Friday, October 19, 2012

Our Florida Shell Collection

I don't want to be a person who collects things and then never does anything with my collection.

And yet, up until Willow expressed a desire to study mollusks, I admit to having a plastic grocery sack down in the basement carelessly and neglectfully holding all of the shells that I took such pleasure in collecting from Sanibel Island last year. How wasteful, right? I constantly have to fight my hoarder desires, I'm afraid.

I have therefore declared this study of mollusks to be the PERFECT opportunity to deal with these shells, ideally sorting them, organizing them, setting some up for academic reference, crafting with the rest. To begin, I chose a lovely, sunny autumn day, herded the girls out to the back deck, and brought up the grocery sack of shells with the simple goal of transferring them from the bag to a nice storage bin.

How much fun we had!

I encouraged the girls to differentiate between univalves and bivalves--this turned out to be a little silly because 99.9% of our shells were bivalves, but at least I was assured that they understood the concept, after looking at the three univalves in one pile, and the five thousand bivalves like this little cutie in another:

Have I ever actually told you about our Brock Magiscope? I did a ton of research before I bought it, and I have to say that we couldn't love it more. It's the perfect microscope for kids, and the perfect microscope for field work. The kiddos looked at our shells through it--

--and then we all got to experience the singular shock of looking at sand through a microscope for the first time:

I won't spoil the experience for you if you've never done it, but instead I'll just say... wow.

One of the souvenirs that I hadn't known that I was bringing home was LOTS of sand in that grocery sack full of shells. The girls had such a fine time with the sand that you'd never know they had a little sandbox of their own, perfectly ignored for several weeks over by the side of the house. I have such happy memories of Sanibel Island that I dug out a set of plastic test tubes (thank you, Target dollar bin!), filled one with Sanibel sand, and stoppered it up as a keepsake, similar to my Pebble Beach pendant, but destined perhaps for a scrapbook or memory box, not a necklace: 

Look at how much sand had sneaked its way into this one half shell!

Eventually, most of the shells did make their way into the storage bin set aside for them:

I scattered a big handful of broken shells in our front yard garden, and the girls brushed the rest of the sand between the floorboards of the deck and down to the likely haunted space underneath:

Thankfully, we have tons of plans for this nice bin of shells:

  • identifying and nicely mounting one superior example of each shell
  • making sailor's valentines
  • sketching and diagramming each shell
  • doing TONS of cheezy kids' shell crafts (think googly eyes!)
  • shell fossils
  • shell mosaics
Don't worry that there are ONLY six things on that list--my Biology of Mollusks pinboard is constantly being obsessively compiled.

This post was shared with Friday's Nature Table.

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