MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island, known as the largest barrier island (four by six miles) within Southwest Florida’s islands has more than three miles of white sand beaches loaded with shells in a variety of distinctive sizes and shapes.
Shells like starfish, sandollars, lion’s paws, moon shells to lightning whelks, coquinas and the larger horse conch can be best harvested at South Beach or the northern end of Tigertail Beach.
Locally, the Marco Island Shell Club strives to educate the community and visitors about the care and preservation of the local sea life.
Recently, Carolyn Ginther, chairperson of the club’s scholarship and grants committee and Dean Norbeck, publicity chair called upon Tommie Barfield Elementary School (TBE) fourth graders to participate in the Marco Island Shell Club’s Shell Coloring Book Contest.
Ginther said about $400 in materials were supplied by the shell club that included books, DVD’s and paper and black Sharpie markers, with all resources to be made part of the school’s library media center.
TBE teacher Kathy Anderson said that the contest required nine shells and a front cover to be designed by the students. Two different shells were chosen for each of the five fourth grade classes to be drawn in black and white.
Students viewed DVDs, studied shell books, studied the shells and their environment and examined specimen shells before starting the project.
Anderson sent the finished drawings to the club, and five members of the club’s Scholarship and Grants Committee evaluated each group of shell drawings. Two winning drawings that most closely resembled the actual shells wereselected from each of five classes.
Ten winners were announced during the school’s morning television news show on Dec. 8, as they received a certificate of achievement. Each winning student received a 24 package of colored pencils and all fourth grade entrants will receive a Shell Club coloring book.
The winning drawings will be individually framed and on display at the club. They will also be compiled into a coloring book which will be and distributed free to attendees of the 2012 Marco Island Shell Club Shell Show, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. March 8, 9, and 10 at the United Church of Marco Island.
Contest winners and their parents will also be invited as guests of the shell club at the club’s annual thank you dinner at 5 p.m. March 21, at the church.
Anderson said that the project tied in nicely with the fourth grade study unit of Florida history h and their science class studies about the eco-systems, the care of our earth and the health and care of animals.
“The students learned that shells are living creatures that should not be picked up. They learned about their natural habitat and how to examine a shell and to draw what they observe, learning about proportion,” said Anderson.
“They also learned how to sketch and tried several different angles to judge which view was most authentic; they also observed how art can be a commercial enterprise.”
Club members enjoy educational field trips like guided tours to Rookery Bay, kayaking or guided shelling at Tigertail Beach and excursions to the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, in Sanibel. Member dues are $20 for individuals and $26 per couple.
Seminars, open to the public at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday each month (November, January, February and March) feature speakers from Florida Gulf Coast University and other local shell and mollusk authorities.
A weekly workshop at 9-11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays is held at the church and generates the shell art sold at holiday and other club shows.
Funds from holiday and shell shows - about $30,000 - go toward various undergraduate and graduate scholarships. This past year, a fully funded endowment of $25,000 was set aside for FCCU majoring in marine biology.
One undergraduate and one graduate funding recipient will present their research at the March 21 thank you dinner. The club’s scholarship and grants committee seeks suggestions and ideas for worthy projects that need support from the club from the community.
If you go
2012 Marco Island Shell Club Shell Show
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. March 8, 9, and 10
Where: 320 North Barfield Drive, Marco Island (United Church of Marco Island)
Contact: (239) 963-4694