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Empowered Learner: Hermit Crab expert Lucy Johnson

Lucy sitting on her bed with a hermit crab in her hand When Lucy Johnson, 9, decided to get some hermit crabs from a pet store, she learned the hard way that they take a lot of special care.

“They are not simple pets and need a lot of very special care…the oldest living hermit crab pet is 42 years old!” said the Evergreen Forest third grader, after one of her first hermit crabs died. After that unfortunate event, Lucy and her Mom did a lot more research to figure out the best way to care for them. “You have to replace their small shells with bigger ones. They need sand and enough space. They eat shrimp, fruits, and vegetables. They pinch you if they are nervous and are nocturnal.”

Lucy wearing a white lab coat behind a table with a hermit crab tank and tray Lucy’s love of research and her crab family (she now has four) led her to make a YouTube video (see below) to teach other kids how to care for hermit crabs. “Hermit crabs are decapod crustaceans and fall into two categories, land and aquatic,” she tells her viewers from “Lucy’s Laboratory.”  She describes her varies types of hermit crabs including her own Purple Pinchers. Wearing a white lab coat, the brunette scientist is very matter of fact. “Never give a crab a painted shell…it can be toxic if it chips off and they eat it.”

Teacher Karin Cathey remembers Lucy in kindergarten as being super shy when she started school. “She sat at the back of my room and would get a little panicked when I called her name,” Cathey recalls. “By the end of the year, she was a pro!  She became super engaged and loved to help others. Lucy is one of a kind!  Her super unique personality is electric.  She is like a magnet and draws others in and empowers them through her love for learning and always making it fun!” 

Lucy working at her computer desk with a science posters on the wall behind It is no surprise that Lucy enjoys research and any kind of science. “I’m excited for college someday,” she says from her classroom area at home, which includes a poster of the solar system. “I want to take Egyptology classes. It’s the study of humans thousands of years ago…people actually find tombs and mummies and other cool stuff.” 

Lucy’s curiosity runs in the family. She watches documentaries with her dad, and she has a good sense of what an empowered learner is. “I think of someone who never stops being curious about the world and even after school hours likes to read books and learn stuff. My papa is an empowered learner. He is 67 and still loves to learn about things - especially birds.”

Animals have always been a favorite topic for Lucy. “I loved my days with sweet, inquisitive, genuine Lucy! Her love of learning (especially for animals) and her compassion for others were a blessing to her classmates and her teacher!” said her second grade teacher, Janie Davis. 

Lucy looking through a glass of blue bubbly liquid Whether it is hermit crabs, or a lone caterpillar she found her backyard, Lucy’s fascination with the natural world is infectious. “It was freezing in December, so we took it inside. I had a butterfly cage and put it in there. Last week it turned into a chrysalis then a couple days ago it hatched and flew out of a jar into my room. I call him Mel.”

The family also has a dog, a Boston Terrier named Bob, but her crabs remain the center of Lucy’s attention. She and her younger brother Ethan will often put all four crabs out on the floor of her bedroom and build an obstacle course. “Arthur (her main crab) actually did the course but destroyed it. Destroying things is what they do for fun!” Lucy explained. “I also think Arthur is a master escape artist. I must be super careful he does not climb out on a vine. He’s tried to escape and knocks over my fake palm tree.”

Fast Facts about Lucy Johnson

What do you miss the most about school?

“I miss my friends. I miss being in class and raising my hand. Staring at a screen is not the same. Being there is just a lot more special to me.”

Why did you make a video?

“I love to share what I know with other people. I made a book about crabs too!”

What kind of job do you want to do someday?

“I kind of want to be a photographer or field researcher- kind of like Jane Goodall, but with crabs instead of chimpanzees.”

If you had one wish for the world what would it be?

“For animal cruelty to end. Some animals are not in a good home and are being treated like goldfish. I just wish it stopped.”

What is your favorite food?

“Crabs…not Hermit crabs!” And yes, she is serious.  

What book are you reading right now?

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince