Students from the Gladiolus Center for Learning and Development visited Sanibel Sea School for an afternoon of ocean exploration. 

Students from the Gladiolus Center for Learning and Development visited Sanibel Sea School for an afternoon of ocean exploration. 

Octifest on the Beach, Sanibel Sea School’s annual ocean celebration and fundraiser, will once again be held bayside on Causeway Island A. The event will take place on Saturday, April 8th, and will support the many community outreach programs offered by the nonprofit organization, including scholarships for local children to attend ocean summer camps and day programs.  

Manatee Elementary students received a scholarship to visit Sanibel Sea School, where they surfed to learn about the physics of waves. 

Manatee Elementary students received a scholarship to visit Sanibel Sea School, where they surfed to learn about the physics of waves. 

“There is a huge need for meaningful, field-based ocean education in Southwest Florida,” says Dr. Bruce Neill, who opened Sanibel Sea School in 2006 with his wife, Evelyn Monroe Neill. “Each year, we receive more and more requests for scholarships from teachers and individuals who want their children to experience scientific discovery and the wonders of the sea through our programs. We hold Octifest to ensure that we can always say yes.” So far, Sanibel Sea School has never allowed financial circumstances to prevent a school group or family from participating. 

Manatee Elementary students also participated in a squid dissection lab.

Manatee Elementary students also participated in a squid dissection lab.

Over the past decade, Sanibel Sea School has forged strong partnerships with local organizations including the Heights Foundation, Pine Manor Improvement Association, Gladiolus Center for Learning and Development, and PACE Center for Girls, bringing hundreds of at-risk kids to experience Sanibel’s waters each year. They also work with numerous inland schools in Lee and Hendry Counties. “We call these our landlocked kids,” says Neill, “they live just a few miles from the coast, but some have never set foot on the beach. Showing these kids a sea urchin or a dolphin for the first time is pure magic – it opens their minds to a whole new world.”

Henry County students from Mrs. Akin's class examine a jellyfish during a field trip to the Causeways Islands. 

Henry County students from Mrs. Akin's class examine a jellyfish during a field trip to the Causeways Islands. 

It is thanks to support from the local community that Sanibel Sea School is able to provide these outreach programs, which are fully funded by donors. Octifest is the largest source of funds for the organization each year. “We hope you will come out to enjoy the sunset, eat a delicious meal, and help us continue to do great things for our oceans and our kids,” Neill says. 

Sanibel Sea School is a marine conservation nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more about Octifest or to purchase tickets, visit octifest.org or call 239-472-8585.

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