The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is introducing five new classes starting this fall to complement its lectures (in-person and virtual), guided beach walks, Keeper Chats, Great Hall Spotlights, Adopt-A-Class K-12 school program, and other ongoing educational programming.


“The Museum is glad to expand upon its educational mission by offering these new opportunities for anyone interested in building their knowledge base and skills,” said Sam Ankerson, Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum Executive Director.


The fall class lineup is as follows:



Southwest Florida, and Sanibel in particular, is the shelling capital of the country where shellers come from all over the world to enjoy the abundance of shells on local beaches. This course will cover where and when to shell, why Sanibel has such an abundance of shells, and how to identify and care for your shells. Students will also learn some of the most common and sought-after shells in the area.


During the second half of this course, students will have the opportunity to see many live local mollusk species in the Museum’s Warm Water Touch Pool, and to touch the animals if they choose.


MOUND HOUSE FIELD TRIP: Tuesday, November 8: 9:30-11:30am

The Mound House in Fort Myers Beach is a non-profit history museum dedicated to the interpretation of the Calusa. Located on top of a large Calusa Shell Mound, it is perfectly located to educate guests about Southwest Florida history prior to colonization.


Before entering the Mound House there will be a presentation on local mollusk species that were important to the Calusa people. Students then take a guided tour of the Mound House led by Mound House staff. The tour will feature Mound House exhibits and hands-on learning such as the “Cool Calusa Tools” tour. Students will get a chance to use several of the common tools the Calusa used.


A DAY IN THE LIFE OF AN AQUARIST: Wednesday, November 16: 1-3pm and Thursday, November 17: 8-10am

See what it takes to care for our live animal collection which includes more than 60 species of marine animals in nine aquariums, two touch pools, back-of-house systems, and nearly 10,000 gallons of saltwater. The first session will be classroom-style with topics including filtration types and stages, animal food preparation, water quality, and more. The second session will be hands-on in the aquarium. Join the morning rounds, learn how to start a siphon for a water change, see the complex filter equipment and how to clean it. After this class, students will have a clearer idea of the complex operation of a large aquarium, system as well as the basics for starting their own.



This day-long certification course prepares students to become a Shell Ambassador volunteer for the Museum. Shell Ambassadors spend time on Sanibel beaches educating and engaging with beachgoers and fellow shellers. Topics are taught by various Museum Staff Members and include local shell identification, mollusk biology, dune plant and animal identification, Sanibel beach laws, tides, shelling, and identification of other beach finds. To successfully complete this course, students must pass tests on shell identification, beach identification, guidelines, and regulations.


LIGHTHOUSE BEACH (Sanibel) MARINE BIOLOGY & FIELD LAB: Tuesday, December 13: 9:30am-12:30pm

Experience what it’s like to be a Marine Biology student. The course will start with a lecture on field logs and the ecology of Lighthouse Beach, followed by a “field lab” at Lighthouse Beach during a spectacular -0.4ft low tide. Students will be taught key identifying features of plants and animals present that day at Lighthouse Beach, as well as how to keep a meaningful field log.


Visit for further information and to register.


About the Museum: The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is a Natural History Museum, and the only museum in the United States devoted solely to shells and mollusks. Its mission is to use exceptional collections, aquariums, programs, experiences, and science to be the nation’s leading museum in the conservation, preservation, interpretation, and celebration of shells, the mollusks that create them, and their ecosystems. Permanent exhibitions on view include the Great Hall of Shells which displays highlights of the Museum’s collection of some 500,000 shells, as well as the Beyond Shells living gallery of aquariums and over 50 species of marine life. For more information on the Museum, please visit or call (239) 395-2233.