Sanibel Sea School offers special summertime experience

Summer School Zone writer Lily Parker has been working as a counselor in training.

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  • | 11:13 a.m. July 26, 2023
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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Over the past few weeks, I have been participating in the Counselor in Training program with Sanibel Sea School. During the weeklong camps, I worked with ages 4 through 13. In the weeks I participated, the themes represented what we were going to be learning about. 

Sanibel Sea School is a hands-on experience for everyone involved. This includes seeing the different animals, going into the water to explore their habitat and creating many crafts that would explain what the animals look like. For example, in the two weeks I went, we learned about sand dollars and gopher tortoises.

My first week at camp was all about sand dollars. The age group for this week was ages 4 to 6, also known as Sea Squirts. We started the week off by looking at baby sand dollars and learning what they do when they are born. Then, we headed into the ocean to get a closer look at the animals, which included going on a beach walk to find the dried-up sand dollars and getting to pick up one that was alive. 

Throughout the rest of the week, we dived deeper into what sand dollars do, how they eat and how they have an effect on the ocean.

The following week was gopher tortoise week, also known as Island Skills week. The age group consisted of children between the ages of 7 and 13. 

During this week, we learned about gopher tortoises and how they are a keystone species. A keystone species is an animal that is the center of an ecosystem. Without the gopher tortoise, the entire ecosystem would crash. 

After lunch, we prepared for the surf paddle race. To teach about the animals, we listened to a talk from an expert, got to dig burrows in the sand and played games to learn about what would happen if there were no gopher tortoises. 

We demonstrated what a keystone species is and how they have such a big effect on the animals around them. 

Then, we prepared for the surf paddle race. This race is when you separate the campers into four different teams and teach them how to paddle on a surfboard and how to turn. The goal is to perfect their techniques and make them as fast as possible. At the end of the week, Sanibel Sea School would head into the ocean and get ready to race. They would do this by using colored sunscreen to distinguish the different teams and come up with a team chant. 

The race includes four different rounds where the points would be given out. The team who was the fastest would win the entire race and get to put their bracelet on the golden conch. 

Sanibel Sea School created an experience that was fun for everyone involved and allowed everyone to learn something new. Throughout my experience, I was learning something new and made friends with the campers. By the end of the week, I had made many memories that would last me a lifetime.