Sanibel Programs

Learn about ocean activities for kids, adults, and families at our Sanibel campus.





Sanibel Programs

Learn about ocean activities for kids, adults, and families at our Sanibel campus.




Marine Conservation Through Experiential Education

There's nothing better than a day of discovery on the ocean. Come get your feet wet with us as we explore Sanibel's unique marine habitats. Maybe we'll find a seahorse in the seagrass, spot a manatee or two, or discover some tiny creatures that live between the grains of sand. You're sure to leave Sanibel Sea School with ocean memories that will last a lifetime!

Looking for programs at Sundial?



Our courses for children include fun activities like snorkeling, surfing, swimming, and fishing.




Our courses for children include fun activities like snorkeling, surfing, swimming, and fishing.



Sanibel Courses (ages 6 – 13)

Come and enjoy the best part of your vacation and perhaps one of the best experiences you've ever had!

Typically, 20 students per day are enrolled in our courses. On rare occasions, we add resources to accommodate a maximum of 30 students. Students are divided into groups of approximately 10 students per adult lead educator. Interns and volunteers assist educators in the classroom and in the field.

Each day, two subjects of study are offered. The first is covered in the morning, and the second in the afternoon following lunch. At the end of each course, every student receives a Certificate of Mastery that outlines what we accomplished.

Lunch: We take a break and enjoy lunch in-between the morning and afternoon courses. If you’re unable to bring a lunch, a basic deli lunch may be purchased. Children with special dietary needs should bring additional or alternative sustenance.

Looking for learning opportunities the whole family can enjoy? Click here to learn more. 

Please note: our course calendars are published at least one month in advance - the March calendar is posted by January 31st, April calendar is posted February 28th, etc.

NEW: Sea Squirts - Ocean Education for the Little Ones (ages 4 - 6)

Offered seasonally, please check calendar for availability
Ages 4-6, children must be bathroom independent

Sanibel Sea School is excited to add ocean education classes for our youngest ocean explorers. Just like our classes for the big kids, we’ll have a different theme each week that we will explore – there will be crabbing, rock flipping, and traipsing through mangrove muck. We’re going to learn about our favorite sea creatures like dolphins and sea turtles and of course, go on field trips during each class. 

What to Bring

  • Swimsuit
  • Sunblock (we ask that you do not bring sunblock in a spray bottle - it gets in eyes, can ruin equipment and clothing, and isn't great for the environment)
  • Hat 
  • Wading shoes* 
  • Bug repellent 
  • Towel 
  • A bag for shells or fossils, if you'd like
  • Jacket if you easily get chilled in a light wind

Don't bring disposable water bottles: Single-use disposable water bottles are a real problem for our planet. We don't allow these types of water bottles on our campuses. The islands of Sanibel and Captiva have great drinking water. We can provide you with a loaner reusable water bottle, or you can purchase one from us to help remind you of your time with us. In your day-to-day life, please find ways to reduce the use of single-use disposable water bottles.



Full-day, no lunch $110
Half-day, no lunch $55

Refund policy: Please click here to view our Day Program Cancellation Policy. 

Click here to download a PDF of our course descriptions. 

*Flip-flops and slip-on sandals are not great shoes for wading, because they often fall off in the water. We recommend shoes that are specifically designed to get wet, with a heel and toe that fit snugly over the foot. 


Adult Programs

Whether you're interested in fishing, birding, or learning about marine biology, we offer an activity for everyone.





Adult Programs

Whether you're interested in fishing, birding, or learning about marine biology, we offer an activity for everyone.





Ocean Discoveries for Grown Ups

We will announce our 2018-2019 adult learning opportunities in the fall - please check back then for updates. In the meantime, you can browse last year's offerings below. 

Throughout the year, Sanibel Sea School offers a variety of classroom and field-based learning opportunities for adults. Join us for a boat trip, learn to cast a net, or hold a tiny sea horse in the palm of your hands. No matter which course you choose, you're sure to experience Sanibel in a whole new way!

Adult courses are open to students ages 18 and up. Students who are 15 and older may register if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian over the age of 18. 

We also offer customizable programs for groups and families of all ages!

2018 Winter Workshops for Adults: Continuing Education for the Ocean Curious

Beginning in January, Sanibel Sea School will offer two four-week workshops for adults. Similar to an upper level college course, these series are designed to provide an in-depth examination of the subject matter in a relaxed academic setting. Students are encouraged to engage in discussion and critical thinking with instructors and peers as we build our knowledge together. Each session will include classroom and field-based components. It is possible to enroll in individual sessions, but we encourage participants to take full advantage of this learning opportunity by registering for the full series. 

Open to students ages 18 and up. Individuals ages 15 and up may attend if they are accompanied by an adult. There are no prerequisites, but students should have a strong interest in the topic. 

Cost: $75 per session or $300 per series
(Please note: To register for the full series, you must add each individual session to your cart.)

Birds of the Beach

Instructors: Nicole Finnicum, M.S. and Johnny Rader
Dates: 1/24, 1/31, 2/7, 2/14
9 AM - 12 PM

Sanibel's shorelines are home to numerous species of birds that can often be observed darting in and out of the surf or perched in the mangroves. Many of these species are similar in appearance, and some tend to congregate in mixed groups. Certain species also experience multiple plumage phases throughout the year – all factors that can make proper identification a challenge. During this course, we will learn key identification skills, examine the biological reasons for specific bird behaviors, and investigate avian migration patterns. Each session will focus on one bird category – woodland birds, waders and divers, shorebirds, and gulls and terns. Upon completion of this workshop, participants will be able to identify most of the birds we encounter here on Sanibel, and will have considerable knowledge of each species’ biology and habits. Join us for four weeks of fun, intensive ornithology! 

About the Instructors:

Nicole Finnicum, M.Sc. earned her master’s degree in environmental studies after conducting research on the effects of urbanization on avian species diversity in Scotland. She is an avid birder and naturalist with years of field-based teaching experience in Southwest Florida. Johnny Rader has a bachelor’s degree in wildlife conservation biology from Ohio University. He is an experienced environmental educator with a passion for birding, and has taught numerous birdwatching courses in Florida and the Bahamas.

Activity Level: Moderate
Approximately one hour will be spent in the classroom, followed by two hours in the field. Participants will walk along roads and/or beaches at a relaxed pace.

January 24th: Common Woodland Birds

Example species: Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler

When we think of birds on Sanibel, those species associated with the ocean are usually the first to come to mind. However, there is a high diversity of woodland perching birds that breed, nest, and forage on the island. During this course, we will focus on identifying these often hard to see birds and learn how they utilize our island environment as their habitat.

January 31st: Waders and Divers

Example species: Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, Brown Pelican, Osprey

Wading and diving birds provide an excellent opportunity to discuss how different species utilize very different strategies to catch prey. This class will focus on carnivorous birds that engage in visual hunting and tactile hunting. We’ll discuss how some species have adaptations to avoid getting wet when hunting, and others dive talon-first into the water. We’ll focus on birds in the egret and heron family, as well as osprey and pelicans.

February 7th: Shorebirds

Example species: Ruddy Turnstone, Willet, Snowy Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Sanderling

Commonly known as peeps, shorebirds can be difficult to identify because of their very similar shapes and coloration. This course will summarize the most common shorebird species we find on Sanibel, and we will hone in on seasonal plumage changes, camouflage strategies, and migration.

February 14th: Gulls and Terns

Example species: Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern

Gulls and terns are different species, but are often confused with one another. We will discuss their contrasting feeding strategies, what behaviors they have in common, and their distribution. Many gulls and terns are colonial nesters, so we’ll talk about the advantages of this adaptation and some special strategies they use to ensure the survival of their offspring. 

2018 Community Seminars at Sanibel Sea School

Our Community Seminars are designed to give you a quick and thorough introduction to a variety of interesting topics and skills. We have invited experts to share their knowledge with you during a relaxed presentation. Following each presentation, there will be an opportunity for questions and discussion. 

No registration necessary, walk-ins welcome. 

Thursday, March 15th: Fracking Explained
4 PM at Sanibel Sea School (455 Periwinkle Way)
Presented by Connie Jump

The first recorded “frack” jobs in the US were performed in the 1860’s in NW Pennsylvania using black powder dynamite, and later nitroglycerine, dropped down shallow oil wells — sometimes with disastrous results. Since those early days, the petroleum industry has greatly modified the technique of stimulating wells to increase their rate of hydrocarbon production. 

Hydraulic fracturing in fundamentally its current technology was developed in the late 1940’s and was a routine oilfield completion procedure by the 1970’s. Through research and trial-and-error, the technique evolved to apply to horizontal shale wells, but its technology and goal are the same: use high pressure to pump a slurry of water, sand, and chemicals downhole to create a complex fracture network in petroleum-bearing tight rocks that previously would not produce at economic rates.

Here’s your chance to add to your already-informed position about fracking from someone who’s actually been there. Please join us to hear more about the why, how, and where of the hydraulic fracturing technique. 

Please note: While fracking can be a controversial subject, this is a technical information session only and will not be a debate. This presentation is meant to help you become more knowledgable and informed.

About Connie:
Connie Jump is a retired petroleum geologist living in Fort Myers, Florida. Her 36-year career was an exciting accumulation of experience with major and small independent oil companies, service companies, and consulting firms evaluating, exploring, and developing hydrocarbon plays in 10 states, offshore Gulf of Mexico, and overseas. Her experience ranges from wildcat exploration, seismic interpretation, reserve assessments, public and government relations, and of course drilling and fracking. As Connie has learned, “The answers are in the rocks.”


Thursday, March 22nd: Making Better Nature Photos
4 PM at Sanibel Sea School (455 Periwinkle Way)
Presented by Cliff Beittel

Today's cameras (even inexpensive ones) can make great photos. In this seminar, you will learn how to capture the best photo possible with the equipment you have available. The presentation will be illustrated with photos from Southwest Florida and beyond.

Session highlights will include:

  • The advantages of phones, mirrorless cameras, and traditional DSLRs, and which features to look for when choosing your camera.
  • Lens choices and other crucial accessories.
  • Photo basics, including how to get the right exposure, autofocus versus manual, where to focus, minimizing noise, RAW files versus JPEGs, and more.
  • Good light and bad - our eyes ignore bad light, but cameras do not. 
  • Learning to see like your camera.
  • Shooting during the golden hours, and when midday is better. Front light, sidelight, backlight, silhouettes, sunrises and sunsets. 
  • Subjects - good subjects are everywhere, but easy to miss. How to see them, how to get close, composing the shot, planning ahead.
  • Fun with long exposures, graduated filters, high-dynamic-range images, tilt-shift lenses, and more.  

About Cliff Beittel:
Almost from his first photo sales in 1995, Cliff was recognized as one of the best bird photographers in the U.S. In 1998, he won the world's richest wildlife photo contest (total purse $100,000) with a portfolio of birds, mammals, and reptiles shot in sweltering South Texas during the four months of the contest. Twenty years later, and now a Sanibel resident shooting mostly in Southwest Florida, Cliff’s thousands of photo credits include the Audubon, Sierra Club, and Inner Reflections calendars, and scores of book, calendar, and magazine covers.

2018 Free Guided Beach Walks

Join us for a casual guided beach walk to explore what's washed ashore. Let's talk about some of the more mysterious objects we find on the beach, look for interesting creatures, and learn a little bit of shell biology. Our marine science educators will be happy to answer any questions you might have along the way.

All ages are welcome, but children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. 

All Beach Walks meet at Sanibel Sea School's Flagship Campus, located at 455 Periwinkle Way on Sanibel. 

Activity Level: Moderate (1-2 hours of slow walking on the beach)

January Free Community Beach Walk
Saturday, January 13th, 2018, 9 AM

February Free Community Beach Walk
Saturday, February 10th, 2018, 9 AM

March Free Community Beach Walk
Saturday, March 10th, 2018, 9 AM

April Free Community Beach Walk
Saturday, April 7th, 2018, 9 AM

Fall 2017 Boat-Based Learning Opportunities for Adults

Climb aboard and take an in-depth, scientific look at our local ecosystems and creatures with Sanibel Sea School’s Executive Director, marine biologist Dr. Bruce Neill. This year, our boat-based courses will take place from the comfort of a large pontoon boat, which provides comfortable seating for a group of adults.

Each topic will be offered twice, on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Activity Level: Low

Participants will board the boat from the Sanibel Causeway, which requires one big step up (approximately 2’), and will remain seated on our vessel for the duration of the trip.   


Families and Groups

Activities for families, friends, school groups, and more!



Families and Groups

Activities for families, friends, school groups, and more!



We offer customizable ocean experiences for families, school groups, homeschool groups, corporate groups and more. To learn more and arrange a session, contact us at 239-472-8585 or


Land-based Private Programs

Land-based private programs at Sanibel Sea School can be fully customized to suit your group’s ages, interests, and desired level of activity. One of our marine science educators will lead you into Sanibel’s unique ecosystems for a field-based ocean experience. Choose from topics like dolphins, seagrass, mangroves, wading birds, and more! Where else can you learn to cast a net, hold a tiny seahorse, or come face to face with the amazing creatures that inhabit our sandbars – sometimes all in one day! All ages are welcome, children under 4 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. 

Land-based private programs are 2 hours long and cost $60 per person (2 person minimum). 

Boat-based Private Programs

Boat-based private programs with one of Sanibel Sea School's captains provide an opportunity for your family or group to explore pristine areas of Sanibel's surrounding waters that are not accessible by land. 

This trip can be fully customized to suit your group members' ages and interests. In addition to an overview of barrier island ecology, topics may include mangrove forests, sandbars, estuaries, and more. We frequently encounter dolphins, manatees, live shells, and many bird species, and your captain will share his or her vast knowledge of our area and the creatures that inhabit it along the way. 

We suggest that you book this type of program 1 or more months in advance to allow sufficient time for planning. 

Boat-based private programs are 3 hours long and cost $400. Our boat can accommodate 6 guests.

SUP Rentals and Guided Paddling Excursions

Sanibel Sea School now offers guided Stand Up Paddleboarding for families and groups. Please click here, or call (239) 472-8585 or email for more information. 


Each Thursday morning, we offer a walking tour to discover the birds of Sanibel Island's East End. During the walk we discuss basic bird biology and behaviors, as well as learn how to identify the birds we encounter. 

Thursdays, 9 AM - 10:30 AM
$20/ person
Meet at Sanibel Sea School's Flagship Campus (455 Periwinkle Way).
Please call (239) 472-8585 to register.

Please Note: Bird Walks are a family-oriented program. Participants under 16 must be accompanied by a parent or adult over the age of 18.

Shell Walk

Sanibel is a shelling paradise, with hundreds of species waiting to be discovered. Join us for a beach walk to learn basic bivalve and gastropod biology, find out why so many shells wash up on our beaches, and where to look for a few of the most coveted shells. We can't guarantee you'll find a junonia, but we promise you won't leave empty-handed! 

Thursdays, 11 AM - 1 PM
$20/ person
Meet at Sanibel Sea School's Flagship Campus (455 Periwinkle Way).
Please call (239) 472-8585 to register.

Please Note: Shell Walks are a family-oriented program. Participants under 16 must be accompanied by a parent or adult over the age of 18.

Other Groups

Let us help you plan the perfect ocean experience for your school group, homeschool group, corporate event, or anything else you have in mind. Call (239) 472-8585 to schedule your session today. 

School Groups

With lunch: $50 per pupil
No lunch: $40 per pupil

Homeschool at Sea

We are happy to provide science-based education for homeschool families and co-ops. Please give us a call to begin the process of arranging the curriculum, dates and prices.

A homeschool package consists of five or more 2.5 hour courses tailored specifically to your students. There is a curriculum development fee of $75, and the program cost is $75 per course for 10 students or less, or $150 per course for 10-20 students. 

Other Groups

Please call us to learn more about program options and pricing.


Please click here to view our Cancellation Policy. 


To complete your registration, please download, fill in and submit the forms as instructed therein.

Course Descriptions

Click here to download a PDF of our course descriptions. 

Scholarship Programs

We have a commitment to those who otherwise wouldn't experience the ocean. Currently, Sanibel Sea School has partnerships with the Gladiolus Learning and Development Center, the Pace Center for Girls, Child Care of Southwest Florida, and Pine Manor Improvement Association to offer unique outdoor learning experiences to local underprivileged children. Once a month or more, we meet with kids from these organizations to help them build confidence and gain an appreciation for science while exploring Sanibel’s diverse barrier island habitats with us.

Sanibel Sea School also offers tuition assistance to many island families throughout the year, whose children would otherwise be unable to attend summer camps and other programs. If you are concerned that your child may not be able to participate in one of our programs due to cost, please contact us for more information.