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Clams - looking at the shell

Students look closely at a clam shell, then compare different sized clam shells to learn about how shells grow.
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Biology: Features, Adaptations of Living Things (K, 1, 3, 7)
Biology: Classification of Living Things, Biodiversity (1, 3)
Biology: Life Cycles (2)

1. Clam for each student (if a clam dissection is to follow, use a whole clam, otherwise one shell is fine).
2. Clam shells of the same species but different sizes. Enough for every student has access to 3 sizes.


Hand each student a clam. Questions for discussion:
1. Close your eyes, and describe what you feel.
2. Is a plant or an animal? Do you know what animal it is? Where have you seen one before?
3. Point out that this clam is not alive.
4. You are an animal. Does it look like you? In what ways is it different? (This clam is a mollusc, an animal with a shell. You are a mammal).
5. What does the shell do? Discuss how the shell protects the clam from predators.

Ask students to compare their clam with the other sized empty clam shells on their desks.
Questions for discussion:
1. Which is the oldest shell and which is the youngest? How do you know?
2. Shells get larger as the animal inside them grows. The shell grows to fit the body.
3. Where is the new shell added? (on the outer edge - notice that this edge is soft).

Grades taught: 
Gr 1
Gr 2
Diane Merchant
Julie Kawaguchi
Teaching site: 
Weir Elementary
Activity originally developed and delivered: 

Scientist in Residence Program, Vancouver School District with teachers Ms. Kawaguchi and Ms. Merchant.
This activity is part of the Scientist in Residence lesson plan