by SC Reporter Teresa Vazquez
Sunscreen, bathing suits, and water shoes are part of the back-to-school supplies for students participating in the Sanibel Sea School After School Program.
“Students can expect hands-on, engaging, and fun activities,” Director and Ocean Advocate Nicole Finnicum said.
The Sanibel Sea School, part of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, aims to “to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time,” per its website. And that is accomplished by educating children and adults on the ocean’s puzzle pieces.
The after-school program helps students understand the ocean through engaging activities, such as surfing, arts and crafts, observing sea creatures and more.
“Offering hands-on education is important to encourage immersive experiences in marine science, so that students build lasting memories around the ocean,” Finnicum said. “This allows students to better understand, value, and care for the ocean, so that they will advocate for protection and conservation in the future.”
The after-school program runs similar to school semesters with one taking place in the fall and the other in the spring. Each semester offers three mini-series which are about a month long with three to four sessions each. The upcoming fall mini-series themes are surfing, seining, and ocean art.
The first session will teach participants the motions of surfing– paddling, turning, and standing. Students will enjoy three days out on the beach. The second will teach how seine nets work, the creatures they catch, and the ecology of the area. Seine nets allow for the gentle catch and release of marine creatures.
“Marine science educators will teach students about the biology of the creatures and focus on identification of what they catch, and share with students the diversity of creatures in the waters of Southwest Florida,” Finnicum said.
And the final session will be a chance to make art from the gifts of the ocean.
All of the sessions will be run by marine science educators and held from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays. Most of the activities will be held outdoors thus students should come ready to spend a day out on Sanibel’s local beaches, Finnicum said.
The unique experience benefits all participating parties, including the island ecology.
Students will benefit from the program’s distinctive, nourishing after school activities which they won’t forget anytime soon. Meanwhile parents will benefit from a low cost after school program while providing a fun time for their kids.
Sequentially, the ecology of the island will benefit from the education of the students who are the future of the world.
“This program is targeted to local kids and we strive to educate the kids about their local environment, ” Finnicum said. “So, they will understand the value of the marine ecosystem in Southwest Florida and advocate for its protection in the future.”
Registration is already open for the fall semester program beginning Sept. 21 and will cost $20 per session. Students can choose to attend the entirety of a series or individual sessions. The spring semester registration will open in December.
Finncum said the programs fill up fast so early registration is encouraged for those looking to participate. Parents can register their kids on the Sanibel Sea School website.
If the program cost is a potential roadblock, the Sanibel Sea School offers scholarships for those in need, Finnicum explained. Scholarship inquiries can be made at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to the on-going pandemic the programs will be held in small groups, masks will be required indoors and inside vehicles, and the staff will take COVID-19 precautions.
“Safety is Sanibel Sea School’s number one priority,” Finnicum said.