Introduce your child to the intriguing sunburst shape and spiky texture of the Astraea Calcar shell. Each of the small shells, sold in a set of 5, measures approximately 1.8 - 3cm.
Please note: each sea specimen is unique in its exact size/colour/shape. The photos included in our galleries (and activity suggestions) are for illustrative purposes only and your particular specimen may look slightly different! We also advise that slight imperfections are natural and although we do not sell ‘damaged’ specimens we do sell those which have small natural flaws that do not interfere with the overall safety and beauty of the object.
You might take one look at these beautiful, natural objects and instinctively wish to invite them into your child’s environment!
On the other hand, you might recognise their beauty but still ask yourself “but what could my child do with them?”. If that’s what you’re wondering then please read on…
A Montessori environment, whether at home or in a classroom, is fundamentally built on beauty. This characteristic is key in creating an environment that inspires, engages and delights each little individual. Montessori environments tend to rely on nature and reality to create this sense of beauty and harmony. Shells and sea specimens are an ideal example of attractive, natural décor!
A small collection of shells can be presented in a basket or carefully arranged in a display box. These can be placed in the environment to encourage a child to engage in sensory exploration; to touch the specimens, to look at their beautiful colours and patterns, to listen to the ‘ocean’ sound seemingly trapped within.
Shells in our Wooden Window Box
The child’s free exploration can be gently encouraged by the provision of tools. A magnifying glass can inspire more detailed visual inspection of sea specimens.
Pre-school age children may enjoy engaging with the following experiences;
Sorting. Shells, sea specimens and other natural resources can be the ideal objects for sorting exercises. They provide a wonderful ‘point of interest’ to draw the child towards the activity and they also possess lots of different characteristics that can be considered and categorised. A child can be encouraged to sort by shape, colour, texture (rough/smooth) or pattern.
A 'Rough and Smooth' shell sorting exercise
“Stereognostic” sorting. ‘Stereognosis’ is the perception of three-dimensionality. Maria Montessori arranged stereognostic sorting exercises where a child wore a blindfold and used the sense of touch to perceive and categorise the dimensions of various objects. Shells and sea specimens make an ideal stimuli for this sorting exercise because of their unique tactile characteristics, such as their ridges, spikes and curves.
Treasure hunt. Shells can be carefully hidden within sand to encourage a ‘treasure hunt’! This can be done as an outdoor activity, with lots of larger shells in a sandpit, or as an indoor activity, with small shells in a container/vessel of sand. The shells are hidden from sight under the sand and the child is provided with a set of tools; a shovel and brush for an outdoor sandpit, a small brush and tweezers if it’s being used as an indoor activity.
A 'Treasure Hunt' Exercise (shown here with crystals) can be done using shells and sea specimens.
For older children, in primary school, there is an enormous amount of information hiding within each specimen. An older child might like to learn about;
- The technical name of each species
- The various elements of the anatomy of the shell
- The art of ‘taxonomy’ – grouping different species based on shared traits (this can even lead to explorations of the idea of evolution as a way of explaining how different species can be so different and yet share so many fundamental characteristics). .
- The creatures that inhabit the various types of shells
- The eco-systems to which the shells belong
To introduce these more advanced concepts the real specimens can be surrounded by informative resources, including reference books, 3 Part Cards and worksheets.
I feel that natural resources have an extremely important place in the world of artistic expression. Shells can act as;
A point of inspiration. A child can observe and examine a real specimen while attempting to recreate its beauty through sketching, painting or sculpting.
A medium to create with. Armed with some shells and some glue a child might just uncover a remarkable sculpture waiting to be revealed!
Decorations on larger art projects. Shells and sea specimens make beautiful adornments, or elements of, sculptures made of playdough or clay. They are similarly attractive when fastened to photo frames or treasure boxes.
Subjects for photography. Even very young children, of only 3 or 4 years of age, are able to learn to use a digital camera. Children can use shells and other sea specimens to build artistic arrangements or scenes before taking photographs. These images could then be printed (even printed onto canvas!) and used to decorate the room!
Of course there are countless other activities and explorations that can incorporate these natural treasures! You – and the children you engage with – will discover many more uses!
One of my favourite things about natural resources, such as shells, is that they show the beauty of imperfection! In our modern world children are too often surrounded by mass-produced products that are so identical as to seem soulless. This is why I feel it is important to ensure that a child’s environment is enriched by the beauty of nature. Each treasure of nature is unique and sometimes flawed; but those flaws can expose both the beauty and the fragility of these gifts. A small imperfection teaches a child that this object was formed over time and in unique circumstances; not in the controlled and heartless conditions of a factory! A child also learns that this precious treasure needs to be handled carefully – as rough treatment might result in a shell’s spines chipping or a starfish’s leg breaking.
Our shells, urchins and starfish are all sourced from authorised, sustainable sources. We do not sell any species that are endangered or under threat – all of our specimens come from species that are thriving and available in abundance. They are therefore authorised for commercial use and this can be done without causing threat to any individual shell/fish species and/or to any reefs or ecosystems. We advise you to please be an eco-friendly collector when it comes to shells, urchins, starfish and other sea life; ensure you make your purchases from reputable, sustainable sources (like us!).