provided to The Santiva Chronicle
Sanibel Sea School typically hosts week-long Winter Camps over the holiday break. This year was especially challenging to plan with the school’s main campus on island’s east end under construction, beaches on Sanibel closed, and limited program supplies post-Ian.
Despite many hurdles, Sanibel Sea School — which is part of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation — was still able to offer six days of camp both on and off Sanibel Island, engaging with 128 children. Campers learned a little marine biology, created works of art from nature, and made friendships to last a lifetime. Favorite Winter Camp traditions lived on as campers sipped hot coco each day and surfed in the chilly Gulf.
On Dec. 28 and Jan. 4, Captiva Cruises and Sanibel Sea School teamed up to offer “A Day on the Bay,” a full-day charter to North Captiva aboard Captiva Cruises’ catamaran. The mornings were spent exploring both the bay and Gulf side of the island, nets in hand. Campers encountered ragged sea hares, sea stars, juvenile horseshoe crabs, tunicates, snails, and more.
After lunch on the boat, campers headed back out for sand sculpture making, shelter building, and scavenger hunts.
“It was amazing to be out on the water with kids again,” said Marine Science Educator Joey Garofano. “Everyone had so much fun. You could feel the excitement and positive energy just to be together again.”
Dec. 28 was a day of firsts for everyone involved — it was the first charter for Captiva Cruises, the first re-imagined camp for Sanibel Sea School, and the first time many campers had seen each other since Hurricane Ian closed the Sanibel School. Both trips were offered for free in an effort to support island families.
In addition, the IMAG History & Science Center in Fort Myers generously offered space for Sanibel Sea School to host day camps on Dec. 29, 30, Jan. 5, and 6. IMAG is a unique, family-friendly destination featuring aquariums and animal exhibits, interactive displays, and activities.
The Sanibel Sea School camps focused on a different marine creature each day while incorporating new experiences through IMAG. Campers learned about sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, and cephalopods. Each day was filled with ocean-themed games, art projects, and experiments.
“I was nervous to come back to help with camp at a different location” said Camp Counselor Joe Uhlir, a previous summer camp counselor who returned to volunteer over his winter break. “But I’ve learned that Sanibel Sea School isn’t always about the place — it’s about the people. As long as we’re together, it feels like sea school.”
These camps would not have been possible without the support of our community and generosity of Captiva Cruises and IMAG.
“Each day was proof that we are resilient, better together, and exemplary of the beauty behind collaboration,” said Youth Education Director Shannon Rivard.
Learn more about Sanibel Sea School at sanibelseaschool.org.