My kids have been absolutely itching to use their bug catcher this spring. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of the idea. I feel bad about removing something from it’s natural habitat, and (perhaps even more so) I’m terrified of escapees, haha! But after this last rain, the temptation was too strong. And we found ourselves the proud new (temporary) owners of a pet snail! Say hello to Speedy.
We agreed to keep it for a week, as long as we learned all about what it needed to stay alive. So off to the library we went. We found a few snails books and brought them home.
Ayla couldn’t wait to get started. She flipped through the pages and started to make a list of all the things we would need. She was able to get most of the information from pictures and I helped her read some of the captions. We also used subtitles to help us find any information we may have been missing. As a beginning writer, Ayla sounds out words and uses approximations. Totally normal and not something to correct. The awesome thing is she can always read what she wrote, even when I can’t.
Before we began, we washed and dried the bug container. The first two things on her list were rocks and dirt. We did one layer of rocks, then added a layer of soil. She used a spray bottle to make sure the soil was nice and moist. The next two things on her list were bark and leaves. We read to stick some small pieces of bark and dried leaves into the soil, so that’s just what we did.
We also read that snails like to have a small shelter, even a small container tucked into the dirt on it’s side. Ayla wasn’t happy with anything we had, so she decided to use a longer piece of bark and prop it up on the side of the container.
We learned that snails need calcium to build their shells. A great way to do this at home is to put some egg shell into their habitat. So Ayla broke up some pieces and put them in. They also like to eat fruits and vegetables, so we put in some raspberries. Ayla was certain they also liked to eat leaves and she wasn’t happy with only the dry ones, so we added some green leaves too! We sprayed the whole habitat to keep it nice and moist (which we will do daily), then we carefully picked up Speedy by his shell and put him into his new home. I don’t speak snail, but I’m pretty sure he was impressed!
So not only did we learn a lot about snails and gain a very simple pet for the next week, Ayla got a chance to develop her literacy skills in a very authentic and meaningful situation. She learned about how to use a non-fiction text, gathered information from a text, organized that information using a list, strengthened her letter-sound relationships when sounding out words, and learned how to use a list. All in a highly engaging and completely voluntary situation. It’s awesome what kids are capable of when they are motivated!