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We’ve been doing some science here and there this summer. When we find something that interests us and that we want to learn more about, we do some research and some experimenting.
Last week, we emptied our bag of shells that we collected on our recent beach vacation to the Gulf Shores area in Alabama. The kids noticed all the different colors, shapes and sizes. “I wonder what kind of animal makes these?” was a frequent question.
Before our trip, the kids had questions about saltwater, so we did some research on salt water and types of shells we might find on the Alabama coast.
Learning About Mollusks And Their Shells
As we read about the Phylum Mollusca together, the kids started automatically sorting the shells into groups (or classes) – bivalves, gastropods and cephalopods.
Gastropods are the largest classes of mollusks. This class includes snails, slugs, whelks, and conches. Most gastropod shells have visible growth lines. The kids immediately made the connection to the growth lines of trees. Making connections like these help kids understand concepts rather than simply memorizing facts.
The fact that Class Cephalopoda contains the organisms that make the spiral shells we found AND octopus and squid amazed the kids!
As the kids examined at the bivalve shells we got from the beach, my daughter noticed that they were just like the fresh water mussels we see in my parents lake. “They are the same! We have bivalves in Illinois, too!” I love light bulb moments.
Sea Shell Links
- SeaShells.org – Lots of information on shell identification, beachcombing, shell collecting, and more.
- How Are Sea Shells Created? – Scientific American
- Sand Dollar Unit Study Links
Ocean Science Links
- In The Lab Report, learn how waves affect the shape and appearance of sandy beaches.
- Why are sea turtles endangered? Includes a free printable
- 30 Fun Facts About Sea Turtles
- Sea Turtle Unit Study Links
- Ocean habitats from the Monterey Bay Aquarium
- Shark Unit Study – with a free 90+ page printable.