If you’ve ever been on a hike and saw those cute snail shells everywhere, but had no idea what to do with them, then you’ll love this educational craft using snail shells!
The particular snail this unit pertains to is the Mountain Snail – they’re found all around the Rocky Mountain Range and surrounding areas, and are super interesting to learn about.
The craft portion is optional (While it’s modifiable for different shells, I know not everyone has access to that!) but it’s a fun way to help generate even more interest and excitement for this mountain snail activity pack!
Basic Mountain Snail Facts
Mountain Snails are a type of land snail found in areas throughout the Rocky Mountain Range such as Montanna, South Dakota and Wyoming. Here are some more quick facts about mountain snails!
- Up to 1″ in diameter and normally gray with brown spiral bands
- Active in mornings and evenings, particulary if there was a rain or morning dew!
- To survive dry periods, these snails can “aestivate”, or go dormant, until conditions get better
- They use their radula (a tongue full of tiny teeth) to scrape up food into their mouth
- A breathing pore allows land snails to breathe oxygen
- Their slime trail is acutally quite useful – it helps smooth their path as they travel.
- Mountain Snails don’t typically go very far from where they were born (lack of speed and energy) so they are hermaphrodites… meaning they can be both male and female at the same time!
- Reach maturity between 1-2 years, and can live up to 6!
- Their eyes can only see light and dark
Now apply that knowledge… let’s design a snail habitat!
Learning mountain snail facts is fun, but actually using that knowledge and making something with it is even funner!
After reviewing the fact sheet and snail anatomy practice, each kiddo will get to draw out an environment where they think a snail would do well in. A section to note how each of the three “musts” are fulfilled in their habitat design!
Let’s go on a snail shell hunt!
If you are lucky enough to have these mountain snails (or a land snail of some variety), you can use your knowledge of their ideal habitat to scope out places shells might be!
We tend to find them accumulated near bases of bushes/trees or at the bottoms of hills. They vary in color from white (the sun actually bleaches the shells once the occupier dies) to light brown and usually have dark stripes on them.
Use the “Snail Habitat Research” sheet to take note of the location of the shell, amount of shells found plus a drawing of the smallest, largest, and favorite shells!
Design your own snail (use our printable snail or gather + create your own with this cute snail shell pet DIY)
There are two options for the creative part of this study unit – if you don’t have any type of snail shells available, I would encourage you to use the printable snail. Kids can make it look real or just have fun making it beautiful – ours loved to color it in even though we did the craft portion too!
How to make a DIY Snail Pet from foraged snail shells!
This is, of course, ALL the kids favorite part – making their own little cute snail to take home! Remember when foraging for snail shells to triple check that they are empty. =)
A printable version of the instructions are available in the packet as well so you don’t need to reference my website for anything later on.
- clean snail shells
- ziploc bag
- small piece of pipe cleaner (for the eyes)
- markers to decorate the shell
- hot glue gun
- OPTIONAL tweezers + lighter to clean up edges of eyes and body
- Collect, clean, and dry your snail shells Find a variety of sizes!
- Prep your snail's eyes by cutting a small piece of pipe cleaner that, when folded in half, looks proportional to the shell. Once folded in half, I singed the pipe cleaner a bit so it wouldn't look so fluffy.
- Cut a piece of the plastic bag out that will be big enough for your snail's body. This is an easy way to create a flat bottom without worrying about peeling anything (be warned, the hot glue can melt through though!)
- Create a big dab of hot glue for the body (long enough for your snail's shell, head and a bit of tail) then immediately put the shell and eyes in place. If needed, add more hot glue to secure the shell or fix the shape of the body.
- Give your snail some character and decorate the shell however you like! We used sharpies, but watercolor is another fun method that makes it colorful while keeping the cool swirls of the shell visible.
- Create your own mini habitat - Using the information learned from earlier, encourage kids to gather some items from nature they think their snail would love! Think dead leaves, rocks/sticks etc.
- Enjoy your cute snail pet! - We had a ton of fun playing with them in "snaily places" as my kids would say. It's a great free time activity for the rest of the day.
Purchase the entire Mountain Snail Study Unit from my Etsy store
This nine page activity packed printable is perfect for a backyard nature week, summer camp or at a forest school. Please let me know if you have any questions!
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