Snails

16th September 2015

Both the small Bears are very interested in the outside world, and Teddy in particular likes snails. He has been watching Miniscule on BBC iPlayer for weeks, and when he finds a snail shell (or an actual snail!) in the garden he likes to carry it around with him. Little Bear just likes creatures. He has been growing butterflies every summer for four years, and last Autumn kept a small wormery.

Browsing one of the Reggio boards on Facebook, I discovered a classroom snail habitat, and my immediate thought was of Teddy. However, it has been Little Bear who has helped me to push this forwards, and he is just as excited by it as I thought he would be.

A kind friend let us have her old fish tank, which is a good size for snails and has a handy lid. The hole at the back of the lid needed some fabric taped over it to prevent escapees, but apart from a good clean we did not need to adapt it further. Little Bear tipped in a good layer of soil for the bottom, and we sprinkled some grass seeds to give the snails a growing option to eat. He then had the idea to add some worms, which we dug for and dropped in. 20150916_133152 20150916_133140

The worms seemed quite happy, and immediately began burrowing into the soil. We had a chat about what sorts of places snails like to live, and Little Bear gave his tank a sprinkling of water as worms and snails both prefer a damp environment.

We added a potted geranium, a broken pot as a house and a large smooth stone that has been knocking around for a while. Then the snail hunting began. Little Bear knew where they were hiding: over by the vegetable patch we cleared the other day. He quickly found five, and we settled them in their new home.

20150916_134832 We have three garden snails like the larger one on the far left, a Roman snail in the middle, and a tiny baby snail which I think is probably also a garden snail.

The snail tank is now in the corner of the dining room, where Little Bear can check on it many times a day to his hearts content. I don’t think Teddy has caught on that there are actually snails living there yet, but I am sure it won’t take him long to realise.

19th September 2015

Keeping snails is pretty easy, but there have been a few things we have had to learn quickly. One is that the habitat quickly dries out, (especially when someone keeps opening the lid!) and then all the snails hide in their shells and become quite boring. We need a spray bottle of water, ideally, but for now we are sprinkling a little water in twice a day and finding them more active.

I also did a little research into food for myself.

Disclaimer: Usually in a project I would wait for one of the boys to wonder what the snails need to eat. However, they seemed quite uninterested in the leaves Little Bear was collecting for them, the same leaves he has been collecting for his caterpillars, and I was concerned that they would starve.

I am glad I made this decision to research without the boys’ prompt as I also discovered they need a source of calcium or their shells will go soft. And so cuttlefish bone has also been added to the shopping list, and we have provided some eggshell in the meantime. I also discovered that they really, really like apple.

Little Bear and I cleaned their tank out for the first time today. He carefully collected them into a spare box and gave them a little apple to keep them busy. He watched them for a while, and was delighted to see the baby one crawling around quite busily. We were impressed to see just how far they can stretch to get across a gap, but unfortunately didn’t manage to get a photo.

An important part of project based learning is making observations of the child’s interests. Whilst he was watching the snails, Little Bear made two comments that might give us an opportunity to start taking this project further. He said:

“The snails have curly shells.” 

and asked:

“Will we see the snails change shells?”

It would be easy to just answer the question and nod and agree to his comment, but I think that would be missing an interesting opportunity. I plan to encourage some observational drawing of the snails’ shells over the next few days, perhaps taking that further by reproducing spiral patterns with loose parts, collage or paint. We have also ordered a couple of books that should arrive soon that will help us to learn more about our new pets.

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