Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Learning about Snails

We don't follow a curriculum or textbook of any kind when it comes to science. This is not because we don't think science is an important subject, it is because we believe that like other subject areas, deep, meaningful learning will occur when it is interest-led. I have previously written about The Nature Curriculum and how my children have learnt a vast amount just by being immersed in nature and having the freedom to explore and develop their interests. Science is one of the most frequently discussed subjects in our home and it develops through my children's interests and their natural curiosity as they engage and interaction with the natural environment. And this is how we came to learn about snails.


At the beginning of this year we moved from northern Australia to the east coast (NSW) of Australia and with this new location came a new variety of animals for us to discover and learn about. In our new front yard, hiding in our mail box, was a large group of snails and these mail-eating molluscs quickly became a daily topic of discussion as an interest and curiosity began to develop


We spent, literally, many hours observing the snails crawling around our garden and eventually brought some inside so we could observe them closely. The first questions to arise was about the appearance of the snails body and how they move along.


We went straight to our growing book collection to see if we could find any information about snails. We had some simple books Creepy Creatures: Snails and Snails: Amazing Pictures and Facts about Snails that were perfect for my girls. For my son, we searched through The Wonderland Of Nature and our DK Animal Encyclopedia, putting in stick notes as we went, to find information we were after. I used this opportunity to reinforce the use of index, references and contents when searching for particular information in a book.


For my daughters who are six and four years old, I purchased a Snail and Nomenclature Cards and Definition Booklet for them to use and learn about parts of a snail. I presented the cards to my girls and we talked about the different body parts while using our vineyard snail figurines to get a closer look. For my son who is a little bit older (10 years old), I purchased this 4D Vision Snail Anatomy Model from Mad About Science (Australia) for him to learn about the different parts of a snail. Here is a link to the same  snail anatomy model available on Amazon. The model came with a booklet so my son was able to independently explore the anatomy of the snail at his own pace and interest. 


After observing the parts of a snail, questions developed about the snails shell. We went hunting around our garden and found lots of shells which no longer had snails living in them. This sparked questions about did the snails die, did they grow out of their shell (like hermit crabs do) and why do they die. My children developed an hypothesis that snails in our garden had died because they were old and maybe there wasn't enough food for them or it might have been too dry for them to survive. All really great questions!
 

We collected some of the shells and took them inside to observe them further. The shells were of different sizes with different shades of brown. Most of the patterns were the same so my children thought that this might be because they were the same type of snail. 
 

We took a closer look at these shells under a microscope to see the detail further. Questions continued to develop about how hard the shells were, does the shell get bigger as the snail grows or do they need to find a bigger shell, and what if snails didn't have a shell. This led our conversation towards molluscs and what other creatures were apart of the molluscs family.


After looking at the shells, the interest in snails seemed to slow down for a few weeks until my youngest child found a very tiny snail in our garden. This sparked questions about the life cycle of snails and how they have their babies. We read our books which told us that snails lay their eggs in the dirt so of course, we went exploring further. Unfornately we did not find any snail eggs but we did spent lots of time watching these baby snails.


Most of our questions were answered in the books we had and some of the questions we were able to find and answer for ourselves through observation. One such questions was asked about snails sleeping during the day. We thought maybe they were nocturnal so this took our learning into the late hours of the evening. After a passing rain shower we were able to observe the snails come to life" and it was awesome! My children weren't the only ones who were amazed to see how busy snails are at night time.


Although it is wonderful to read about information in a book, it is even better to actually see these facts and information in full action right in front of our eyes. You can find more resources and information over on my Pinterest and follow along on our adventure over on Facebook and Instagram

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