The Best Way to Teach Kids about the Ocean and Environment


Ever since I was young, I’ve done a lot of traveling through the United States and Latin America. The places I’ve been include Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and the east coast of the US. But one place that has really stuck with me and inspired me is Sanibel Sea School, in Sanibel, Florida. I started attending occasional classes while I was at my grandparents’ house there when I was five years old. Now that I am fifteen, I still volunteer at classes and spend plenty of time on the campus of Sanibel Sea School. 

Teaching Kids about the Ocean and Environment at Sanibel Sea School
Two years ago, my family and I spent several months in Sanibel. While we were there, I worked with Sea School to conduct a three month long research project on sand dollars. I think that the experience of that project helped prepare me for work that I have done since - and will do in the future. You can read about my project here!

I believe that experiential learning is one of the best ways to learn about a subject. This includes, of course, marine and environmental education!

Teaching Kids about the Ocean and Environment at Sanibel Sea School

Every class of Sea School has a theme. Some of the topics include Echinoderms, Jellies, Seahorses, Calusa, and Wrack line, and each class lasts from 9 AM to 12 PM or 1PM to 4PM. They also run week-long camps during the summer and winter breaks. Class starts with everyone sitting in a circle to share their names, ages, where they're from, and favorite sea creatures. The class leader then gives a short briefing on whatever topic the class is on. After all of that is out of the way, we head to the beach! While at the beach, the teacher and volunteers continue to help the kids learn in the most fun way possible. Classes often include sea turtle races or playing echolocation tag. We also explore all of the cool things we find on the beach and answer questions about anything to do with the ocean. I love seeing kids being amazed by things they learn in Sea School. 

Teaching Kids about the Ocean and Environment at Sanibel Sea School

For the last part of the class period, we head back to the classroom for an art project. Most of the time, we have the students gather things on the beach to use in their art. Some of my favorite art projects are for the Mollusk Class, where we gather the empty shells of King Conchs or any other shells that we find, fill the shells with clay, and stick pipe cleaners in the clay to form the bodies of the snail.

Teaching Kids about the Ocean and Environment at Sanibel Sea School

I think that going to Sea School for so much of my childhood helped my understanding of the ocean and the environment, and I wish that every child can have that opportunity. Both going to the classes and volunteering with classes has really made me a smarter, more well-rounded person by teaching me how to work with others, how to care for the environment, and how to share my love and knowledge of the ocean. 

Teaching Kids about the Ocean and Environment at Sanibel Sea School

If you’re in the area, I highly recommend having your kids spend time at the Sanibel Sea School. Each class is three hours, but there are often kids who stay for a full day, which is two classes. Sometimes kids come back for multiple days! There is a fee to attend, though they try to make their classes available to everyone. You can find more information about Sanibel Sea School on their website,

Teaching Kids about the Ocean and Environment at Sanibel Sea School

Recently, I was lucky enough to get to interview one of their lovely educators, Spencer Richardson. Spencer grew up in Toledo, Ohio, and spent much of her free time volunteering at the Toledo Zoo, where she learned that the foundation of conservation is education. Her love of animals and passion for conservation led her to obtain a degree in Wildlife and Conservation Biology from Ohio University. After college, she worked in the education department of the Toledo Zoo and taught marine and terrestrial ecology at Forfar field station on Andros Island, Bahamas. Spencer has since fallen in love with the ocean and is excited to work for Sanibel Sea School in a capacity that combines all of her passions.

How long have you worked at Sx3?
I have worked at Sea School since March 2015, so a year and eight months. 

Where did you work before?
I worked for another not for profit company called International Field Studies, and I was stationed down in their field station (Forfar Field Station) on Andros Island, Bahamas. 

Where did you learn about Sx3?
Sanibel Sea School was one of the groups that came down to Forfar field station for their Coral Reef Expedition Week

What drew you to working with the ocean?
I fell in love with the ocean without meaning to. I wanted to travel more, which lead me to my job in the Bahamas, where I fell in love with the ocean there. To be able to explore and travel to a reef in the clear Caribbean water really opens your eyes to all the life and amazing creatures that flourish in our big blue. 

Have you learned a lot while working here?
I have learned so much from working at SX3. I wasn’t interested in the ocean when I was in college; my marine knowledge comes from everything that I learned through other educators and research in the past three years. Sea School allows me to constantly learn and share new knowledge with coworkers and students. 

What kind of education do you need to work at Sx3?
All of our educators have at least a Bachelor Degree in some form of Biology. I have my BS in Wildlife and Conservation Biology. 

Do you enjoy working with the kids?
I love working with kids. They always have lots of questions, most of which I don’t think I would have thought to ask. 

Teaching Kids about the Ocean and Environment at Sanibel Sea School

What can you tell us about what you do at Sx3?
I am a Marine Science Educator, which means I get the pleasure of teaching kids and adults that sign up for our various programs. It is my job to make sure our students have a great experience and learn something new. 

Do you think that the kids get a lot from your classes?
I believe they get a lot from my classes. The kids get to learn something new and fall in love with the ocean in a safe and fun environment. 

What is your favorite part about working at Sx3?
I love getting to pass on my love and knowledge of the ocean to others. 

Teaching Kids about the Ocean and Environment at Sanibel Sea School


Alice Toussaint Pittman is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program


All photos courtesy and copyright Alice Toussaint Pittman