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Adopt A Class kicks off for the season

By Staff | Dec 23, 2015

One of the stations during the Adopt A Class trip to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum includes shell art. PHOTO PROVIDED

By MEGHAN McCOY

mmccoy@breezenewspapers.com

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum Adopt A Class Program kicked off its season the second week of December with six classrooms from Tropic Isles Elementary School.

Development Associate Paul Gulbrandsen said the Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis Club donated $1,900 to the Adopt A Class Program enabling fourth grade students from Tropic Isles Elementary School to visit the museum.

More than 35,000 fourth grade students from the Lee County School District have had an opportunity to visit the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum since 2003 when Ginny Avery began the Adopt A Class program.

Although the program serves schools throughout Lee County, it mainly touches low income families and those who are on free and reduced lunches. For many of the students, a trip to the museum is the first time they cross the bridge to visit Sanibel.

Before the kids arrive at the museum, the teacher and their students watch a movie supplied by the Shell Museum, so the children have a better understanding of where they are going. For the first time this year, the students also receive a color coded name tag that they print their names on before arriving for their field trip.

Once they arrive around 10:30 a.m. the students walk in a single file line to the stairs leading up to the doors entering the museum. The teachers sit in the back row with their students filling the rows before them. A student in the middle of the front row holds a sign with their teacher’s name, the school and who sponsored their trip.

The picture is put in a sponsor package, as well as thank you cards the kids personally write.

“Seeing some shells was awesome. So was touching mollusks. The best part was seeing Ken and his awesome pink Crocs,” Travis, a fourth grade student from Tropic Isles wrote to the Kiwanis Club.

After the photograph is taken, the students are split into groups and led to four stations by either Shell Museum staff, or volunteers.

“The volunteers are amazing and I could not do it without them,” Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum Assistant Director Melanie Moraga, who runs the program, said.

The stations include the exhibit hall of shells, the live tanks, science and shell art. Gulbrandsen said the children spend anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes at each station.

“The kids have a good time. They enjoy it and learn about mollusks,” he said as they travel from one station to the next.

Moraga said the students have expressed how much they enjoy touching the live mollusks and creating shell art, a shell magnet to bring home for their family.

For $350 an individual, or business can Adopt A Class. The contribution pays for the entire field trip, so there is no cost to the student or the school.

Last year roughly 60 donors provided funds for the program.

For those interested in becoming an Adopt A Class donor can email fieldtrips@shellmuseum.org.

Donations are accepted year round. If a donation comes in after the program ends, it is applied to the upcoming school year.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.