make kids immediately look forward to the next lesson,” Soderholm said in a prepared statement. “They will be archived on Facebook so that families can watch whenever is most convenient, and (they) can even watch them over and over again throughout the summer.”

To take part, visit www.facebook.com/dingdarlingrefuge.

For more information, contact educator@dingdarlingsociety.org or 239-472-1100 ext. 236.


This summer, the Sanibel Community House is offering different formats for its youth programs. There are two weeks worth of daily, in-person cooking camps available, as well as private cooking classes.

In addition, there are a variety of Camp to Go kits for the young – and young at heart.

“This is to make sure parents and children feel safe in these different times,” officials reported in a prepared statement.

The camps will be held on June 22-26 and on Aug. 3-7 from 10 a.m. to noon. Culinary Education Center Resident Chef Jarred Harris will develop campers’ culinary knowledge and basic cooking skills.

In accordance with CDC and government guidelines, masks will be required in the common areas, individual cooking stations will be spaced 6 feet apart, and the areas used will be cleaned accordingly at the end of every session. In addition, there will be no shared food amongst the campers allowed.

Each camp will be limited to 20 participants.

Registration cost is $30 per day; scholarships are available.

In addition, Harris is offering one-on-one and siblings classes. Families can arrange the sessions with the facility. The costs are $50 for an individual and $75 for two siblings for a basic one-hour class.

“Those that are looking for activities to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes can pick up Camps to Go kits,” official reported.

There are two types of cooking kits. One is a basic kit for $20 that includes a recipe and ingredients, and the deluxe kit for $40 includes several recipes, ingredients and links to Harris’ video tutorials.

There are also art kits with postcards to color that were designed by local artists Bob and Anita Marshall, as well as zentangle kits, shell kits with everything needed to make four different types of critters – glue not provided – and other shell identification kits, which are priced at $20 each.

To register for the camps, visit www.sanibelcommunityhouse.net.

For more information, call 239-472-2155 between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday to Friday.

The Sanibel Community House is at 2173 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel.


Due to a high demand for teen programs and its virtual Island Skillz Counselor in Training offerings being full, the Sanibel Sea School added more options to its virtual lineup of summer programs.

From June 15-19, Dr. J. Bruce Neill will offer one final course in leadership called “Hangin’ with Doc Bruce.” Neill believes that the Counselor in Training (CIT) program is one of the best offerings and wanted to have one more opportunity to gather with teens. He is volunteering his time to the weeklong leadership course. There will be team-building activities and a chance to say farewell, since there was not a traditional summer camp this year.

Additionally, Education Programs Manager Shannon Stainken will offer a Counselor in Training program workshop on June 22-26. In the weeklong session, she and the CITs will have the opportunity to rework the current program and reinvent the Sanibel Sea School CIT program for future years.

“We had a eureka moment in quarantine – shouldn’t our CITs be involved in this process?” Stainken said in a prepared statement. “It’s a program for teenagers after all, so shouldn’t it be designed by teens?”

The program will be a collaborative effort between her and the CITs to create and grow the CIT program and to gain input from those who have benefited from the program over the years.

Each teen program will be offered virtually via Zoom and will be $75 for the week. Each session will run from Monday through Friday from 1 to 2 p.m. The programs are designed for ages 13-18.

To register, visit www.sanibelseaschool.org/sanibel-camps.

For more information, contact info@sanibelseaschool.org.