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Anna-Squared duo a hit at Shell Museum

By Staff | Dec 10, 2014

Anna Wells (foreground) and Anna Willis each learn how to handle mollusks in the new holding tank in the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum. The Anna-Squared duo are a hit as docents with visitors since they started in late October. Brian Wierima

The best way to educate someone on a subject is having a strong presentation of the facts to keep the interest strong and the questions coming.

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum has just that in a pair of 11-year-old girls dubbed “Anna-Square”, who have been a hit with guests since they took on docent duties in late October.

“They are our rockstars,” said Shell Museum marketing and events manager Katie Ball. “We actually have people seeking the staff out to compliment the Annas on the job they did.”

Anna-Squared is compromised of Anna Wells and Anna Willis. With the same first name and the similarity in last names, they earned the nickname Anna-Squared by the Shell Museum staff.

But the Anna duo doesn’t just bring cute faces to their volunteer positions, they bring some pretty solid knowledge of the sea shells and mollusks they are presenting to the visitors. Every Wednesday, Anna-Squared take their docent positions and the visitors just flock to them, asking questions.

“I like telling other people about the shells and learning about shells myself,” Willis said. “I want to teach other people and like to learn, as well.”

At the beginning of the Anna’s tenure at the Shell Museum, the thought was they would be excellent conduits for sharing information on the shells and mollusks with other kids their age.

But after awhile, Anna-Squared was attracting people of all ages.

“Because of their age, you’d seem we’d have them just work with kids,” Ball said. “But we have adults coming in here all the time complimenting them.”

Sharing their knowledge with other people also has been a very positive experience for Anna-Squared.

“It makes you feel really cool teaching others about shells,” Wells said. “I enjoy teaching other children new things to me and new to them.”

For Willis, it’s been more interesting switching roles of being the teacher, instead of the student.

“My favorite thing here, is that I get to teach others, instead of me sitting in class learning,” Willis said. “But I still have learned a lot here.”

The energetic duo was taught by another shelling prodigy of the Shell Museum in 15-year-old Isaac Bender, who has been a docent since he was in fifth grade. He is now a sophomore at Cypress High School.

“One of the things that Sanibel is famous for is shelling,” Bender said. “People come to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum to learn more about shells. I enjoy demonstrating the live mollusk tank. I show how mollusks live in their natural habitat. Visitors are often amazed at all of the new information that they learn about mollusks.

“The Shell Museum is about more that simply collecting shells. It is about discovering the environmental impact on the mollusks. I greatly enjoy the opportunity to volunteer at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum.”

The plan is to have Anna-Squared also work the new holding tank for mollusks, which will be located in the downstairs area of the Shell Museum.

But no matter where the rockstar duo of Anna-Squared is located inside the Shell Museum, they are sure to attract a crowd, sharing their knowledge of shells to a very attentive audience.