Help the Sanibel Sea School Put More Kids on Paddleboards!
Most ocean-loving SUPers would probably agree that paddling through Florida’s calm blue bays and tangled mangrove forests is pretty awe-inspiring. There’s just something about reeling in a snook, watching a manatee meander by, or spotting an eagle ray from atop a board that makes you realize the importance of protecting our state’s wild places.
In fact, connecting with the ocean can have such a strong impact on peoples’ lives and behavior that there is an entire organization dedicated to the cause in Sanibel, FL. Sanibel Sea School (www.sanibelseaschool.org), founded in 2005 by marine scientist Dr. Bruce Neill and his wife Evelyn, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a mission to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. The field school employs enthusiastic teachers who spend every day taking kids out into Sanibel’s many ecosystems to do things like hold tiny sea urchins, snorkel in the seagrass beds, and splash around on surfboards. When kids leave, they are completely in love with the ocean. Just check out the Tripadvisor reviews!
Sanibel Sea School is growing a generation of kids who will one day become ocean advocates. “I started working here as an intern when I was 19, and the experience is what drove me to become a marine scientist,” says Leah Biery, the school’s Director of Operations, “After working in marine research and policy, I truly believe that Sanibel Sea School’s educational approach is the best way to build a brighter future for the ocean. It is so inspiring to see kids who began attending our camps when they were 7 or 8 go off to college with plans to study and protect the ocean.”
As the school’s original students get older, teachers are looking for new ways to explore the sea with them. “We love surfing with kids,” says educator Nicole Finnicum, “but as they grow larger it becomes difficult for them to balance on small surfboards, and they want to venture farther afield. Stand up paddleboards would be the perfect solution.” Nicole also believes that the boards would be a great confidence builder for some of the “landlocked” kids Sanibel Sea School brings to Sanibel during outreach programs each month – kids who live close to the beach but hardly ever have the chance to visit.
Sanibel Sea School doesn’t have the funds to buy a fleet of boards, so Leah and Nicole have partnered with Bote to start an Indiegogo campaign as a gift to their students.