Creating Marine Marvels at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

provided to Santiva Chronicle

Shells, yeah! Young ocean adventurers have the chance to explore their creative talents with whimsical shell crafting kits at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum.

The special artistic sessions are available in-person or from home, thanks to unique take-home shell crafting kits that let the youngest guests to enjoy the Museum long after their visit.

The Museum’s education team developed two types of kits: animals and “Create Your Own.” Within the animal kits, a list of pieces and a photo of the finished product are provided for reference. Various animal kits are offered, including owls, bears, turtles and fish, depending on the shells available that day. If children choose to make their own craft, they can pick the shells they want to use from a list that’s provided.

“The crafting kits allow kids to express their creativity and make something truly unique and personal,” said Leigh Gay, Education Coordinator with the Museum. “We have a team of shell-collecting volunteers that scour Sanibel’s beaches for shells for the kits and donate them to the Museum.”

The education team then pores over Pinterest to search for the next idea for a shell crafting kit, piecing together an animal from the available shells even if there’s little variety that day.

“Our team’s craft kits vary based on that day’s shells, and the essential shells we typically use are the Atlantic Kitten Paws, Dosinias and Common Jingles,” said Gay.

Although the kit themes change daily, the most popular ones remain steady: turtles, fish and owls. While creating the kits, Museum staff kept the idea of taking them home in mind, in order to cater to each guests’ needs during this time and align with safety measures.

In addition to deep sanitizations three times a day, requiring masks and limited occupancy in the Museum, staff designated a safe and clean crafting station. For families who would like to complete their craft at the Museum, tables are spaced six feet apart. To construct their shell critter at home, guests just need hot glue.

Additional crafting inspiration is available on the Museum’s website, along with step-by-step instructions, including a video tutorial of how to make an owl out of shells. Other shell-related online activities include a food web activity and game to learn about food chains and trophic levels by printing out cards and playing the Museum’s take on a classic card game. Also online is the Make-A-Mollusk activity for children to learn all about these shell-builders. Each activity is free and includes an overview of the topic to further educate children about marine wonders.

Take-home and in-person shell crafting kits are available free with paid admission to the Museum. The team loves to see guests’ work when they tag @shellmuseum on Instagram with completed crafts and activities, too. To plan a visit or buy advance timed tickets, visit

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