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New wheels to enable shell museum to reach more children

March 2, 2018
By TIFFANY REPECKI ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Knowing one key to conserving and protecting our oceans is reaching the younger generations, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum recently acquired a new tool to accomplish the task.

Last year, the museum initiated the Mollusks on the Move program with the mission of connecting local children with the natural world through a hands-on experience and their love of seashells.

"Without mobilizing this educational platform, we were very limited in the number of children we could reach," Stephanie Muddell, director of marketing for the museum, said.

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Leigh Gay, outreach coordinator at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, shares a mollusk with students during a Mollusks on the Move event.

Many youth are landlocked and an all-day trip to the museum may not be always feasible.

"Now we bring the field trip to them," she said.

Mollusks on the Move focuses on mollusk ecology, behavior and reproduction to foster lifelong learning and respect for the sciences. The program includes an introduction to Southwest Florida shells, touch tank demonstrations with live mollusks and an interactive art project. It also provides the youth with their own keepsake shell and laminated Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum shell guide.

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Since its inception, Mollusks on the Move has reached more than 3,000 students in Lee, Collier, Hendry and Sarasota counties by traveling to schools, festivals, camps and county parks.

Muddell noted that over 20 trips were made, but a rental van was needed for each.

"We were renting a van for every single trip," she said.

Thanks to the help of two partners, the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club and the Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida, the museum was able to fund the purchase of its own van.

"This is actually like our road show. Now, it's going to make it logistically easier," Muddell said, expressing gratitude for the club and hospital. "Without them, we'd still be renting vans."

With the new van, the museum plans to double the program's reach this year.

"It's already gone on a few trips," she said.

Muddell explained that Mollusks on the Move benefits students and parents. Many families never get a chance to explore the beach, so meeting the live mollusks who create the shells can be life-changing.

She added that children are shocked to learn "that shell came from that animal."

"Meeting the live animal enables them to make the connection with the shell," Muddell said. "It's supposed to inspire curiosity - it has got to start somewhere."

With the new partnership, Mollusks on the Move will make a stop at the hospital each month.

"This mobile program keeps children close to home (or school) but connects them to our environment in an exciting and innovative way," Armando Llechu, chief administrative officer for the Golisano Children's Hospital, said in a prepared statement. "Keeping children close to home is our mission at Golisano Children's Hospital, too We are certain the program will pique interest, inspire curiosity and creativity, and enrich the lives of children throughout Southwest Florida."

Partner and major supporter of the museum since its doors opened, the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club continually contributes toward enhancing the museum's collection and scientific data. Members serve as museum volunteers, and the club helps provide funding for other programs, like Adopt-A-Class.

Adopt-A-Class is the museum's free, fourth-grade field trip program.

"The Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club meets at the National Shell Museum each month in season," former President Joyce Matthys said in a prepared statement. "We are delighted to provide funding for the new Mollusks on the Move vehicle as we feel it will significantly improve and expand the museum's ability to reach students throughout our region."

For more information about Mollusks on the Move, contact Outreach Coordinator Leigh Gay at or 239-395-2233. For more on the museum, visit

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is at 3075 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel.



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