Nature Near You: Learning Backyard Survival Skills

by Nicole Finnicum

Sanibel Sea School educators challenged participants to spend a weekend camping in their backyards.

The 10th week of Nature Near You, Sanibel Sea School’s e-newsletter, featured backyard activities to learn about survival skills.

Through emails delivered at 9 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Nature Near You participants learned about essential tools and skills that can be used in survival situations, such as solar stills and shelter building. Understanding how to protect yourself by finding essential resources, such as water and shelter, is vital in any survival scenario. This week, we went on an adventure imagining we were stranded in our own backyards and learned how to adapt and survive.

Fresh water is the most important resource a person needs for survival. There are many different ways to find and purify water in the wilderness, but we chose to take a closer look at a backyard friendly method. On Monday, participants learned how to build a solar still, which is a contraption that uses the sun’s rays and condensation to collect water. Marine Science Educator Sam Galindo explained “It is important to note that solar stills only collect a small amount of water over time,” and recommended finding a more dependable source of water in a survival situation. But this backyard experiment was a super cool way to use science to help gain a valuable resource in a pinch.

Shelter is one of the main basic needs that humans and other animals need to survive. On Wednesday, participants learned all about shelter building, the different types of wilderness shelters you can build, and why it is so important to have a place to retreat from the elements. We shared some essential characteristics to build successful shelters, such as having a dry, flat ground or finding a location that is not directly under precarious tree limbs. Then, Marine Science Educator Sam Lucas challenged participants to build their own tepee shelter in their backyard – using only natural materials.

On Friday, it was time to put our survival skills to the test by taking the Sanibel Sea School survival challenge. This challenge built upon the knowledge participants have gained over the week and harnessed critical thinking skills to make decisions about specific items during a survival situation. After the challenge, it was time for a little fun, so in the spirit of “backyard survival” we encouraged participants to get out over the weekend and camp in their backyards.

While we hope to never find ourselves in a survival situation, it is always a good idea to know a few basic survival skills. It is important to at least know what resources are needed and understand a few different methods to acquire those resources. It was fun to use our imaginations this week and play around with different scenarios to learn our new skills!

Nature Near You will continue through once weekly through June and be delivered via email. If you are interested in joining the mailing list, email If you missed out on an issue of Nature Near You, all of the content can be accessed at

Nature Near You is Sanibel Sea School’s offering to the community. If you would like to support our efforts, visit or email for more information

Part of the SCCF (Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation) Family, Sanibel Sea School’s mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time.

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