Sanibel Sea School Blog

Learning Continues at Sanibel Sea School

August 10, 2022

It’s been a growth-filled summer at Sanibel Sea School. Read below for some highlights over the season, including pollinator scavenger hunts, flower dissections, and a camp focused on empowering young women, who camped on an uninhabited island. 

Sea School campers learn about pollination

Kids walking on boardwalk

From Aug. 1 to 5, Sanibel Sea School held its last Bailey Homestead Preserve-based summer camp, which focused on celebrating pollinators. Pollination, the process of moving genetic material from one flowering plant to another, leads to the creation of seeds and fruit, making it an essential process for plants, wildlife, and people. More than 80% of plants require pollinators, like coffee, almonds, bananas, avocados, and more. Pollination even occurs in the marine environment with seagrasses.

Sea School campers learned all about the pollination process and the creatures we have to thank for most of the food we eat — like bees, birds, bats, and other insects. We explored both land and sea to find as many pollinators as we could. Campers went on a scavenger hunt throughout SCCFs Native Landscapes & Garden Center, snorkeled in the seagrass, and even explored the Shipley Trail on a night walk.

“The highlight of the week was the night walk, when we set up a white sheet with lights to attract nighttime pollinators like moths,” said Marine Science Educator Kimberly Bouwkamp. “I especially enjoy experiences like this where everyone is nervously excited. Being out in nature at night is totally different, and for our some of our campers, it’s their first time doing so. It’s fun to watch their reactions to new sounds, smells, and creatures.”

Campers played hands-on games to gain a better understanding of how pollen is passed, conducted a flower dissection, and made tie dye in the shape of a bullseye to demonstrate how some insects see flowers. And there was plenty of swimming and surfing in the Gulf, of course.

Each week, camp ends with a surf paddle race on Friday morning. Campers spend the week honing their paddling skills in surf teams and then put them to the test in a relay race. The Purple Pollinators won the surf paddle race and were the last team of the summer to place their surf bracelet on the coveted Golden Conch surf paddle trophy at the Bailey Homestead campus.

Sanibel Sea School will offer summer camps at their Flagship campus on Periwinkle Way through the end of August.

Seven New Ocean Warriors Conquer Sanibel Sea School’s Wahine Toa Week

Image of children paddling on water

Earlier this summer, seven female teenagers participated in Sanibel Sea School’s Wahine Toa Week, an annual all-women paddling and survival week led by only female staff. “Wahine toa” is a phrase with Polynesian roots that translates to “woman warrior” or “female surfer.” Participants embodied this phrase through a week of paddling, orienteering, and camping overnight on an uninhabited island.

“This camp empowers women by pushing their physical limits and teaching them important life skills,” said camp leader Kimberly Bouwkamp.

Each day was purposely crafted to prepare them for Thursday’s overnight on an uninhabited island and strengthen their confidence in paddling. Campers explored Sanibel via stand-up paddleboard, perfected their strokes, learned how to navigate using maps and compasses, and got certified in CPR and First Aid through the Sanibel Fire Station and the American Heart Association. This week was a skill-builder, indeed.

On Thursday afternoon, it was finally time to put their new paddling skills to the test, despite the windy conditions. They were ready for anything — and the elements were not going to hold them back. The girls shared ready-to-eat meals, built a fire for roasting smores, soaked up the colorful sunset, and enjoyed some group bonding while being immersed in nature. The next morning, campers made their way to the Sanibel Causeway for breakfast, and then continued on the epic paddle to Fort Myers Beach. The wind was in their favor this time, and better yet, a large spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari) cruised by their boards for part of the journey. The last stop of the day was well-deserved lunch to wrap up the week. Congratulations to all the Wahine Toa Week participants.

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