March/April 2001

You Have A Lot to Learn

Visiting or living in Southwest Florida is a never-ending learning experience, whether you are discovering more about the natural world or adapting to its special lifestyle. And if instructional or group settings appeal to you, you can choose from almost endless choices of seasonal and year-round lectures, seminars, workshops, field trips, and credit or non-credit courses offered on the islands and mainland.
    Interpretive programs are a backbone of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which now has a world-class Education Center that continues to expand. Offerings include birding tours, guided walks of Shell Mound Trail and the Bailey Tract, and discussions on crocodilians, sea turtles, and manatees. International prize-winning wood carver Jim Sprankle, who lives on Sanibel and demonstrates his skills in the Education Center studio on Friday mornings, has scheduled a woodcarving workshop in March., 1 Wildlife Drive, Sanibel, 941/472-1100.
    Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation’s “major focuses are land acquisition, habitat management, restoration, research and monitoring, and education.” On the education front, SCCF has gained renown for its resident environmental orientation program, classes on native plant landscaping for new homeowners, landscaping for wildlife workshops and garden tours, (see Butterflies, page 46.) beach nesters interpretive program, and nature walks, to name just a few. Its popular Tuesday evening speaker series runs through April 10., 3333 Sanibel-Captiva Road, Sanibel, 941/472-1932.
    Weekly bird outings are scheduled through March 17 under the auspices of the Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society. Locations range from Wildlife Drive and Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel, Blind Pass between Sanibel and Captiva, and Bunche Beach and Six-Mile Cypress Slough in Ft. Myers. The local organization, which is a chapter of the National Audubon Society, also offers Thursday evening lecture and slide programs. They are held during season, through March 15, at the Sanibel Community House. 941/472-3156 or 941/472-2346.
    Shell collecting in Southwest Florida can easily become a pleasant and worthwhile addiction, as members of the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club well know. The club, in conjunction with The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, sponsors monthly lecture and slide programs on conchology, malacology, conservation, and marine life. The meetings are held at the museum from October through May. 941/454-8659, or contact the museum (, 3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road, Sanibel, 941/395-2233 or 888/679-6450.
    The naturalists at Tarpon Bay Recreation Inc. will take you on a Wildlife Drive tram tour through J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, on canoe or kayak tours, bird watching, or mangrove fishing. They also give weekday lunchtime programs about plants, manatees, animals of Tarpon Bay, and the Calusa Indians., 900 Tarpon Bay Road, Sanibel, 941/472-8900.
    If you feel you’re being left behind in a world where computer science is quickly dominating, you’re not alone. But it’s never too late to learn and an easy way is by
signing up for Joanne Wessels’s two-part “Basic Internet Workshop” at the Sanibel Library. The first part consists of a lecture and the second is a hands-on session. During season, Wessels gives the program twice each month, and once a month during summer., 770 Dunlop Road, Sanibel, 941/472-2483.
    At the Captiva Library formal classes in computer science are not offered, but on Thursday afternoons, a volunteer is available to teach people how to use electronic mail and the Internet. www.lee, 11560 Chapin Lane, Captiva, 941/472-2133.
    If your interests tend to be more on the artistic side, you’ll find a wide selection of seasonal and year-round classes, workshops, and lectures at BIG Arts, which is billed as “a home for all the arts.” The vast listing features everything from painting or drawing, basketry, calligraphy, and cartooning to sculpting, pottery, furniture painting, glass beads, and making paper. Stimulate your mind with classes in French, German, Italian, or Spanish. Or join the ongoing current events discussion group, which tackles worldwide and domestic issues. Some of BIG Arts’ literature-related sessions run through April., 900 Dunlop Road, Sanibel, 941/395-0900.
    Art lovers will also find plenty to do during season at the Ft. Myers Beach Art Association. There are Famous Artist Workshops with visiting artists, workshops with local artists, and classes such as figure/portrait sessions with live models or indoor-still life painting. Take advantage of the lovely Southwest Florida weather and join the association’s itinerant Outdoor Painters group. In addition, special “paint-outs” are scheduled the last Saturday morning of each month during the winter., Donora Street and Shell Mound Boulevard, Ft. Myers Beach, 941/463-3909.
    On the mainland, Lee County Alliance for the Arts does a top-notch job offering a wide selection of art classes. Most are held Mondays through Fridays during spring, summer, autumn, and winter sessions. Topics include painting, photography, popular arts, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, and pottery. Also, the alliance often schedules workshops on weekends and summer camp programs for children., 10091 McGregor Blvd., Ft. Myers, 941/939-2787.
    Cape Coral Arts Studio has a similar well-organized setup. Potential students should contact the studio for “a full schedule of classes in the fine arts and fine crafts for adults and youths, in day and evening sessions, Mondays through Saturdays. Many classes are offered for the beginner to advanced level in a variety of media.” In addition, workshops and mini class sessions are given during the year, and fine arts and musical theater children’s camp sessions are held in the summertime. 4533 Coronado Parkway, Cape Coral, 941/574-0802.
    Whether you are dreaming of Hollywood or not, acting and dancing classes and workshops are available to adults and children at the Florida Repertory Theatre. Its home is the Arcade Theatre, in downtown Ft. Myers. "Something is always going on, all year round" with resident or visiting actors and teachers., First Street and Bay Street, Ft. Myers, 941/332-4488 or 877/787-8053.
    Nowadays, academic communities welcome students of all ages. From August through May, the School District of Lee County gets extra use out of most of its high school buildings by holding “leisure courses” during the evenings. On the extensive list are foreign languages, photography, computers, and cake decorating, to name a few. Also, GED classes are given for academic credit. The district’s two vocational-technical schools offer GED preparation at no charge. For a fee, the vo-techs provide daytime or evening programs leading to certificates in computer repair, business, culinary arts, carpentry, auto mechanics, and 34 other career options., 2055 Central Ave., Ft. Myers, 941/334-1102.
    Edison Community College’s three campuses offer hundreds of year-round campus-based or distance-learning courses for credit, non-credit, continuing education, and professional development., 8099 College Parkway SW, Ft. Myers, 941/489-9235; 7007 Lely Cultural Parkway, Naples, 941/732-3707; or 26300 Airport Road, Punta Gorda, 941/637-5669.
    Florida Gulf Coast University is the 11th university in Florida’s higher education system and the newest “from-the-ground-up” university in the nation. Its undergraduate and graduate programs continue to grow and FGCU is considered a pioneer in distance learning., 10501 FGCU Blvd. South, Ft. Myers, 941/590-1000.
    Lee County Extension Service is run in connection with the University of Florida system and the county. It is expanding its year-round workshops because of popular demand. They are held in venues throughout the county and cover more than 200 subjects as diverse as agriculture, boat safety, energy/conservation, family finances, and horticulture. Parenting workshops include “Brainy Babies” for parents with children under age 3. Food safety training classes lead to certification. Programs for 4-H members also are held under the auspices of the extension service., Terry Park Complex, 3406 Palm Beach Boulevard, Ft. Myers, 941/338-3232.
– Libby Grimm