Meet the Snails

Outreach Project: Classification

Children of all ages are able to classify objects. Sorting things into categories is a basic, everyday task. Whether it's papers on our desk, files in our computer, food in the fridge or just our own thoughts on something - finding a place for everything is both satisfying and helpful.

When our outreach team goes to third grade classrooms, we split the students into groups of 4 and give them a set of 17 shells. We then ask the students to sort the shells into groups using any characteristic they want: texture, pattern, type of aperture. Once they have sorted the shells into groups, we talk to them about the activity, asking them if the shells could have been sorted another way, or if different groups used different methods.

In middle school we use the same set of shells, but the activity is slightly different. As students learn in 7th grade how to classify and create classification schemes, we ask them to use the shells to make their own tree. They begin by dividing the shells into two large groups, and continue dividing them until the shells have been sorted into the smallest possible groups.

All the snails in "Meet the Snails" are from this particular shell set. Within the set there are 7 cone snail species, 4-5 cowry species, one bivalve, and some other gastropod species. Click on the different links to find out background information about the shells in this kit.


Cone snails


Other Molluscs from the shell set


Exploring Cone Snails and Science