Rob Levit | January 2014

Sea Shells for Experiential Learning

Sea shells. Who doesn’t love them? They conjure images of the mystery of the sea, happy times strolling down the beach and the natural beauty of nature. What a perfect way to harness and teach the profound power of observation through experiential learning. So, if you don’t already own some, go to Michael’s and buy a beautiful bag for under $5.00. Here are five easy ways to use seashells for learning:

Describe how the shell feels. Is it rough, smooth, bumpy,ridged, large or small? Give students a prompt sheet of descriptive words to choose from and then have them orally (out loud) describe the shell.

Use the See/Think/Wonder framework from Harvard’s Project Zero. What do students notice – from a purely objective viewpoint –  about the shell? Colors? Shapes? Shadows? What do they think about the shell? How does it make them feel? Finally, what do they wonder about the shell? Maybe where it comes from? What used to live in it? Engage the imagination.

Tell the story of the shell. Get your students to be creative by asking them to write a one paragraph story about the shell. If the shell could talk, what would it want to say or share? What advice would the shell give the students? What name would the students give their shell? Why? You can tailor make your shell lesson to fit ecological themes, myths, math and more!

Write shell haiku. Once the students have lots of descriptive words and ideas about the shells, get them to write their own haiku. A haiku is a simple (yet profound) non-rhyming poem of 5 syllables 7 syllables 5 syllables. Here’s one I wrote as a sample for you:

Seashell – ridged, salt-worn/Scalloped pattern revealing/Ancient life story

Compare and contrast. Pair students up and ask them to orally describe what their shells have in common and how they are different. Have all the students create basic classifications of shells – smooth, long, scalloped, etc. and have them physically place them in the appropriate place. If some of the shells fit into more than one category, ask them to choose the category that they think the shell best fits. Why did they make that decision? Here’s a link to a fun and fact filled PDF on shells.

There are many ways you can use seashells AND other objects and collections as a springboard for experiential learning. Can you think of some?


About the Author

Rob Levit, an acclaimed musician and artist and 2013 Innovator of the Year from the Maryland Daily Record, has created award-winning innovative "Life-Skills Through The Arts" programs for adults with mental illness, the homeless, adults in drug and alcohol recovery, youth in domestic/sexual abuse counseling, foster children, hospital patients, veterans and many more. He is currently Executive Director of Creating Communities and was the first Artist-In-Residence at Hospice of the Chesapeake, where he created and infused healing activities for the well-being of staff, families and patients. Email Rob.