Students from the Sanibel School visited Sanibel Sea School to participate in the nonprofit organization’s long-term study of our island’s sand dollar population. Dr. Terrie Kielborn and 24 of her students in grades 6-8 joined the Sea School’s marine educators to collect and measure sand dollars near the Colony Beach Access on Sanibel’s east end.
After a brief introduction to basic research techniques, participants conducted quadrat samples, which can help scientists determine the size and abundance of sand dollars in a population. After they completed the field-based portion of the research, they also practiced computer data entry and were introduced to some of the tools used to analyze the frequency and monthly growth of the sand dollars in the study. “I have dreamed of two things,” said Dr. Kielborn, “First, to have class at the beach, and second, for my students to have the opportunity to conduct real scientific research using scientific tools. This was clearly my best day ever as a teacher of 39 years!”
“Our sand dollar study is an ongoing project, and we designed it to provide plenty of opportunities for community participation,” said Carley Todd, an educator at Sanibel Sea School. “We have adult volunteers, local and visiting students, and a number of school groups that assist with this research regularly. There are even a few high school students carrying out their own mini-studies for next year’s science fair.” She also expressed her enthusiasm for this new partnership with the Sanibel School.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to work with kids who live and learn on our island. It was really cool to see their excitement grow after every sand dollar they found, and to expose them to the wonders that can be found right in their backyard. I’m looking forward to our next outing with this group,” she said. Todd hopes that this early exposure to real research will inspire some of the Sanibel School students she works with to develop a life-long love for marine science.
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.