Sanibel Sea School Hosts Year of the Tiger (Shark) Camp

provided to The Santiva Chronicle

Sanibel Sea School hosted its annual winter camp at its flagship campus on the island’s East End from Dec. 27 to Dec. 31 with a tiger shark theme in recognition of the Chinese zodiac “Year of the Tiger.” The tiger symbolizes strength and bravery—a king of all beasts. Each zodiac sign is associated with one of five elements and 2022 happens to be the “Year of the Water Tiger.” Inspired by this ancient tradition, Sanibel Sea School took a salty spin and honored the tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) during Winter Camp 2021.

Campers learned a bit of shark biology, where tiger sharks get their name, and about their feeding habits. Tiger sharks are opportunistic feeders and are famous for eating just about anything they can capture or find. They’ll eat fish, sea turtles, stingrays, smaller sharks, seals, and seabirds. Some have also been known to consume garbage such as tin cans, license plates, boat cushions, wood, and even tires! Sanibel Sea School counselors created a tiger shark replica out of cardboard so campers could stick their hands into the shark’s mouth to feel what was “inside” but couldn’t see it with their eyes. They had to try to guess what it was through their sense of touch. All of the objects were things that tiger sharks have been recorded to have consumed. Staff also took this opportunity to discuss how debris can be harmful to the marine environment and conducted a beach clean-up to kick the week off.

Colorful and realistic tiger sharks were made from coconuts and papier-mâché, campers interacted with lots of creatures while seining, sipped hot cocoa, and hopped into wetsuits to surf the chilly gulf. What a way to end the year! On the last day of camp, Sanibel Sea School held its traditional New Year’s Eve ceremony: Give Your Worries to the Sea. Campers take time to reflect on the past year and recognize that all of us had moments that were good and not so good. The not-so-good moments may have made us feel sad, scared, worried, or stressed. “We talk about what we might do in those times and how we deal with those feelings,” said Youth Education Director Shannon Stainken “We share with campers that many of us at Sanibel Sea School seek the ocean or the beach when we’re feeling upset. The ocean is a special place that has the ability to help us heal.” Campers took time to spread out around campus and write down their worries from 2021; these notes were burned into ashes, signifying letting go of these worries. Afterwards, we headed to the beach to let the sea wash our worries away—which naturally turned into a huge splash-fest.

Now, summer camps are just around the corner. Sanibel Sea School will be announcing dates and themes soon. If you would like information about future camps, visit the Sea School website to be added to the summer camp mailing list.

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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