Sanibel Sea School hosted students from three Lee County schools in May. Third graders from Manatee Elementary, Allen Park Elementary, and Rayma C. Page Elementary visited Sanibel to participate in a variety of field-based activities designed to supplement their classroom learning. The Sea School’s marine science instructors led participants through a squid dissection, surfing lessons, seining in the seagrass beds, and snorkeling.

Students had a chance to hold small organisms like juvenile fish and crabs before releasing them back into the water, and for many, the squid dissection offered a first look at the inner anatomy of a living organism. “I was so impressed by how quickly the kids began to understand the squid’s adaptations,” said Nicole Finnicum, Sanibel Sea School’s Director of Education, “they grasped concepts like camouflage and jet propulsion right away.”

Along with their new knowledge, students returned home with plenty of stories to share with their families. “I am sure that my house was not the only one filled with stories of pin fish caught and squid ink tattoos,” said Allen Park Elementary chaperone Heather Dowling.

These field trips were funded in part by contributions made to Sanibel Sea School during their annual fundraiser, Octifest on the Causeway, and provided an opportunity for some students to experience Lee County’s coastal areas for the first time. “Several of the children told me this was their first time at the beach,” said Dowling, “can you imagine living this close to paradise and never enjoying it?”

Through a scholarship program, Sanibel Sea School is able to ensure that no student is ever turned away from their marine education programs due to cost. “Our goal is to inspire as many people as possible to connect with the ocean,” says Finnicum, “and we believe that money should never prevent that from happening.”