Sea School Staff Thankful for Ocean Love and Memories

provided to The Santiva Chronicle

Every day, marine science educators are out exploring Sanibel’s unique habitats and discovering the wonders of the ocean with students of all ages. As Thanksgiving approaches, Sanibel Sea School staff reflect on the experiences that they are grateful to have had with students in the field:

Dana Donkle

“I taught a Sea Squirts (ages 4 to 6) class once on a pretty gloomy day. The sun wasn’t out, it was wavy, and the water was turbid, making it a little tricky to use nets with young explorers. The topic of the day was fish and I really wanted to make sure they got to see some. I decided to try the cast net and on the first throw I noticed the net was heavy…students quickly jumped to help, and we pulled the net in together. As soon as we got it out of the water the children’s faces lit up in amazement. We caught a snook!! It was as an unexpected opportunity for the little ones to see a fish up close and better yet, one that was almost as big as them! After a quick look, we released it back into the gulf. I am thankful for this moment, and the joy we bring to students every day.”

Brianna Machuga

“One of the things that I am most grateful for is being able to teach entire family units during Land-Based Private sessions. I had a group a few weeks ago that was three generations: kids, parents, and grandparents! For some, it was their first time experiencing the island. We learned about barrier islands and shell biology, found sand dollars, and used seine nets. Seeing the joy on the children’s’ faces as they pulled in a net full of fish and the smiles on the grandparent’s faces as they watched their grandkids learn a new skill is amazing. Helping generations of family members experience the joys of the ocean all together for the first time is truly incredible.”

Joey Garofano

“I love that I get to help students appreciate their environment and watch them develop knowledge and confidence throughout the courses we offer. I had a student in After School Fishing once that was super nervous at the beginning of the class. He didn’t want to handle any of the creatures or even put a foot in the water. By the end of the class, however, he was fully immersed in the activities and didn’t even want to get out of the gulf to go home. I am grateful to be part of the transformation in students’ attitudes towards nature.”

Kim Bouwkamp

“One of my favorite experiences has been helping with our No Child Left on Shore field trips. It is incredibly special to be able to explore the ocean alongside children who rarely, or never, get to the coast. On one trip with an after-school group from the Pine Manor Improvement Association, we found seahorses and sea stars! I’ll never forget their reactions and sense of wonder. Their excitement is contagious, and it fills me with joy. I am so thankful these experiences are part of my workday, and I am grateful I get to explore our beautiful island with our outreach partners.”

In a world dominated by technology, it is becoming that much more important to get children outside and experiencing nature. Rachel Carson said it best: “If a child is to keep alive their inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, they need the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with them the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” Sanibel Sea School educators are thankful to be that adult and encourage children to unplug and discover. As families gather to enjoy each other’s company for the holidays, this is a perfect opportunity for parents and grandparents to explore with their children or grandchildren. So, Sanibel Sea School is assigning homework for the first time: Go outside and take a walk with loved ones to start off Thanksgiving! Stroll the beach or around the neighborhood—nature is everywhere if you take the time to look.

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