From August 1-5, Sanibel Sea School held its latest summer camp based on Bailey Homestead Preserve, focused on celebrating pollinators. Pollination, the process of moving genetic material from one flowering plant to another, leads to the creation of seeds and fruits, making it an essential process for plants, wildlife, and humans. Over 80% of plants need pollinators, such as coffee, almonds, bananas, avocados and more. Pollination occurs even in the marine environment with seagrass beds.
Campers learned about the pollination process and the creatures to thank for most of the food humans eat, such as bees, birds, bats and other insects. They explored both land and sea to find as many pollinators as possible. Campers took part in a scavenger hunt in the SCCF’s Native Landscapes & Garden Center, dove in the seagrass beds and even explored the Shipley Trail on an evening walk.
“The highlight of the week was the night walk, when we set up a white sheet with lights to attract nocturnal pollinators like moths,” said Kimberly Bouwkamp, marine science educator. “I especially enjoy experiences like this where everyone is nervously excited. Being out in nature at night is totally different, and for some of our campers it’s the first time they’ve done it. is fun to watch their reactions to new sounds, smells and creatures.
Campers played hands-on games to better understand how pollen is transmitted, performed a flower dissection, and made a bullseye tie dye to show how some insects see flowers. There was also plenty of swimming and surfing in the Gulf of Mexico.
Each week, the camp ends with a paddle surf race on Friday morning. Campers spend the week honing their paddling skills in surf teams, 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 Golden Conch surf paddle trophy at Bailey Homestead Campus.
WAHINE TOA WEEK
Earlier in the summer, seven teenage girls participated in Wahine Toa Week, an annual all-female paddling and survival week led by female staff. “Wahine toa” is an expression with Polynesian roots which translates to “warrior woman” Where “surfer”. Campers embodied the phrase through a week of canoeing, orienteering and overnight camping on an uninhabited island.
“This camp empowers women by pushing their physical limits and teaching them important life skills,” Bouwkamp, who served as camp leader, said.
Each day has been deliberately designed to prepare them for Thursday night on the island and build their confidence in paddling. Campers explored Sanibel via stand-up paddle board, perfected their strokes, learned to navigate using maps and compasses, and earned certification in CPR and first aid from the Sanibel Fire and Rescue District and the ‘American Heart Association.
On Thursday afternoon, they finally put their new paddling skills to the test, despite the windy conditions. Campers shared ready-to-eat meals, lit a fire to roast s’mores, soaked up the sunset, and enjoyed group bonding while immersed in nature. The next morning, campers headed to the Sanibel causeway for breakfast, then continued on the paddle to Fort Myers Beach. A large spotted eagle ray cruised by their boards for part of the trip. The last stop of the day was a well deserved lunch to wrap up the week.
Part of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation family, Sanibel Sea School is on a mission to improve the future of the ocean, one person at a time. For more information, visit sanibelseaschool.org.