Sunday, November 24, 2013

Exploring Shark Filled Oceans: Week 3

As I sit here and write this I am completely overwhelmed with the amazing week that has just passed. I did fifteen Skype Classroom visits from Northern France to California with students ranging in age from f1st grade to 7th. One teacher actually asked me to do a video message about why I do Skype visits. There are a lot of reasons why I love doing these visits, but I wanted to give her a concise answer. I have been visiting classrooms for about ten years, but physical visits are limited by time and location. Skype Classroom allows me to speak with students in France at 8:00 EST and then a school in Georgia at 9:00 EST and a school in California at 11:00 EST.

The current plight of sharks is devastating, but I honestly believe children offer hope not only for sharks, but also for our oceans and the planet. No matter where children live they need to understand that we are connected and their actions can make a difference around the world. I want them to feel empowered and able to speak up on behalf of the voiceless and I can only hope these talks inspire them to do so. Via Skype I was able to share my love of sharks and why they are so important with over 300 students this week alone. I was able to give them facts and tools to help spread the word for sharks!
I began the week with Mrs. Garland’s students in Boston, Massachusetts. This is by far one of the most incredible visits I have ever done. They had great questions and knew a lot about sharks already. Below is the note she sent me after the visit, which made me tear up. This is why I love my job. Connecting with people all around the world and sharing my passion with them.

“Thank you so much for Skyping with our class today. Not all students were visible to you (several chose to sit outside the viewing box). They have been waiting for this opportunity for weeks. These students have emotional and social needs that often get in the way of their abilities to function with a traditional class, but you touched them - I have NEVER seen them sit for such an extended period of time. Many thanks!”

I also visited with two great groups of 3rd and 1st graders. The 1st graders in Illinois had a lot of questions and were really excited to know that things they were already doing (recycling) could help sharks.

The following day I started off in Georgia with some super excited 1st and 2nd graders followed by a group of 2nd graders in California that were actually a little nervous about sharks. We talked a lot about how sharks are not monsters or man-eaters, but are actually in a lot of trouble and need our help. I could see the change as students looked at pictures and thought the sharks were cute.  It is amazing how just a short amount of time can change perceptions. It also shows how critical it is to educate children at a young age, so they do not carry those incorrect stereotypes into adulthood.

I finished off the day with Mrs. Thiessen’s students in Surrey, British Columbia and wow, they JAWSOME. They had a microphone and ipads going! It was such a fun visit! Absolutely blown away by the technology being used in the classroom. It has really changed education and opened up the world. Check out their Video Blog Here! 

FINS UP For Sharks: Group Photo 

The following day was another busy one with four visits to schools in Texas, North Carolina, New Mexico and Nebraska. I love visiting such a dynamic range of ages and locations in a single day because it really highlights the importance of ocean education for everyone. Just because students cannot be near the ocean does not mean they should not care. The fifth graders in Texas were really keen to help sharks and seem pleasantly surprised that some of the things they were already doing were in fact helping sharks and our oceans. 

Some feedback from that day :

From Mr. Horst in Nebraska on twitter:  This group of 80 students knew a lot about sharks even though they do not live near the ocean! 

“Want keep kids riveted for 45 minutes?  Have @SharkyJillian skype your school!  "

From Mrs. Pender:

“Thank you so much! My kiddos have done nothing but talked about this morning. They are so excited. In fact, they are even taking about how you said your husband dives, so now they want to Skype with him! Lol thank you so much! “   I think Duncan might have to make an appearance on the other side of the camera!

My final day start all the way in Northern France with Mrs. Silvert’s 7th grade students. The students asked about La Reunion, a location recently made infamous by several shark attacks. I was impressed that they were concerned and wanted more information about the situation. We spoke a long time about efforts being made to protect beach goers and the sharks in the area. I was also thoroughly impressed with their English. My French is not even worth mentioning, save the content of this sentence.  Friday also took me to a group of very enthralled first graders in Canada followed up with some extremely well informed 4th graders. They had each picked a shark to learn about and had some of the best questions a class has asked me.

This entire month of Exploring Oceans with Skype Classroom has been nothing short of remarkable. The smiles, laughs and excitement that each visit brings are priceless. I know these kids will make a difference. They will speak up and fight to save sharks. I know this in the way they listen, the questions they ask and follow up feedback I get from teachers and parents. I love the synchronized “WHOA,” I get when I show them an image of me filming a great hammerhead and the, “awww, it’s so cute,” reaction from an image of a baby nurse shark. They also seem to really understand the fact that sharks are in trouble and life for a shark can be pretty tough. I feel blessed and truly treasure these moments.

I even got a note from the principle this week! Luckily it was a good one! Thank you Mr. Schuyler for taking the time to send such a kind note.

“I want to thank Jillian for the great experience she provided our grade 1 students and teachers at Briardale School this morning.  They were very impressed and excited about the lesson.  The kids and teachers learned a lot!”

Thank you to Mrs. Brokaw, Mrs. Lachel, Mrs. Garland, Mrs. Harrison, Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Thiessen, Mr. Hernandez, Mrs. Mendoza, Mrs. Pender, Mr. Horst, Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Rios, Mme. Silvert, Mr. Hyman and Mme. Moccio for inviting me into your class and for sharing sharks with your students! 


  1. This is really cool! I wish technology was this advanced when I was in school!

  2. I would love for you to Skype with my 8th graders. We are in Oklahoma. How do I contact you?