STEM Program Shines at The Sanibel School

by Lindsay Cantor

A newly enhanced program at The Sanibel School aims to add the letters S-T-E-M to the traditional three R’s of education.

On November 18, 2019, at 8:30 a.m., The Sanibel School will hold a Community Open House showcasing the School’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program. This innovative educational program was made possible thanks to donations from individuals and businesses throughout the Islands to the Sanibel School Fund (SSF).
The open house provides a chance for students, teachers, and administrators to show their appreciation for the support, and to provide a chance for the community to see the donations in action.

The STEM class encourages students to increase their critical thinking and problem solving skills through a hands-on approach, to work cooperatively, and to see that there can be many solutions to one given situation. “We already had a wonderful Arts program here when I arrived, along with a sports program. STEM was the missing piece,” says Principal Charles Vilardi. “We have hit an entire new group of students who love gaming, coding, and the sciences. I am in awe watching our students in this class.”

The new STEM teacher, Ms. Kelly Johnson, has set goals for students to learn to apply their knowledge of science and math and to expose them to working with their hands and using tools. Many volunteers, including Sanibel’s firefighters, have come to the STEM class to help students with the engineering projects. “The excitement that I see on the students’ faces during their first project is always one of my favorite moments!” says Johnson.

Ms. Johnson has been working with the students on a variety of innovative and exciting projects. Middle School students have built hydraulic robotic arms, hydraulic draw bridges, and “paper circuitry” projects to demonstrate parallel circuits. They have also created functioning Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs), sponsored by the US Navy’s SeaPerch Program, and tested the ROVs in the pool at the Sanibel Recreation Center. Elementary students have built towers, bridges, catapults, mousetrap race cars and “bug” robots.

This special class was made possible thanks to donations to The Sanibel School Fund. “SSF works in the community to raise funds for school programs and services that are not supported through the school’s operating budget,” explains SSF President Jeff Muddell.

Muddell and the SSF board, made up of Sanibel School family members, hope more of the community will get involved in this award-winning school which is right in their neighborhood. “It is a unique public K-8 school, and as such, it warrants the support and advocacy of all Sanibel and Captiva residents and businesses,” says Muddell. “We want to bring more members of the community into the school so that we can stress its importance to life on the Islands, and in turn, raise some financial support to keep strengthening this amazing place.”

This upcoming open house event will include an introduction to STEM teacher Ms. Johnson and an observation of several STEM experiments and projects in the classroom environment. Principal Charles Vilardi will provide an update about the School. There will also be a first opportunity to sign up for the annual Blue Ribbon Classic Golf Tournament, a favorite springtime event on the Islands and a key fundraiser for the SSF.

All members of the community are invited to this special event, especially those who have contributed to The Sanibel School Fund through the years. If you plan to attend, please email your RSVP to

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