Children are the future of our oceans and we must prepare and equip them to become advocates for ocean conservation. This is exactly what Sharks4Kids was created for – to encourage students to speak up, knowing they can make a difference. Through their programmes, Sharks4Kids brings shark education into the classroom. As the true nature of sharks is very different from how they are portrayed in mainstream media, children need to have access to the facts before they are inundated with negative stories and stigmas.
The goal of Shark4Kids is to create the next generation of shark advocates through education, outreach and adventure. This year, they are focusing on the Shark Science Education Days programme in the Bahamas shark sanctuary and the student shark tagging project. Through this project, students take measurements and tissue samples before tagging and releasing the shark. This hands-on experience helps students understand what marine biologists do. The data collected is helping researchers gain a better understanding of shark populations.
In Shark Science Education Days, the younger students participate in hands-on activities, including a “workup” on a plush shark while the older students watch a shark dissection, learning about the external and internal anatomy of the sharks. These sessions provide students with the opportunity to gain a better understanding of sharks, shark science and how science is important for conservation.
The founder of Sharks4Kids, Jillian, lives in the Bahamas, which was declared a shark sanctuary in 2011. The goal of the project in this region is to educate students about the important role sharks play in both the ecosystem and the economy. Sharks and rays generate nearly USD 114 million each year through ecotourism and much of the local population is unaware of this impact. While educating students is critical, it is essential for them to get out on the water to truly appreciate its beauty. Sharks4Kids partners with local dive operators to take students out for snorkelling trips, where they can see sharks and rays. These personal experiences enhance their connection to sharks and the ocean, hopefully inspiring and empowering them to become the future for shark conservation.