Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Great Works School: Great for Sharks
I love visiting schools in random places to talk to kids about sharks, but it is always special walking the halls of schools I attended as a child. The Great Works School in South Berwick, Maine was the junior high when I attended, so things have changed a little bit.
On this visit I spoke to nine classes of 4th graders, broken into 5 groups. I have an outline with images, but I love how each presentation varies based on questions the students have and what they are interested in. I want to give them facts, but I also want to listen to what they have to say. Children, although small, have amazing questions and a lot to say when we actually listen. I challenged each group to name more sharks than the last and each one rose to the occasion. They get so excited. I think cookie cutter and goblin shark are always my favorites. Nice to see they know more than the standard answers.
We talked about shark parts, shark myths and why our oceans need sharks. Many of the students had their own stories about sharks and a few had been lucky enough to see one or two. I am sure they will get some strange looks from parents when they go and say to their parents, “ the shark girl that talked to us today said I should swim with sharks.” It is true. No matter how old or young, swimming with sharks is something everyone should do! No, a 9 year old probably won’t go to South Africa to cage dive, but they could go for a snorkel and check out some nurse sharks. This is the great thing about sharks and swimming with them, there are so many options and opportunities.
At this age, any fear and misconceived notions they have from sharks have come either from their parents or television. It is still possible though, to break through that loosely established knowledge base and shape is with fact and empathy. This ability to generate a new perception is why working with children is vital for our oceans.
The highlight was how many great ideas the students had when I asked them what they could do to help sharks. A lot of the ideas, like picking up trash on the beach, are things they already do, but they had not ever thought about how it might help sharks. It is important for them to see how things connect and that helping the planet is definitely something they can do. It makes them feel important and have pride in the fact that they do make a difference.
Thank you to Pamela Starkey for making this happen and to the Great Works School for caring about sharks.