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Sanibel Sea School Campers Celebrate Nudibranchs and Plovers

Campers at Sanibel Sea School spent the second week of summer camp learning about nudibranchs and plovers – two very exciting marine science topics. Nudibranch Week at the organization’s Flagship Campus was all about the tiny, vibrantly colored marine gastropods, and Baby Plover Week at Canterbury School offered a chance for younger campers to celebrate some of Sanibel’s most adorable birds.

Nudibranchs absorb their colors and defensive toxins from their food, so Nudibranch Week campers painted their faces with the colors of their favorite snacks, then tie-dyed t-shirts to express their own vibrant personalities. Nudibranch tag and searching for sea slugs in the intertidal zone were also some of participants’ favorite activities.

Plovers are tiny birds with elaborate mating rituals that nest on Sanibel’s beaches. During Baby Plover Week, children ages 4-6 did their best baby bird impressions, practicing beach camouflage and protecting their nests. They also tried using binoculars and made some beautiful plover art.

As usual, both weeks included plenty of time for surfing, macramé tying, and hanging out with camp friends. Sanibel Sea School also hosted Have Paddleboard, Will Survive Week – a paddling and survival camp for teens. Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org. 

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Girl Scouts Donate Supplies to Sanibel Sea School

 Girl Scout Troop 210 members Courtney Dingerson, Delaney Blackwell, Mia Sedorchuk, Isabella Lauzon, and Zoe Sedorchuk delivered a donation of supplies to Sanibel Sea School. 

Girl Scout Troop 210 members Courtney Dingerson, Delaney Blackwell, Mia Sedorchuk, Isabella Lauzon, and Zoe Sedorchuk delivered a donation of supplies to Sanibel Sea School. 

Girl Scouts from Cape Coral-based Troop 210 recently visited Sanibel Sea School to deliver a donation of supplies for the organization’s camp and ocean outreach programs. Donated items included art supplies and campus necessities like toilet paper and cleaning products. Troop 210 chose Sanibel Sea School as their 2018 nonprofit to support because many of the members had participated in camps and field trips there and wanted to give other students a chance to have memorable ocean experiences as well.

“Each year, Girl Scout troops donate a portion of their cookie profits in the form of material goods to a local nonprofit that is important to them,” said group leader Michelle Sedorchuk. Troop members are invited to make presentations about potential organizations they would like to support, then the group votes to select a favorite. “Our Service Unit has partnered with Sanibel Sea School for programs these past two years, and has plans in the works for future programs. Many of the girls in our troop have participated in those programs and have attended camps on their own. They truly love what Sanibel Sea School is all about, its mission, and its employees,” Sedorchuk added.

Although Girl Scouts prohibits troops from making monetary donations to other 501c3 nonprofits, the group was excited to shop for craft supplies and other essentials that would help support Sanibel Sea School's summer camps, free Community Camp Days, ocean outreach programs for landlocked kids, and more.

"Our troop chose to donate to Sanibel Sea School because of their programs for kids and adults. They wouldn't be able to run these programs without help from the community," said 9th grader Zoe Sedorchuk.

“We are so grateful for Troop 210’s donation,” said Sanibel Sea School’s executive director, Dr. Bruce Neill. “We truly rely on our community to help us provide meaningful ocean experiences for all. This group really thought about what we might need, and delivered supplies that will absolutely be used. And now we will be able to bring more landlocked kids to Sanibel to explore with us,” he added.

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org. To learn more about Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, visit gsgcf.org.

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Sanibel Sea School’s First Week of Summer Camp a Success

Sanibel Sea School kicked off the summer camp season on June 4th with Hammerhead Week at the organization’s Sanibel Flagship Campus, and Mangrove Tree Crab Week at its Sundial Beach Resort and Spa location. Both programs were a success, and campers enjoyed five days of ocean-based activities and adventures.

Hammerhead Week participants learned all about these sharks with crazy-shaped heads, building periscopes to better understand hammerheads’ vision, canoeing in prime shark habitat, and making their own mass migrations. They also had a chance to dissect a dogfish – the hammerhead’s much smaller relative. “The campers are always amazed by how a shark’s skin feels, what the gills and internal organs look like, and the similarities and differences between chondrichthians and humans,” said counselor Sam Lucas.

Mangrove Tree Crab Week was all about tiny, omnivorous tree climbers. Campers played a game to practice their mangrove species identification, scurried like mangrove crabs in a beach ball relay race, played crab soccer and kickball, and snorkeled among the mangroves to take a closer look at the creature of the week.

As usual, both weeks also included surfboard paddling, making ocean art, and spending time with friends. Sanibel Sea School is a 501(c)3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org.  

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Sanibel Sea School Hosts Second Community Camp Day

 Campers participated in a sea turtle-themed relay race. 

Campers participated in a sea turtle-themed relay race. 

On Memorial Day, Sanibel Sea School hosted local students for the organization’s second Community Camp Day, a free day of ocean fun and learning for children ages 6-13. There was also an opportunity for older teenagers to participate as Counselors in Training. The theme of the program was sea turtles, and participants enjoyed a variety of related games and activities.

 Counselor Emmett explained how sea turtles navigate the ocean. 

Counselor Emmett explained how sea turtles navigate the ocean. 

“Our first Community Camp Day in January filled up quickly, and the response from parents and campers was so positive,” said the nonprofit’s Director of Education, Nicole Finnicum. “It can be difficult for parents to find affordable childcare for just one day, particularly on holidays, so we are happy to be able to offer this service to our community a few times each year,” she added.

 Campers prepared to make sea turtle art. 

Campers prepared to make sea turtle art. 

Fun was had by all as students painted shells, learned to navigate the island like sea turtles, and went seining and snorkeling in the bay. It was a windy day, but that didn’t stop campers from exploring and learning about some of Southwest Florida’s favorite marine reptiles.

 We are already looking forward to hosting our next Community Camp Day! 

We are already looking forward to hosting our next Community Camp Day! 

Sanibel Sea School’s Community Camp Days are made possible by a donor-supported scholarship fund, which ensures that cost does not prevent children from participating in ocean education. Upcoming Community Camp Days will be announced via the organization’s Facebook and Instagram pages, and will also be shared with email list subscribers. To be added, please email your request to info@sanibelseaschool.org.

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. More information is available at sanibelseaschool.org.

 

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Meet the Counselors!

In addition to our full time team of familiar faces, we are excited to welcome a few more ocean-loving humans to our summer camp staff. Some of them you will recognize from summers past, others are first timers. Learn more about them below, and when you see them around, please say hello! 


Sam O'Konski

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Where are you from?
I am from Ft. Myers, Florida.

Where do you go to school and what do you plan to study? 
I am going to Boston University in the fall and planning to study communications.

Years attending/ working for Sanibel Sea School:
I have attended Sanibel Sea School since 2008, started working as a CIT in 2013, and as a senior CIT/ tent leader in 2016.

Is there something about being a Sanibel Sea School counselor that you are looking most forward to? 
I look forward to having my own day group and doing face paint before the surf races.

What do you like to do during your time off? 
During my time off I like spending time with my dog Duke.

Favorite sea creature: 
My favorite sea creature is a blue whale.

What's the best music for a weekend at the beach? 
The best music for a weekend at the beach is Britney Spears. 

If you could visit any marine ecosystem on the planet, where would you go? 
I would visit the Great Barrier Reef.


Emma Neill

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Where are you from?
I am from Sanibel, FL. 

Where do you go to school and what do you plan to study? 
I am going to Middlebury College, in Vermont, where I plan on studying environmental science and French.

Years attending/ working for Sanibel Sea School:
I've been with Sanibel Sea School since the very beginning, 12 years ago or so. 

Is there something about being a Sanibel Sea School counselor that you are looking most forward to? 
I am most looking forward to being able to teach children something they never knew about the ocean or a new ocean skill they've never learned before, like surfing. 

Favorite sea creature: 
My favorite sea creature changes daily but, as of late, I have really been in love with whale sharks.

What's the best music for a weekend at the beach? 
Jack Johnson, hands down.

If you could visit any marine ecosystem on the planet, where would you go? 
I would go to the Great Barrier Reef.


Kaity Seitz

Where are you from?
I'm from Canal Winchester, Ohio (a small town outside of Columbus).

Where do you go to school and what do you study? 
I just finished my sophomore year at Wittenberg University in Springfield, OH. My major is environmental science and my minor is marine science. 

Years attending/ working for Sanibel Sea School:
This will be my second summer working as a counselor!

Is there something about being a Sanibel Sea School counselor that you are looking most forward to? 
This summer I am most looking forward to seeing the kids that I had in camp last year, and continuing to share my love of the ocean.

What do you like to do during your time off? 
During my time off I enjoy running, reading, watching Netflix, being outside, and eating lots of pasta!

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Favorite sea creature: 
I can't say that I have a favorite sea creature, but I love the cownose rays! Standing in the ocean while having a whole group of them swim by and surround you is the coolest thing ever!

What's the best music for a weekend at the beach? 
I really like The Lumineers and bands with similar styles. So I guess indie folksy music!

If you could visit any marine ecosystem on the planet, where would you go? 
I would love to visit anywhere in the Arctic. It's pretty crazy that the animals that live there endure such harsh conditions. I really want to see an Orca!

Is there anything else you'd like to share about yourself? 
Before I head to Sanibel, I will be spending three weeks on San Salvador in the Bahamas doing field work and research. I am super excited for all of the adventures that lie ahead this summer! 


Samantha Galindo

Where are you from? 
I was originally born in Arizona, then moved to St. Croix in the USVI, where I spent most of my childhood. Later I moved to Ocala, Florida for High School, then made my way to Fort Myers for college. 

Where do you go to school and what do you study? 
I am a senior at FGCU planning to graduate next spring with a B.S. in Marine Science.

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Years attending/ working for Sanibel Sea School:
This is my first time working for Sanibel Sea School.

Is there something about being a Sanibel Sea School counselor that you are looking most forward to? 
I look forward to sharing my passion and love of the ocean and the neat stuff that goes on under the sea with campers. 

What do you like to do during your time off? 
In my free time, I like to go boating and fishing with my friends or do yoga on the beach. 

Favorite sea creature: 
Blue ringed octopus

What's the best music for a weekend at the beach? 
I have always been a fan of classic rock and 90’s rock bands.

If you could visit any marine ecosystem on the planet, where would you go? 
My favorite ecosystem in the world is a massive coral reef called The Wall in St. Croix, but I would like to visit the coral reefs of the Philippines and compare them to the ecosystems found in Florida and the Caribbean. 

Is there anything else you'd like to share about yourself? 
hen I’m not at the beach, I enjoy riding horses and going hiking with my dog. 


Elly Rundqwist

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Where are you from?
Atlanta, Georgia

Where do you go to school and what do you plan to study? 
I’ll be attending Boston University in the fall and I plan to study Communications and Marine Sciences.

Years attending/ working for Sanibel Sea School:
Every year since the beginning, 11 years ago! I was a camper at Sanibel Sea School when I was 6 and have been back every year since!

Is there something about being a Sanibel Sea School counselor that you are looking most forward to? 
I’m most excited about being able to share my love of the ocean and seeing the joy it brings to new explorers. I also can't wait to identify sea shells!!!

What do you like to do during your time off? 
I love photography! In my free time I like to travel and explore, but also to play my guitar and journal.

Favorite sea creature: 
tiny: nudibranchs of all kinds
big: manta ray!
bigger: humpback whale

What's the best music for a weekend at the beach? 
Jack Johnson, Colbie Caillat, and Vance Joy

If you could visit any marine ecosystem on the planet, where would you go? 
The Maldives!

Is there anything else you'd like to share about yourself? 
I’ve been diving on the Great Barrier Reef and snorkeling in 8 different countries! I'm beyond excited to share my summer with my Sea School family.


Alex Schwartz

Where are you from?
I've lived in Fort Myers for most of my life, but went to college in Atlanta.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I just graduated from Emory with a BA in Spanish.

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Years attending/ working for Sanibel Sea School:
None, but I'm excited to be here!

Is there something about being a Sanibel Sea School staff member that you are looking most forward to?
Sanibel is one of the most amazing places in the world. Even the drive out here is something to look forward to.

What do you like to do during your time off? 
I love games! I play backgammon every day.

Favorite sea creature:
Cuttlefish videos are really neat, but my favorite local creatures are anhingas and cormorants.

What's the best music for a weekend at the beach?
Anything that makes you feel good.

If you could visit any marine ecosystem on the planet, where would you go? 
Thailand!

Is there anything else you'd like to share about yourself?
I can't wait to see what adventures are ahead and what I'll learn along the way.


Talia Horvath, Camp Photographer

Where are you from?
Hanover, New Hampshire

Where do you go to school and what do you study? 
I went to the University of Miami in Miami, FL and studied Ecosystem Science and Policy, I will be returning in the fall for a master's degree in Environment, Culture, and Media. 

Years attending/ working for Sanibel Sea School: Five years

Is there something about being a Sanibel Sea School staff member that you are looking most forward to? 
I'm looking forward to engaging with all camp-goers and working to capture the essence of Sea School through photography and film! 

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What do you like to do during your time off? 
Take my dog for walks, read, sleep, and any outdoor activities. 

Favorite sea creature: Cuttlefish

What's the best music for a weekend at the beach? 
Rebelution 

If you could visit any marine ecosystem on the planet, where would you go? 
Coral reefs in Thailand.

Is there anything else you'd like to share about yourself? 
Sea School has been an important part of my life for years and I'm very happy to be joining the team this summer in a new and exciting position!

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A Record Breaking Field Trip Season

 Students tried surfing, many for the first time. 

Students tried surfing, many for the first time. 

In April and May, Sanibel Sea School hosted groups of students from eight local schools for marine biology centered field trips. Each program was carefully designed to complement the students’ classroom-based learning, and the majority of participating schools requested and received partial or full scholarships, which are made possible by the nonprofit organization’s donor-supported scholarship fund.

 Educator Shannon Stainken led a squid dissection. 

Educator Shannon Stainken led a squid dissection. 

The field trips were held at Causeway Islands Park, and students rotated through stations that included activities such as surfing, seining, a squid dissection, and in some cases, a boat trip to a snorkeling location. “We love hosting field trips,” said educator Johnny Rader. “It’s fun to see the same teachers return year after year, and the kids are always so excited to be outside.”

Visiting schools included Orangewood Elementary, Allen Park Elementary, Manatee Elementary, Cape Elementary, St. Francis Xavier School, Canterbury School, Tanglewood Elementary, and Villas Elementary. A total of 825 students were able to attend, up from about 650 last spring. “We are thrilled to see our field trip program growing,” said Director of Education Nicole Finnicum. “The time between Easter and the summer, when our camps begin, is usually very slow for us. It’s amazing to be able to stay busy exploring with school groups and put our scholarship funds to great use,” she added.

 A group headed out for a boat ride in search of wildlife. 

A group headed out for a boat ride in search of wildlife. 

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org. 

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From Rainforest to Sea: An Expedition to Belize

 The field station on South Water Caye.

The field station on South Water Caye.

After a successful expedition in 2017, Sanibel Sea School will once again offer an educational, biology-focused trip to Belize for teens this summer. Open to participants ages 15-18, the program will run from July 30th to August 8th, and will include time spent in the jungle and on a remote island close to pristine coral reef habitat.

Campers will land in Belize City, then travel to Blue Creek Field Station in the Belizean rainforest, where they will stay in rustic accommodations, learn about the ecosystem, and enjoy activities like guided nature hikes, river tubing, and wildlife watching. “Last year, we saw monkeys, toucans, tarantulas, and so much more. In the jungle you are completely surrounded by creatures and you can hear and see them all the time,” said the organization’s Director of Education, Nicole Finnicum.

 Arriving on South Water Caye. 

Arriving on South Water Caye. 

Next, the group will move by boat to South Water Caye. From there, they will take daily trips to the Belize Barrier Reef to snorkel. Participants will learn about coral reef conservation, practice identifying coral reef species, and develop critical skills for engaging in scientific inquiry and research. “The South Water Caye Marine Reserve is a marine protected area, and it is home to some of the most pristine patches of reef in this part of the world,” said Finnicum. “There is so much biodiversity, including everything from cleaner shrimps to nurse sharks.”

 A snorkeler holds a queen conch in the South Water Caye Marine Reserve. 

A snorkeler holds a queen conch in the South Water Caye Marine Reserve. 

There will also be plenty of opportunities for creativity, with time each day for writing and making art. Meals will consist of local delicacies like beans and rice, fried plantains, and fresh seafood. Other program highlights will include beach walks, lounging in the many hammocks at both field stations, and playing games in the evening.

 Hammocks waiting to be lounged in. 

Hammocks waiting to be lounged in. 

For younger students, ages 11-15, who are interested in coral reef ecology, Sanibel Sea School will also offer two weeks of camp on Big Pine Key, located in the Florida Keys.

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more and register for these and other camp sessions, visit sanibelseaschool.org. 

 It's just a short boat ride from the field station to the reef. 

It's just a short boat ride from the field station to the reef. 

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Sanibel Sea School Welcomes New Trustee

 Christine Szymanczyk with her husband, Kyle, and their two sons. 

Christine Szymanczyk with her husband, Kyle, and their two sons. 

Sanibel Sea School is pleased to welcome Christine Szymanczyk to the nonprofit organization’s Board of Trustees.

Szymanczyk grew up near Lake Michigan in the northern suburbs of Chicago, and has been visiting southwest Florida since she was a child, when her grandparents moved to Naples. After graduating from Vanderbilt University, she spent time traveling and studying in Australia before earning a master’s degree in education at the University of Indiana.

After graduate school, Szymanczyk was selected as a Fulbright Scholar, and moved to Argentina to teach English at the Universidad de Villa María. She returned to the United States and taught high school Spanish for a number of years before she decided to move to Sanibel with her husband, Kyle, and their two active little boys.  

“Kyle’s family has been involved with Sanibel Sea School for many years, and after getting to know the organization through the eyes of my oldest son, I am honored to join the Board,” she said. “Sanibel Sea School blends my love of the water, education, and conservation.”

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org. 

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Staff Spotlight: Dani Lacy

Dani Lacy joins Sanibel Sea School as our newest marine science educator. Learn a bit about her below, and please help us welcome her to Sanibel from Louisville, KY!


 Dani Lacy 

Dani Lacy 

Where are you from?
Louisville, Kentucky

Where did you go to school and what did you study? 
I received a bachelor of science in biology and a minor in marine science from Wittenberg University. I then went on to study at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science for a master of professional science in tropical marine ecosystem management.

Is there something about working at Sanibel Sea School that you are looking most forward to?
Being able to learn more about the ocean every single day!  

What do you like to do during your time off? 
I like to take my wiener dog, Beyoncé, to the beach. She loves to swim.

Favorite sea creature: 
The sea cucumber, because even though they look simple and a little gross at first glance, they are fascinating organisms with crazy defense mechanisms.

What's the best music for a weekend at the beach? 
Rick Ross or Earth Wind and Fire

If you could visit any marine ecosystem on the planet, where would you go? 
I would like to dive during a ray migration.

Is there anything else you'd like to share about yourself?
I’ve gone sledding on the side of a volcano in Nicaragua. 

Thank you, Dani! 

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Culver-Stockton College Visits Sanibel Sea School

 Students seined in the seagrass beds. 

Students seined in the seagrass beds. 

Students from Culver-Stockton College, located in Canton, Missouri, visited Sanibel Sea School during their spring “3-Week Term”, a time period at the end of each semester designated for educational travel and work experiences. The group participated in field-based lectures and activities designed to complement their classroom learning in topics such as environmental studies, sustainability, and ecology. 

 A pipefish.

A pipefish.

Daily program topics included mangrove and seagrass ecosystems, the wrack line, subtidal ecology, conserving cultural history, and more. Participants also had a chance to paddle stand up paddleboards near the Sanibel Causeway Islands. “Our teaching team thoroughly enjoyed developing course content for these college students,” said Sanibel Sea School’s Director of Education, Nicole Finnicum. “It’s a treat to be able to delve into subjects that they are already familiar with. There have been so many interesting questions, valuable conversations, and fun moments this week,” she added. 

 A puffer fish. 

A puffer fish. 

The mission of Culver-Stockton College is to prepare students of promise for a dynamic world through a distinctive experiential curriculum within a supportive learning community. Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org.

 Participants practiced using a salinity refractometer. 

Participants practiced using a salinity refractometer. 

 When on Sanibel, it is important to have your photo taken with a crab. 

When on Sanibel, it is important to have your photo taken with a crab. 

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Make Your Summer an Adventure!

 Cayo Costa Adventure Week participants will camp on Cayo Costa. 

Cayo Costa Adventure Week participants will camp on Cayo Costa. 

Cayo Costa Adventure Week is the newest addition to our summer camp schedule. Teens ages 14-18 are invited to join us for an active and thoughtful week spent on a remote island. We chatted with program leader Char Cadow about what campers can expect. 


CCA Week was just added to Sanibel Sea School's teen programs for Summer 2018. What's it all about? 
CCA Week is all about adventuring & exploring, discovering & creating, relaxing and having fun, all while staying on Cayo Costa - it's a few islands north of Sanibel and very natural and undeveloped!

How will we spend our days?
We'll have opportunities to go stand up paddle boarding, snorkeling, go on shell walks, hike around on the trails, read, watercolor, play music, discover both the terrestrial and marine ecosystems, practice yoga, cast some fishing lines, and anything else our group is excited about!

Part of the week is spent camping at Cayo Costa State Park. How will we get there? How many nights will we stay? What are the sleeping conditions like? 
We'll spend Monday on Sanibel, paddling in the canals and prepping for the trip. On Tuesday morning, we'll wrap up any last minute details, and catch a private boat charter up to Cayo Costa. It's about twenty miles by boat to get there, so there's a good chance that we will get to see dolphins, Magnificent Frigatebirds, and a host of other sea-dwelling creatures on the way. When we arrive, we'll catch a tram to our two cabins. We will be staying in cabins 3 & 4, one of which has a large, screened-in porch! The cabins have 3 bunk beds each, complete with mattresses, and a small cooking space. We'll sleep in the cabins on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night, before we catch a boat back to Sanibel. 

 Cayo Costa is an undeveloped island, located about 20 miles north of Sanibel. 

Cayo Costa is an undeveloped island, located about 20 miles north of Sanibel. 

How is Cayo Costa different from Sanibel? 
Cayo Costa is only about 20 miles north of Sanibel, yet it is starkly different. While both islands are barrier islands, Cayo Costa is smaller, with only 9 miles of coastline. However, with the exception of the cabins and a few other state park facilities, there has been no development on the island. It can only be accessed by boat, and therefore has remained in fairly pristine condition. The island has remained more or less unchanged for the last 150 years.

What are we going to eat?
We will be dining in style. Mornings will likely consist of bagels and fruit, and lunches will be sandwich themed. For dinner, we will have a grill, as well as the campfire to cook on. I'd plan on one burrito/taco bowl night (with guacamole, of course!), a curry night, and a stirfry night. In addition, there will be plenty of snack options in between meals.

What will the campers need to bring?
They will need to bring a light sleeping sheet (it will be about 70˚F at night), clothes, rain jackets, headlamps, bug spray, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, toiletries, bathing suits, etc. A comprehensive gear list will be provided to all participants, but essentially everyone will need basic overnight items, and any extra "luxury" items that they can fit into their bags. For example, I'm definitely bringing my guitar, a hammock, and possibly my slackline!

Do you think we might get bored on a remote island?
No way - there's a plethora of things to do. I bet we could easily spend several weeks on Cayo Costa without getting bored. There are trails to hike, shells to collect, coastline to explore via paddle board and snorkel, afternoons to relax and read, mornings to practice yoga, evenings to have campfires and play some music - seriously, there's no limit to the number of things that we could do! 

You mentioned a campfire. Will there be s'mores? 
Oh, there will definitely be s'mores - ever heard of a gourmet s'more? They add a whole new level to the ooey-gooey, chocolatey experience: Substitute Kit-Kats, Reese's, Milky Ways, or Snickers for your classic Hershey's, and voila! Scrumptious!

What do you love about adventures? 
Oh my gosh. I don't even know where to start. Adventuring is sort of like my mantra. When I was young, my parents took me on all sorts of adventures that were full of unexpected surprises. We lived in a ruin in the south of France, and worked to fix it up while we lived amongst the rats and wild dogs; we assembled yurts while the 5 of us lived in a camper in the wilds of northern Vermont; we would go on winter Nordic skiing trips, which once ended with an ice jam that forced us back into the woods, where we harvested the previous night's compost out of the snow - we had to eat something to fuel our bodies, after all!

More recent adventures include a thru-hike of the Appalachian trail, an end-to-end hike of the Long Trail, completing the Teton Crest Trail and the 4-Pass Loop, a section hike of the Arizona trail, and a host of other feats. The common threads in these endeavors include the bonds that you get to make with the people you meet and explore with, the memories, discovering new places, learning about yourself, the unexpected obstacles that require creativity and persistence to overcome, and how good any and all food tastes throughout these experiences!

Thank you, Char!

Cayo Costa Adventure Week is July 16-20, 2018. The cost is $400 per camper, meals and transportation included. This program is open to participants ages 14-18. Scholarships are available upon request. To learn more and register, click here or call (239) 472-8585. 

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Doc Bruce Visits the Captiva Yacht Club

 Dr. Bruce Neill led a beach walk for members of the Captiva Yacht Club. Photo courtesy of Captiva Yacht Club. 

Dr. Bruce Neill led a beach walk for members of the Captiva Yacht Club. Photo courtesy of Captiva Yacht Club. 

Sanibel Sea School’s Executive Director, Dr. Bruce Neill, led a beach walk for members of the Captiva Yacht Club in mid-April. The event has become a post-Easter tradition, and has been organized for the past four years. 

 Photo courtesy of Captiva Yacht Club. 

Photo courtesy of Captiva Yacht Club. 

“We take a walk along the beach and discuss any interesting objects or creatures we find,” said Neill. “This year, we talked about seasonal changes in the ocean and fish migration, which felt appropriate for spring,” he added. Participants were also invited to use a seine net, and children were able to gently hold a pufferfish before releasing it back into the sea. 

 Photo courtesy of Captiva Yacht Club. 

Photo courtesy of Captiva Yacht Club. 

“Many of our Yacht Club families have come to Sanibel Sea School for years, and I enjoy watching the kids learn and grow, and be able to identify creatures. Many are summer campers, so it’s a nice opportunity to touch in with them mid-year,” said Neill. He also explained the value of building partnerships between different organizations in the community, and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to explore the ocean with club members each year. 

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org.

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A Young Student Educates Restaurant Management About Plastic Straws

 Alina met with the vice president of a popular restaurant to discuss disposable plastic straws.  

Alina met with the vice president of a popular restaurant to discuss disposable plastic straws.  

A young ocean advocate named Alina has inspired all of us here at Sanibel Sea School! After attending Coastal Keepers' screening of STRAWS, an educational film about plastic straw pollution, she wrote a letter to the vice president of a well-known restaurant in Washington, DC requesting to meet and discuss the restaurant’s use of disposable plastic straws. He agreed to meet with her, and her message was well-received. From now on, the restaurant will only provide straws upon request, cutting consumption by about half.

Alina’s efforts did not stop there. She broached the topic at her school and provided reusable, stainless-steel straws to her principal and some of her teachers. Alina was then recognized at her school’s assembly, and a group of older children are now starting a similar effort based on her success.

We interviewed Alina about her experience, and why keeping plastic out of the ocean is so important to her. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How old are you, where are you from, what are your hobbies?
I am eight years old. I am from Russia, but I live in Washington, DC. I was adopted when I was just about three. I lived in Sanibel for almost two years and visit every year to go to Sea School. My hobbies are drawing, taking care of animals, playing the piano, horseback riding, biking, scootering, and reading. I am on a swim team too. I joined my very first swim team on Sanibel, SWAT, when I was 5. 

What's your favorite sea creature?
I don't have a favorite sea creature. I love them all.

Where did you learn about the impacts of straws on animals and the environment? 
My mother first taught me not to use plastic straws and plastic bags when I came from Russia. I saw photos in the newspaper and at Sea School this year, I watched a documentary about how straws are bad for the planet. Divers hated seeing straws down in the sea. A turtle was found by divers. It had something in its nose. The divers tried to pull it out and it broke. One of the divers bit on it and it was plastic. The turtle was bleeding and I cried. 

Why did you choose to work with this restaurant? 
I noticed a lot, a lot of straws at this restaurant when I ate there.

Tell us about meeting with the vice president of the restaurant - were you nervous? What did you tell him? How did he respond? 
I wasn't nervous - well, I was when I first saw him, but he turned out to be a really nice man. Once we sat down, I wasn't nervous anymore. I told him that straws are not good for the planet at all and animals get them stuck in their bodies, and I showed him pictures. I told him that he could use bamboo straws. I told him that people don't need straws for water and that the restaurant should wait for people to ask before giving them a straw. He said he feels the same way. He is going to stop putting straws in water automatically, which he said will cut the number of straws used in half. He said I should do this at other restaurants too. 

How does it feel to know that you are making a difference? 
I feel really good because I know I am helping animals. They need help. And I'm helping the ocean. 

What advice would you give other kids who want to stand up for something that is important to them? 
You have to let people know what you feel. You can't hide it. You don't have to be worried. If you meet an adult to talk about something, they will never be mean. Stand up for what you believe in. If nobody ever stood up, we wouldn't be able to make the world a better place. 

Thank you so much, Alina! 

 

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Sanibel Sea School Summer Camp Registration Open Now

 Surfing is a popular activity among Sanibel Sea School campers. 

Surfing is a popular activity among Sanibel Sea School campers. 

Registration for Sanibel Sea School’s summer camp programs is open now, and space is still available for a number of weeks. Camp runs from June 4th to August 24th at three locations – Sanibel Sea School’s Flagship Campus, Sundial Beach Resort, and Canterbury School in Fort Myers. There are programs planned for campers ages 4-18. 

The nonprofit’s summer camps offer a chance for participants to learn about marine biology in a fun setting, while also practicing waterman skills, making art, and spending time with friends. “Favorite camp activities include surfing, snorkeling, crafts, and any sort of dissection,” said Camp Coordinator Nicole Finnicum. “We have a surfing competition at the end of each week, which campers always look forward to, and we also take so many great field trips to explore the ocean,” she added.

Currently, there is space available in Pea-Sized Pufferfish Week, a program specifically for 4-6 year olds, a coral reef expedition to the Florida Keys for 11-12 year olds, an expedition to Belize for teens ages 15-18, as well as a variety of camps for 6-13 year olds, each with its own ocean-related theme. 

For details and registration information, please visit sanibelseaschool.org/sanibel-camps or call (239) 472-8585. Scholarships are available upon request. Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time.

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Sanibel Sea School Partners With Child Care of Southwest Florida

 Char Cadow used a seine net with CCSWFL students. 

Char Cadow used a seine net with CCSWFL students. 

Sanibel Sea School has partnered with Child Care of Southwest Florida (CCSWFL) to provide meaningful ocean learning opportunities for landlocked children in our region. Kids in CCSWFL’s after school programs will interact with the Sea School’s marine science educators twice each month, once in their classroom and once during a field-based experience at the beach. The group enjoyed its first visit to Causeway Islands Park in mid-March.

During the field trip, participants had a chance to swim and practice using a seine net. They caught and released pinfish, Atlantic silversides, and comb jellies. “I’ve never seen a group so excited to try the net,” said educator Char Cadow. “These kids would have seined all day, if time allowed,” she added. The students have already started a countdown to the date of their next visit.

This partnership is made possible by Sanibel Sea School’s donor-supported scholarship fund, which also funds partnerships with the Gladiolus Center for Learning and Development, the Heights Foundation, the Pine Manor Improvement Association, the PACE Center for Girls, Lee and Hendry County Schools, and others. Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. Learn more at sanibelseaschool.org. CCSWFL’s mission is to strengthen and enhance the lives of children and their families by providing affordable and exceptional childhood education and nutrition. More information is available at ccswfl.org.

 

 

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After School Surfing Returns in April

 Kids can learn to surf at Sanibel Sea School. 

Kids can learn to surf at Sanibel Sea School. 

On Wednesday afternoons in April from 3:30 to 5:30, Sanibel Sea School will offer surfing lessons for students ages 6-13. Participants will have an opportunity to learn how to surf for the first time, or to improve their existing skills. 

“In this program, we will teach proper paddling techniques, how to maneuver the surfboard through the water, and how to pop up and catch a wave,” said Director of Education Nicole Finnicum. “Surfing is a great way to connect with the ocean in an active way, and we think every Florida kid should know how to do it,” she added. 

Pick up and drop off for this program will be at Sanibel Sea School’s Flagship Campus, located at 455 Periwinkle Way. The cost is $36 per child per session. Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more and register, visit sanibelseaschool.org or call (239) 472-8585. 

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Staff Spotlight: Kalli Unthank

Help us welcome Kalli Unthank, the newest member of our education team. Kalli is an enthusiastic science educator who will be managing our Sundial campus. Learn more about her below. 


 Kalli Unthank

Kalli Unthank

Where are you from?
I'm from Louisville, KY, sometimes called "the Portland, OR of the south." We're pretty hip.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I studied marine science at Jacksonville University, then I went to Florida International University and earned my M.S. in Geosciences. 

Is there something about working at Sanibel Sea School that you are looking most forward to? 
I'm really looking forward to creating fun and exciting relationships with everyone. I love meeting new people and getting them excited about the ocean and science in general!

What do you like to do during your time off?
I love doing anything outside, especially if it involves the water! 

Favorite sea creature?
Peacock flounders. Their eyes are so funky and I love watching them change colors as they move through the ocean.

What's the best music for a weekend at the beach?
Any upbeat music that gets you moving!

If you could visit any marine ecosystem on the planet, where would you go?
I would go to The Blue Hole in Belize, or anywhere else with Elkhorn Coral. It's so beautiful but so endangered now. 

Is there anything else you'd like to share about yourself?
I've spent most of my time on the east coast of Florida, so I'm looking forward to exploring the west coast.

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Sanibel Sea School’s Octifest Raises Funds to Support Ocean Education

 Guests at Octifest 2018 enjoyed sunset views. 

Guests at Octifest 2018 enjoyed sunset views. 

Sanibel Sea School’s annual fundraiser, Octifest, was held Sunday, March 11th in a big top tent on Causeway Island A. The event was attended by nearly 200 guests, and raised funds that will support ocean outreach programs, provide scholarships to students in need, and help the organization purchase needed supplies for its field-based classes and camps.

“We are very grateful to have the support of the Sanibel community,” said the Sea School’s Development Director, Chrissy Basturk. “We are surrounded by people who understand the importance of sharing meaningful ocean experiences with students.” All fundraising goals were exceeded during this year’s event, which will make it possible for Sanibel Sea School to grant more scholarships than ever before in 2018. 

“We partner with many schools and partner organizations throughout the year to bring landlocked kids to Sanibel to learn about the ocean, often at no cost to them,” said Basturk. “The money raised at Octifest means we are always able to say yes when we receive scholarship and outreach program requests from individual families and teachers.” Sanibel Sea School will add a new, scholarship-funded outreach program with Child Care of Southwest Florida to its schedule beginning this month.

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org. 

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Free Community Seminars at Sanibel Sea School 

Sanibel Sea School will offer two Community Seminars in March. The first, Fracking Explained, will be taught by geologist Connie Jump, and will be held on March 15th at 4 PM. The second seminar is titled Making Better Nature Photos, and will be led by photographer Cliff Beittel on March 22nd at 4 PM. Both are free opportunities for community members to learn about a new topic or skill. 

 
 Connie Jump

Connie Jump

 

Fracking Explained will cover the history of fracking, as well as why, how, and where it is carried out today. While fracking is a controversial topic, this event is intended as a technical information session only, and will not be formatted as a debate. Jump is retired after more than 30 years of experience in the oil industry, and wants to support people in becoming more knowledgeable and informed about the environmental issues they care about. 

 
 Cliff Beittel (photo by James Craner)

Cliff Beittel (photo by James Craner)

 

Cliff Beittel is an acclaimed bird photographer, and will offer participants tips to capture the best possible nature photos with the equipment they have available. Topics will include how to choose a camera, the basics of capturing a good photo, lighting, timing, subjects, and more. This is a perfect seminar for anyone who would like to improve their photography skills. 

All Community Seminars will be held at Sanibel Sea School, located at 455 Periwinkle Way. No reservations are necessary. Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org or call (239) 472-8585.  

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Sanibel Sea School to Offer Free Guided Beach Walk in March

 Sanibel Sea School offers a free guided beach walk for community members each month. 

Sanibel Sea School offers a free guided beach walk for community members each month. 

On Saturday, March 10th, Sanibel Sea School will offer a free community beach walk. The walk will be guided by Walter Cheatham, a marine educator who is also the organization's outdoor education coordinator. This event will provide an opportunity for participants to learn about some of the items that commonly wash ashore on our beaches. 

"I love guiding beach walks, because you never know what the ocean has in store. We find something new and different every time," said Cheatham. "I also like to challenge people to find things I can't identify, and I encourage everyone to ask lots of questions," he added. 

To join the walk, meet at Sanibel Sea School's Flagship Campus (455 Periwinkle Way) at 9 AM. The event will last approximately 2 hours, but you are welcome to come and go at your leisure. All ages are welcome, but children must be accompanied by an adult. Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean's future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org

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