Sharks are fascinating creatures, very different from us and from fish, and they offer just enough scariness to make an exciting classroom study. Here are two of our favorite approaches to the topic.
- National Geographic has several lesson plans about sharks, including Are Sharks as Dangerous as We Think They Are? plus their kids’ page on sharks.
- a vet’s site on sharks
- the Discovery Channel’s shark games
- Scholastic’s shark PDF — we like the song!
- Sea World’s Shark Unit has 26 pages of hands-on activities and reproducibles.
- Uncover a Shark is a shark model in a book which lets kids explore the innards of a shark with plastic pieces to unpack and put back together.
Have students do some basic online or library research and prepare a KWL chart. Then move on to one or both of the plans below.
The Hawaiian story of The Shark Man should appeal to kids, and the retelling linked here is due for a rewrite:
- Read the story to the class.
- Divide it into episodes.
- Put students into small groups.
- Give each group an episode to rewrite.
- Have students read the episodes in order, with illustrations, tableaux, or other visual elements to enrich their performances.
Another option is a reader’s theater version of The Great Shark God, a story from Fiji. The script is designed to be used with stick puppets, so this would be a good time to make some stick puppets. Have students observe sharks carefully in photographs and draw their own, or use patterns from Aunt Annie.
If you work with both these stories, you might choose to undertake the puppet play first and then move on to the Hawaiian story and make a play of it as well. Find Hawaii and Fiji on a map. Use these resources to learn a bit more about them:
- Hawaii’s official tourism site
- Lonely Planet’s Hawaii map
- Deaprtment of State guide to Fiji
- The Polynesian Cultural Center’s page on Fiji
Then use a Venn diagram to compare the stories. What cultural differences might be suggested by the stories? What image of the shark is presented in each?
You might also like to compare the Shark Man to were-creatures in folklore. Is the Shark Man a were creature like the werewolf or the silkie?
Sharks as a Metaphor for Bullies
The Skinny on Bullying by Mike Cassidy uses sharks as a metaphor for bullies, and we love this way of bringing a tough topic into a science and social studies unit. Kids are instructed to learn from the way fish deal with sharks:
- Stay in groups, by joining in with clubs and activities at school.
- Avoid hot spots, or avoid places where bullying is known to occur.
- Be confident, knowing that bullies find weaker kids more appealing as targets.
Cassidy’s book is a great resource on the subject, with lots of practical suggestions as well as useful information, written in an accessible style that is compassionate toward bullies and their victims.
However, it’s worth pointing out that sharks aren’t exactly bullies. Sharks eat other creatures to live, as most of us do, but they aren’t generally dangerous to anything they don’t plan to eat. Human beings are more likely to be attacked by pigs than by sharks, statistically speaking, and Jaws is not a documentary.