Blake

Sharks in the classroom!

Prep students creating a home for a shark using scraps of materials left over from other projects.
Children at a childcare centre exploring shark teeth

I LOVE teaching kids about sharks. There are so many important lessons to be learned, and – learning aside – shark education can be SOOOO much fun!

I have held interactive sessions on sharks with kids as young as 1, all the way up to 18 (and beyond).

Early shark education is so important for providing kids with a realistic impression of these animals. This will help to buffer all of the myths and misinformation they will later be exposed to through movies and the media. It is also a critical and crucial step towards ocean conservation. I’ve summarised my thoughts on the topic here.

If you’re interested in having me come out to your classroom, childcare centre, or group to have some fun, interactive learning on sharks, please get in touch!

IT’S OUT!

IT'S OUT! Ocean Animals: The Weirdest, Smartest and Sneakiest Sea Creatures

My new book Ocean Animals has been released! The book is targeted at 9-12 year old’s, but I think it will be fun and engaging (and informative!) for anyone with a love or interest in the marine world. The book includes well-loved, familiar fan-favourite animals, as well as some that I’d bet you’ve never heard of before.  Three are also incredible photos and illustrations and loads of conservation information (including how you can help our incredible ocean animals right here, right now). I challenge you to read this book and not laugh and not learn something new. No, never mind – I want you to laugh and learn. So instead, I challenge you to read this book, and LOVE it!

 

The book can be purchased from the CSIRO Publishing website (or Customer Service line), good bookstores, or hopefully, your local library.

Find your “Spirit Shark”

Sharks are different to us. Let’s face it, they are alien looking, and possess all sorts of “ick” factors. And because of this, we have trouble relating to them and finding reasons to love (and consequently conserve) them. Studies show that we prefer animals that we can relate to, and that we have things in common with. Sharks will never look like us, but perhaps we can still find ways that we can relate to them.

One of my favourite activities to do with kids is to get them to draw themselves as a shark and write down the key attributes of their animal. I ask them to think of what is important to them and what they like, and to use this to design their shark. I then take their information and match them with their “spirit shark”. For example, if they like to lay on the couch and play video games, opportunistically taking a meal as it comes, they might be a wobbegong. Wobbegongs camouflages into their surroundings, waiting to ambush unsuspecting prey. They don’t move a lot, but have excellent sensory capabilities and are lightning quick with their reactions and movements. Or, for kids who are really athletic and love to run and jump, they might be a mako shark.

Finding similarities in attributes can help make these animals real, more relatable, and identifiable as living creatures.

For older kids, we go into more detail, discussing how different features better enable sharks to adapt to their environments and survive. We also talk about how being really good at one thing (e.g. keeping yourself warm in cold water) can have consequences and repercussions (e.g. you need to eat A LOT), also how improving one system may cause decreased functionality in another.

Sharks for kids!

Psychological studies suggest that we can essentially “immunise” people against developing easily acquired fears (such as of biological threats, like predators) by providing positive, or even neutral, experiences in early childhood (or at least before any potentially negative exposure occurs). Therefore, I’ve spent a great deal of time these school holidays talking to kids, ranging from 1-19 years old, about sharks. While there have certainly been educational components to these sessions, the main aim was to just provide these children and teenagers with pleasant and fun exposure to sharks. I hope that they will take these experiences and build on them and the knowledge gained. Or, at the very least, when they watch “Jaws” for the first time, start listening to the news or reading the newspaper- only to hear all of the negative stories about sharks- that they go into those experiences armed with the idea that that’s not all there is to sharks, and that they are not always bad. Here’s to a smarter, stronger and braver next generation; one that is not afraid to do what is right for our sharks, our environment and our world.

Shark Editor-at-Large

I was recently appointed as the Shark Editor-at-Large for Australian Geographic. I am beyond excited! This position will allow me to write monthly articles for the AG digital edition on all of the amazing things about sharks. I’ll also continue to discuss shark-human interaction and bring some reality back to those conversations. Keep an eye out for my posts!

 

Here is the first story, published in November:

With water, we have sharks: 8 shark safety tips

 

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