Posted by: lauraearly | August 31, 2011

Our vision comes to life

A school of fish morphs around Mia's hand.

As Jacques Cousteau said, “People protect what they love,” and at Sanibel Sea School, we are working toward a better future for our ocean by helping people fall in love with it. As it turns out, it is not that hard.

Our vision, as stated on our website, is absolutely what is happening at the Sea School:

Through their experiences, students develop an intimate bond with the ocean and its inhabitants, and gain an enhanced awareness of the tightly woven fabric of our global environment. Sanibel Sea School’s programs foster a sense of wonder in regards to the marine world, leaving participants eager to learn more and enthusiastic about practicing good ocean stewardship.

It is not an impossible, or even a very difficult task to foster a love for the ocean. The ocean doesn’t need fancy signs, the latest technology, not even a fresh coat of paint–it is awe-inspiring all on its own.

Mia runs to keep pace with the school of fish.

On a recent morning expedition from our classroom at South Seas Island Resort, one of our students had a transformative experience thanks to a school of small fish. The school, probably sardines, first appeared as a mysterious dark shape in the water a little ways offshore. We ran through the “what-is-its?” in the few seconds it took to reach the beach: a tangle of seaweed, a manatee, a shark?!

We were not the least bit disappointed when we realized it was a school of fish, and we raced down the beach alongside the swift moving cloud. The thousands of small individuals seemed to move as one. They smoothly took a detour around a small hand stuck in their path, but seemed to explode for half of a second when a needle fish darted in for a quick meal. We marveled at their speed and coordination, squealed with delight when they morphed into a different shape, and were excited by an almost fear that a larger predator was just out of sight.

After we had followed the school for as far as we could and were walking back to the classroom, Mia said to me: “I don’t understand why people don’t love the ocean as much as I do.” She went on to mention the amount of trash in the ocean, oil spills, and taking too many fish out of the ocean. She was genuinely distraught about how to fix these huge problems.

I listened intently, and then prompted her with some pretty big questions, including: “How do we get people to care about the ocean?” As she thought it through, she decided that the people who allow horrible things to happen to the ocean must not know about all the amazing creatures that live in the sea. We recalled the exhilarating experience she just had with the ocean, and wondered how to get more people to feel that same connection, that same awe, that love.

Mia decided she needed to write a book to help others understand how she felt about the ocean. So, during our lunch hour, with a piece of cheese pizza in one hand and a crayon in the other, Mia wrote a book. Flip through The Sea via the video below, and take a look.

It is not going to be picked up by some large publishing company or translated into 13 different languages, but maybe it will inspire someone to fall in love with the ocean. As Mia notes, even the small things can make a difference.

As for Sanibel Sea School, we will continue to help others experience the magic, the mystery, and the excitement that the ocean holds.

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