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Belize 2018: An Expedition to Remember

 Photo: Cameron Hallett

Photo: Cameron Hallett

 Photo: Sanibel Sea School

Photo: Sanibel Sea School

30 July 2018

First of all, we all made it to Blue Creek safe, sound, and tired. After two short flights, a minor paperwork mishap that was quickly resolved in Houston, and a quick trip through customs, we got to the buses around 1:30. As we all got onto the bus for what was to be a 5 ½ hour trip to Blue Creek, we had no idea what lay ahead. We had a great time racing though the Belizean countryside, and the views of the mountains (especially during the sunset) were unbelievable. We had a quick pit stop about an hour in to use the restroom, and the men’s room opened to a small mound of concrete! Not quite what we were expecting, but certainly not the most surprising thing we saw! Fifteen off-tune songs, three large packages of Oreos, several bottles of soda, and three gallons of water later, we arrived at Blue Creek in total darkness. As we pulled up, we were all surprised to see about a hundred people from the nearby village (total population: 450) swarming the doors to the bus asking if they could take our bags! As Doc Bruce put it, “I felt like Mick Jagger coming out of my tour bus!”. We then proceeded to hike for ten minutes by the light of our flashlight through the rainforest until we arrived at our cabins at Blue Creek. There we met the manager Byron and his family, who have been so kind and informative. Following an amazing dinner of chicken, rice, and broccoli we all called it a night and went to bed. Today (Tuesday) we are going to hear from one of the nearby village elders about ethnobotany, go cave snorkeling, and go into the village. It is so beautiful here, and we cannot wait to see what adventures we have along the way.

-Cameron


 Photo: Cameron Hallett

Photo: Cameron Hallett

 Photo: Cameron Hallett

Photo: Cameron Hallett

 Photo: Sanibel Sea School

Photo: Sanibel Sea School

31 July 2018

Our first full day in the rainforest was nothing shy of amazing. We woke up in the lush green rainforest, the sun illuminating the world around us that we had come to in the dark last night. Our campsite is right on the creek, in which the water is clear enough to see all the way to the bottom at the deepest part. The first activity we embarked on was a botany hike. We followed a local shaman through parts of the forest by our camp as he told us about all the different leaves he uses to treat various illnesses. He showed us plants for snake bites, dizziness, kidney health, and fevers. The shaman pulled leaves and bark that are used to make teas. We also had the opportunity to eat some local fruits. The most popular was the fruit of the cacao tree. You can eat the fleshy part which is sweet and tart. The pit inside is what chocolate is made from. They take the pit and dry it so it can be ground up as cacao. Then vanilla and sugar cane is added and the chocolate is put in the fridge to harden. Our hike ended at the shaman’s house where he showed us some of the things he grew: banana, vanilla, sugar cane, lemongrass, and May apple. May apples attract toucans for their sweet taste but unfortunately there were no toucans in the tree. We’re hoping to see some fly above the canopy at sunrise tomorrow. We swam in the creek after our hike, diving off the dock and jumping from the rope swing. The water here is cold but feels refreshing in the humidity. Our next adventure followed a rocky hike up the mountain. We came to a cave in the valley of the mountains with the creek flowing from it. It was totally dark in the cave so we had to bring headlamps and flashlights with us. Going upstream wasn’t as hard as intended, the lifejackets were a huge help for us. Some parts were shallow and walkable and other parts were deep and we had to fight the current to get to a point on the wall we could grab. We followed a local guide who knew the cave like the back of his hand. He knew every underwater rock and hand hold through the rocky maze. One of the coolest parts was when we all turned off our lights. Total darkness consumed us immediately. We sat and listened to the rushing of the water echoing around us. Although our eyes were open, it was as if we were blind. We proceeded deeper into the cave until we reached a rapid that was too strong for us to climb our way through. We then turned around and made our way back, and the rapids were tricky to shimmy down. But once we were out of the cave, everyone agreed that it was by far the coolest thing they had ever done. We said that with confidence only after we had survived the hike and the venture into the cave. Overall, this first day in the rainforest exceeded any expectations I had of what it would be like here in Blue Creek. In closing, I am pleased to report that we are all tired but happy and having a blast.

-Emily


 Photo: Cameron Hallett

Photo: Cameron Hallett

 Photo: Sanibel Sea School

Photo: Sanibel Sea School

 Photo: Sanibel Sea School

Photo: Sanibel Sea School

1 August 2018

Our second day in Belize was more relaxed. In the morning we left camp immediately after breakfast to go on a monkey-spotting hike. We walked down a gorgeous path through the village past all of the houses, including one with a plucked chicken running around the yard. The path continued through rice and corn fields with the Mayan mountains in the distance. As we walked the path slowly disappeared until our guide took out his machete and began hacking at the corn and weeds to create a path in front of us. When we finally made it into the rainforest our guide left to search for the monkeys deeper in the jungle. The rest of us sat in silence on large leaves, brushing the ants off of our feet, and taking in the sounds of the rainforest. After hiking 2.6 miles in the burning sun the sudden downpour was welcome — until everyone was completely soaked and cold. Unfortunately, the rain meant that all of the howler monkeys went to hide, and we returned to Blue Creek. This afternoon a group of people went back to the caves to explore and found a place where part of the creek came out from underground. Upon their return we swam upstream to the rapids and climbed up to take advantage of the natural jacuzzi and massage. After dinner we learned how to play the game Mao — where the only rule is that you cannot say the rules of the game. At the end of the day we are all enjoying our time at Blue Creek Lodge.

-Rowan


 Photo: Cameron Hallett

Photo: Cameron Hallett

 Photo: Sanibel Sea School

Photo: Sanibel Sea School

 Photo: Sanibel Sea School

Photo: Sanibel Sea School

 Photo: Cameron Hallett

Photo: Cameron Hallett

2 August 2018

This morning, we said goodbye to Blue Creek Lodge and trekked down to the bus which would take us to Dangriga. However, our first stop along the way was a site of Mayan ruins! There was a small room displaying some pottery, stone carvings, and other artifacts recovered, and a short walk led us to a gorgeous forest with the remnants of numerous structures; notably, a couple tombs and a ball court! It was fascinating to get a glimpse into the lives of these people who lived and walked here so long before us, and the view was absolutely stunning. Our next stop was the boat, and after a 45 minute ride, we made it to South Water Caye! As much fun as we had in the rainforest, I think all of us were glad to reach this beautiful place; especially with Reefboy there to greet us! After getting settled in, we went for a snorkel around the reefs relatively close to shore. It was amazing! We saw barracudas, a couple moray eels, stingrays, and a veritable rainbow of parrotfish, angelfish, flounder, and more. The reefs were picturesque, and the water was as clear as glass. It was an incredible afternoon! After our snorkel, we had a relaxing afternoon hanging around the island and researching our species of the day, which we shared after enjoying a fantastic dinner. We're all having a wonderful time and are super excited to see what tomorrow brings!

-ZBQ


 Photo: Cameron Hallett

Photo: Cameron Hallett

 Photo: Cameron Hallett

Photo: Cameron Hallett

 Photo: Sanibel Sea School

Photo: Sanibel Sea School

3 August 2018

I am writing yesterday's update on the morning of August 4th. Most everyone is still asleep and the island is quiet save for a cookin’ sea breeze and some bustle in the kitchen. Peter and Carson are making laps around the island, working on their football conditioning, but mostly, people are still in bed. It’s a peaceful Saturday in Belize. Yesterday was our first full day on South Water Caye, and it is so good to be back here. In the morning, we had breakfast at 8 with fryjacks, eggs, bacon, and pineapple (with accommodations for vegetarians and gluten-free people of course). At 9, we met on the dock, ready for our dive. We took a boat out to our first spot of the trip, called Aquarium, and it was an amazing snorkel. We saw an enormous southern stingray, a little hawksbill turtle, and all sorts of invertebrates in between, such as flamingo’s tongues and brittle stars. It was a good location and we were able to explore different habitats, from the coral itself to seagrass beds. After our dive, we came back in and had an exceptional lunch of fried rice. In the afternoons, how we spend our time is up to us, so Emily and I puttered around right off the docks here and searched for different species of algae, including our favorite of all time, Acetabularia. Everyone at camp enjoyed different snorkels around the island and I know the boys took out some kayaks for some post-lunch exercise. In the later afternoon, Emily and I decided a little siesta wouldn’t hurt anyone and took a nap in some hammocks in the sea breeze. After a nice 40 minute nap, I joined in a rousing game of 3 vs 3 volleyball before dinner. For dinner we had pork chops (or tofu for the veggies), a salad, baked potatoes, and bread pudding. After dinner we shared our best part of the day, worst part of the day, and what surprised us the most. Then we shared our Species of the Day, which is an interesting, educational part of the evening. I, personally, like to see the different species that people pick and why they pick them. In the evening, Emily and I tried to challenge Nicole and Bruce as reigning Euchre champions and got absolutely slaughtered with a score of 0-11. After our disappointing game, we went out and stargazed on the docks for a while before some of us headed in for an early bedtime. There is so little light pollution out here that you can actually see a large chunk of the milky way. It is truly one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever be, in my opinion. There are so many stars, the constellations just fade away and blend in. We counted shooting stars until we almost fell asleep before moving into our beds.

-Emma


 Photo: Cameron Hallett

Photo: Cameron Hallett

 Photo: Cameron Hallett

Photo: Cameron Hallett

4 August 2018

This morning everyone woke up fairly early, no one slept in later than 7. We worked on our species of the day then had an amazing breakfast. Then we hopped on a boat and snorkeled at a beautiful reef. We saw nurse sharks, lionfish, a little stingray, and many colorful fish. I took a surprising nap on the bumpy boat ride back to South Water Caye. Everyone felt gross after being in the salt water so everyone took a shower. After that, everyone ate lunch and discussed our solider hermit crab projects. I then went on my independent snorkel and saw many Cassiopeia. Then I chilled in a hammock talking to people about what they saw on their independent snorkel. They saw Cassiopeia, bonefish and barracuda. We then all ate dinner and discussed our species of the day and now I am finishing up this email.

-Carson


 Photo: Cameron Hallett

Photo: Cameron Hallett

 Photo: Sanibel Sea School

Photo: Sanibel Sea School

5 August 2018

This morning I woke up rejuvenated from a great night's sleep, and we had a great breakfast thanks to the amazing staff at South Water Caye. After the breakfast we had some free time to kill before we took a short boat ride to Carrie Bow Caye, the closest island to us and an established field station housing some of the finest marine biologists in the world. After meeting some of the biologists and taking a tour of the station we parted ways and took another short ride to the reef right off the island. We encountered many species I personally have never seen in the wild such as the spotted eagle ray and my favorite a juvenile trunkfish. We also encountered a nurse shark and smaller rays as well as many colorful and beautiful reef fish. After coming back from the snorkel we had a fantastic lunch once again because of the amazing staff, and now had another block of free time to either work on your species of the day or go for an independent snorkel. On this snorkel I had fun playing with the puppy-like bonefish and some baby Cassiopeia as well as some cute yellow rays. After coming back we chilled in the awesome hammocks enjoying each other's company and the sea breeze, after being awoken from a quick nap it was dinner time and we had a great family dinner and introduced our species of the day and that leads to now me writing this email. 

-Peter


 Photo: Cameron Hallett

Photo: Cameron Hallett

 Photo: Sanibel Sea School

Photo: Sanibel Sea School

 Photo: Sanibel Sea School

Photo: Sanibel Sea School

6 August 2018

A bunch of the girls woke up early this morning to go to the classroom available to us. There we like to work on our species of the day, art projects, and figuring out what species latin/ scientific name we wish to memorize and present. After about an hour of working we had breakfast, every meal break has been amazing and today we had chocolate chip pancakes. After breakfast we all hurried to get ready because we had to leave for our morning snorkel earlier than we are used to. Today we snorkeled the four reef slope, the front side of the barrier reef. We were all super excited for today's snorkel since we had never snorkeled that side of the island before. When we hopped off the boat we were greeted with a deeper, and a very different coral reef than we had ever seen. The ocean was a bit on the rougher side so most of us just let the waves push us along as we gazed at schools of discofish and black durgeon (a particular favorite of mine). Once again we saw a spotted eagle ray and some saw some squids, overall it was an amazing dive with different species than we had been seeing. After the morning snorkel, we came back to the island and ate lunch, after lunch we had free time to work on our projects, do our independent snorkel and just chill out. A few of us had fun during this time looking for shells to make into necklaces. We all came to dinner a half an hour early to present our species of the day, we did this because right after dinner we would be embarking on our night snorkel. The night snorkel presented a whole new world. We went out to the patch reef we had snorkeled the first day, but it had completely changed in the night, nocturnal creatures now sat on top of the coral heads and we were able to see multiple octopuses, squid, plankton and shrimp. One octopus we were looking at for awhile kept camouflaging itself right before our eyes, and it was incredible. When we got back to the island we all finished up our hermit crab experiments, and fell asleep easily after a long fun day. We are all sad that tomorrow is our last full day at the island, but also happy to get home as well. 

-Avery

 Photo: Sanibel Sea School

Photo: Sanibel Sea School

 Photo: Sanibel Sea School

Photo: Sanibel Sea School

 Photo: Sanibel Sea School

Photo: Sanibel Sea School

 

 

 

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Sanibel Sea School Campers Learn About Gators, Needlefish, and Algal Blooms

The harmful algal blooms we are currently experiencing in our area required camp counselors at Sanibel Sea School to improvise daily during Crocs and Gators Week and Needlefish Week. Campers were unable to engage in water-based activities, so camp staff organized many inland games and experiences, often with help from fellow non-profits and businesses on Sanibel.

“Thanks to our community, camp participants were able to enjoy a great week of camp despite the poor water conditions,” said counselor Sam Lucas. Activities included art and games at Sanibel Sea School’s Flagship Campus and Sundial Beach Resort & Spa location, as well as field trips to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s visitor center and wildlife drive, SCCF, and Periwinkle Park Campground. “We’re so grateful to everyone who invited us to visit and offered to help in other ways,” Lucas added.

Counselors also organized lessons to help campers better understand harmful algal blooms and why they occur. Each group collected a water sample using a plankton net, then used a microscope to look for Karenia brevis (red tide) cells. A sample collected at the Buttonwood Lane bayside beach access contained a high concentration of cells.

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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Water Quality: Make Your Voice Heard

Below you will find a list of representatives to contact about our water quality issues. Take a few minutes to share your thoughts with them via phone, email, or snail mail. Not sure what to write? Here are a few ideas:

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Why do Plankton Bloom?

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Why do Plankton Bloom?

Why do Plankton Bloom?

Phytoplankton live in an extremely uncertain world.  The ocean is very spatially and temporally heterogenous – it can be thought of as a 3-D patchwork quilt, with fairly distinct bodies of water adjacent to, but not fully mixing with, one another…

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What are Blue-green Algae?

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What are Blue-green Algae?

Blue-Green Algae

Blue-green algae are bacteria are capable of carrying out photosynthesis, they are classified as cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria are extremely diverse and different species occupy almost all habitable locations on Earth…


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What is Red Tide?

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What is Red Tide?

We want to help people understand the ocean. This is the first installment of a series to inform people about red tide and harmful algal blooms currently affecting Southwest Florida.

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New Vessel Delivered to Sanibel Sea School

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New Vessel Delivered to Sanibel Sea School

Sanibel Sea School recently signed for the delivery of a new boat, called The Ripple Effect. The 25’ custom built Trident pontoon can access shallow areas that are great for wading and snorkeling, and will be used during the organization’s educational marine science programs…

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Calusa Week at Sanibel Sea School

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Calusa Week at Sanibel Sea School

Calusa Week, a week in celebration of the Native Americans who were the earliest known inhabitants of Florida’s southwest coast, is a favorite among Sanibel Sea School campers each summer. The Calusa were fierce, strong seafarers and their history can teach us many things about how to coexist with the sea. Participants explored their culture from various angles, retracing their footsteps to become young ocean warriors…

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Adventures on Big Pine Key

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Adventures on Big Pine Key

During Coral Reef Week 2, a group of 35 13-15 year olds (along with a whole crew of Sanibel Sea School staff members) ventured to Big Pine Key for a week of camping and coral reef exploration. We thought it would be best if they told you about it themselves…

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A Whale Shark Mystery

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A Whale Shark Mystery

Last week, one of our most majestic sea creatures, a 26’ whale shark, washed ashore dead on Sanibel Island. Whale sharks are the largest species of fish on the planet, and they are filter feeders, meaning they strain plankton from the ocean – the proverbial gentle giant…

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Sanibel Salad: Sea Purslane

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Sanibel Salad: Sea Purslane

When your mind is focused on setting up for a day at the beach, it can be easy to overlook the vegetation as you make your way to the sand. But next time you venture through the dunes, look down and you’ll probably spot a patch or two of beautiful sea purslane. This edible plant is not only delicious (when prepared properly), it is also native to Sanibel and plays an important role in Florida’s coastal ecosystem. Read on to learn more…

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Hatchling Week for the Little Ones at Sanibel Sea School

A group of tiny campers, ages 4-6, recently attended Hatchling Week at Sanibel Sea School. The week was dedicated to learning about baby animals that begin life in an egg – like shorebirds, sea turtles, and alligators. Participants had fun building nests, playing games, and celebrating some of Sanibel’s cutest creatures.

Hatchling campers played a matching game to identify different types of animal eggs, screeched like young alligators calling for their mamas during an exciting round of Hide and Seek Gator, and ran an egg and spoon relay race.

Sea turtle hatchlings must emerge from their nests and make a short but challenging journey to the sea, so campers played “Escape to the Sea” to find out what that must be like. They also made egg art, tested different ways to protect eggs from breaking, went snorkeling, and looked at fish eggs under a microscope.

As usual, there was also plenty of surfboard paddling, macramé tying, and time spent with camp friends. 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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Sanibel Sea School Launches Fundraiser for A Safer Sanibel

 Sanibel Sea School's vehicles are often parked in public areas where the need for an AED could arise. 

Sanibel Sea School's vehicles are often parked in public areas where the need for an AED could arise. 

Sanibel Sea School has launched an internet-based campaign to raise the funds necessary to purchase automated external defibrillators (AEDs) for each of the organization’s vehicles and boats. AEDs are an essential piece of life saving first-aid equipment, used to treat victims of sudden cardiac arrest by restoring the heart’s normal rhythm.

“All of our educators are trained and certified as emergency first responders,” said Sanibel Sea School’s development director, Chrissy Basturk. “They spend almost every day exploring the island with kids, and they have a wide presence on public beaches as well as on the water. They want to contribute to making Sanibel safer by having AEDs readily available in case of an emergency situation,” she added. Each vehicle and boat would be clearly marked to let the public know that the machine is available on board. 

We hope we will never need to use an AED to treat a client or a citizen, but we also realize that it could mean the difference between life and death.
— Emmett Horvath, Marine Science Educator

Basturk explained that marine educator Emmett Horvath first approached her with the idea. Horvath felt strongly that he and other teachers should have access to a full range of life saving tools. “Safety is our number one priority at Sanibel Sea School, and we take it very seriously. Our training is much less effective without the proper equipment,” Horvath said.

According to Tim Barrett, Training Captain at the Sanibel Fire Department, sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the United States. More than 350,000 cases occur outside of the hospital each year, and only 12 percent of those victims survive. A fast first-aid response is key. “It is important for companies and organizations to implement AED programs so employees are prepared to respond to a cardiac emergency,” said Barrett.

 Sanibel Sea School's educators, including Emmett Horvath (pictured), would like to equip the organization's vehicles and boats with AEDs.

Sanibel Sea School's educators, including Emmett Horvath (pictured), would like to equip the organization's vehicles and boats with AEDs.

“We hope we will never need to use an AED to treat a client or a citizen, but we also realize that it could mean the difference between life and death. This project is really about supporting our community members,” said Horvath.

Sanibel Sea School has created a fundraising page on Mightycause.com, and donations can be made with just a few clicks. To learn more and contribute, please visit mightycause.com/story/asafersanibel

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Marine Worms, Rollin’ Tarpon, and Expeditions for Teens at Sanibel Sea School

Campers at Sanibel Sea School enjoyed Rockin’ and Rollin’ Tarpon Week at the organization’s Sanibel campus last week, while others studied the fascinating world of marine worms at Canterbury School in Fort Myers. Older participants left for an expedition to the Florida Keys to explore coral reefs, and outdoor enthusiasts attended a Florida Wilderness Camp. 

Tarpon Week was all about the beloved “Silver King”, and campers celebrated these large-eyed fish with tarpon scale tie dye, snorkeling sessions in tarpon habitat, and crafting life-size tarpon sand sculptures. Tarpon are known to gulp air, which they store in their modified swim bladder to use when oxygen levels get low in the water. So of course we played our own air gulping game (with a little bit of help from some bubbles). There were also games like tarpon tug-of-war and a tarpon rodeo. 

Wiggly Worm Week participants jumped in to the world of marine worms, trudging through the muck in search of lugworms, flatworms, tubeworms, and feather duster worms. They visited Bunche Beach for a worm hunt, dissected worms, ran a worm relay race, and made some fabulous tubeworm art. 

Teen campers made the journey to Big Pine Key to snorkel on a coral reef, participate in daily science labs, and camp under the stars. A second group practiced survival skills and earned their Wilderness First Aid certifications during Florida Wilderness Camp. 

As usual, there was also plenty of time for surfing, macrame tying, and hanging out with camp friends. 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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Submarine Snails and Fishing at Sanibel Sea School        

Campers at Sanibel Sea School recently spent a week learning about lettered olives and other super submarine snails. The organization also hosted a fishing camp for teens, offering older attendees a chance to learn waterman skills that can be enjoyed year round.

Submarine Snail Week was all about tiny gastropods that spend their days burrowing in the wet sand. Lettered olives can be found buried in shallow areas just beneath the low tide line, poking their siphons out to sniff for tasty clams. Campers built their own snail trails, snorkeled in the subtidal zone, and observed live lettered olives feeding in Sanibel Sea School’s aquarium. They also designed submarines, wrote and shared stories about lettered olives, and created a float for the Sanibel 4th of July parade. “We were very inspired by the week’s theme, so we made our float look like a submarine and named it the U.S.S. Gastropod,” said counselor Emma Neill.

Fishing Week participants practiced useful skills like knot tying, fly crafting, and net weaving. They also learned how to use cast nets and seine nets, along with more traditional fishing rods, and fished in a variety of different habitats. During a much needed break from the sun, group leader Emmett Horvath taught campers how to create tie dye in a fish scale pattern.

As usual, there was also plenty of time for surfing, macramé tying, and hanging out with camp friends. 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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​​​​​​​Diving Ospreys and Walking Batfish at Sanibel Sea School

Campers at Sanibel Sea School enjoyed exploring two fascinating coastal creatures during Fishin’ With Osprey Week at the organization’s flagship campus on Sanibel, and Going Batty for Batfish Week at Canterbury School in Fort Myers. 

Ospreys are fishing birds, with fish making up about 99% of their diet, so each camp group spent lots of time fishing with seine nets and cast nets. Participants had a chance to observe an active Osprey nest through binoculars, then they built a life-sized replica using natural materials gathered on the beach. There was also a birdwatching field trip to “Ding” Darling, a canoe trip to observe Ospreys in their habitat, and an exciting obstacle course. 

Batfish Week campers learned about these strange fish with modified pectoral fins that help them walk along the bottom of the sea. Often found in seagrass beds, sandy areas, mud, and rubble, they feed on crustaceans, mollusks and worms. Batfish have a special lure to attract their prey, so participants crafted their own lures and attempted to attract fish into their nets. They also ran a batfish-themed relay race, snorkeled in batfish habitat, and made batty batfish art. 

As usual, there was plenty of time for surfboard paddling, macramé tying, and hanging out with camp friends. 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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Dolphins, Pufferfish, and Epic Paddles at Sanibel Sea School

Sanibel Sea School’s third week of summer camp was all about Dolphins at the organization’s Canterbury School campus, while younger campers learned about pufferfish during Pea-Sized Puffer Week on Sanibel. An all-female paddling camp, called Wahine Toa Week, also challenged participants to test their limits both on and off the water.  

Campers in Whistlin’ for Dolphins Week enjoyed the pod life, practicing echolocation and experimenting with underwater sounds and vibrations. Dolphins are top predators that eat about 5% of their body weight each day, so each group seined for fish to take a closer look at some of these charismatic marine mammals’ prey species. Monofin races and dolphin sculpting completed what was already a pretty fantastic week. 

Pea-Sized Puffer Week was for pea-sized campers, and the 4 to 6 year olds who attended were treated to so much fun in the sun. Campers tied on their personal flotation devices and headed out into the Gulf to drift like puffed-up puffers. They found a few puffers and burrfish in the seagrass, and had a chance to take a closer look. Pea-sized participants also made a giant papier-mâché puffer fish, played camouflage games, and learned how puffers use their fused front teeth to pick up tasty bivalves and crustaceans.

Wahine Toa Week campers spent the week celebrating girl power by practicing their paddling and survival skills, camping on a remote island, and completing an epic paddle from the Sanibel Causeway to Fort Myers Beach. They also made their own sourdough bagels, enjoyed with a side of sunrise views on Friday morning.

As usual, each week included surfing, macramé tying, and plenty of time spent bonding with camp friends. 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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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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