On Monday January 4th, students from the First Baptist Academy of Naples journeyed to Sanibel to spend the day exploring the J.N “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. During the students’ winter term, the school allocates a week’s worth of time to promote a particular interest of students. The subject of interest for this sub-set of students was environmental sciences. The First Baptist Academy prides themselves on educating through care, commitment and creativity. A field trip to explore one of the most productive and biodiverse areas in the U.S. is a very creative way to inspire and muster enthusiasm for budding students.

13 High Schoolers spent the day on ‘land and sea’. First, the students hopped into kayaks to explore Tarpon Bay’s winding Commodore Creek Trail with their seasoned Naturalist, Brie Coffman. A uniquely low tide made for superb birding. Enormous White Pelicans could be seen by the dozens either flying overhead or swimming from nearby sandbars. A variety of wading birds peppered the edges of the mangrove roots stalking for prey. “The birds have been awesome lately,” exclaimed Coffman. “Low tides create concentrated pockets of prey for birds to easily feed on and it doesn’t disappoint,” explained Coffman.

The second part of the students’ excursion was by bike. The students pedaled down to Wildlife Drive to search for other wildlife the Refuge could offer. As usual, the birding off Wildlife Drive was spectacular. There were White Pelicans galore along with species not seen earlier like Reddish Egrets and Blue-winged Teals. “The Students had such a great time,” exclaimed First Baptist Academy’s science teacher, Jennifer Hannon. “We are looking forward to coming back!”

Tarpon Bay Explorers is the concession for the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The Explorers offer educational eco-tours and recreational opportunities for the Refuge. The Explorers are following all City of Sanibel and CDC recommended guidelines during the COVID pandemic. More information about the company, their operation and offerings please visits www.tarponbayexplorers.com or call their nature-themed gift shop at 239-472-8900.