Due to a variety of constraints, there is a substantial percentage of Southwest Florida youth that have never watched dolphins in their natural habitat, collected shells from a barrier island beach or put their hands in the sand.
Captiva Cruises and the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation have partnered to fill this gap through a "No Child Left On Shore" initiative. The environmental education outreach project is aimed at local children who have no way of exploring the intrinsic beauty of mangrove islands and waterways.
"We see a real need to provide the younger generation of Southwest Florida with an opportunity to experience first hand the invaluable resources of the Caloosahatchee watershed and estuarine environment," said Environmental Educator Richard Finkel.
Twenty-seven children, ages 6 to 11, from Brightest Horizons Child Development Center in the Harlem Heights section of Fort Myers enjoy an environmentally educational cruise to Cayo Costa State Park as part of a “No Child Left On Shore” initiative by Captiva Cruises and Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation. This environmental education outreach project is aimed at local children who have no way of exploring the intrinsic beauty of mangrove islands and waterways. See additional photos from the children's day of adventure in Island Faces.
Cuts in public funding for school environmental education field trips have drastically reduced the number of students who can experience the importance of coastal resources.
"Many families within Southwest Florida, especially those with language, cultural, physical and economic barriers, do not have the means to get out on the water," said Finkel. "Too many of our local population who live close to the Charlotte Harbor and Caloosahatchee Estuary systems have never held a live sea star, shrimp or snail."
In the past few months Captiva Cruises and SCCF have conducted water borne educational field trips for youth groups from The Immokalee Foundation, YMCA summer campers from the Dunbar neighborhood of Fort Myers, as well as school-age children from Brightest Horizons Child Development Center in the Harlem Heights section.
"For many of these young people it was their first experience on a boat, not to mention hands on environmental experiential field trip where they could wade in shallow water and observe some of the fascinating marine life that many of us take for granted," said Finkel.
Captiva Cruises and SCCF have partnered on several other joint ventures, such as the Dolphin Wildlife and Adventure Cruise, special expeditions to the historic fish houses of Pine Island Sound, Randell Research Center on Pine Island, the lessons of Hurricane Charley Cruise and the Resident Environmental Orientation tours.
Through those undertakings thousands of Southwest Florida visitors and residents have been reached with the message of conservation, wildlife preservation and environmental stewardship, according to Finkel.
"We take great pride in all that we have achieved," he said. "It is the excitement and enthusiasm these youngsters exhibited during field trips that is a true highlight of my 25 years of conducting environmental education programs."
Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, part of a National Estuary program established to identify, restore and protect estuaries along the country's coasts, provides funding and support of SCCF's and Captiva Cruises No Child Left On Shore initiative.
Captiva Cruises offers regularly scheduled cruises out to Cayo Costa State Park, as well as cruises to Cabbage Key, Useppa Island, Boca Grande, sailing adventures and is currently in the swing of Summer Family Fun including family fishing trips.
For additional information about No Child Left on Shore, to donate funds or sponsor a field trip for a local youth group, contact Finkel at 472-5300, where reservations or information on Captiva Cruises can also be obtained.