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Sanibel School Students Complete Year-Long Mangrove Study Project with Habitat Restoration

May 14, 2024
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This May, an inspiring chapter closed for sixth and seventh graders at the Sanibel School as they completed their year-long mangrove growth project. A collaboration with SCCF and Coastal Watch, the project has been a pivotal part of their curriculum, providing hands-on learning opportunities while fostering a deeper understanding of environmental stewardship. 

Guided by SCCF Environmental Educator Richard Finkel, the middle school students initiated a year-long mangrove growth study. Finkel met with the students to discuss the importance of mangroves and SCCF’s Marine Laboratory and Coastal Watch programs. He challenged the students to experiment with growing red mangrove propagules in different conditions to try and determine their optimal growing environment. This week, the students planted their 400 mangroves along Woodring Road on Sanibel.

“This project is a great way for the kids to get hands-on and see the whole process from the very beginning to planting them at their forever homes at this restoration site,” said Coastal Watch Director, Kealy Pfau. “They really get a better understanding of the importance of mangroves, especially on our coastal barrier island, how big of an impact they have, and they get their hands dirty and have a memorable learning experience.”

Throughout the year, students diligently cared for their mangrove propagules, subjecting them to different conditions such as fresh water, salt water, bleach mixtures, adding peat moss, bone meal, algaeand more. This hands-on approach not only reinforced classroom lessons but also instilled a sense of responsibility and ownership over the project, Finkel said. 

Sanibel School teacher Michele Mitnitsky highlighted the integration of mangrove lessons into the curriculum, aligning with sixth-grade discussions on erosion and seventh-grade studies on ecosystems. “The kids need to be out there doing stuff. They need to learn about the material and understand the material, but then they have to apply it. It’s essential to their growth and development.”

As these mangroves find their new homes along Woodring Road, the students’ journey comes full circle. Several students even found a new interest in marine biology and conservation. 

Their dedication to this project demonstrates the profound impact of youth-led initiatives in environmental preservation.


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