Thursday, September 18, 2008

Shark Cherubs

One of my absolute favorite things to do is to teach children about sharks. Sadly, I have had more meaningful discussions with them then plenty of the adults I deal with.

And, children not only tend to have a much more balanced view towards sharks, but some absolutely LOVE them. In fact, it is quite often that I run into a child who can barely form complete sentences, but can still tell you the latin name of all 15 types of shark puppets I have!

Their interest in sharks is matched by their concern about our environment and the shark’s important role keeping the oceans healthy. They absorb information like a sponge, soaking up every detail and they form opinions based on truths, their world not yet tainted by our media’s portrayal of sharks. Finally, they relish in all of the amazing, quirky and unusual things about the vastly different 400+ species of sharks. As a shark geek myself, I can certainly identify with this.

And, I feel like I am indoctrinating in the next generation of shark savers.

Their innocence and passion is something I wish I could bottle. Although I could probably become a billionaire selling it, I would selfishly keep it all and drink a big huge glass of it every night!

As a Director of Strategy & Outreach for Shark Savers, I am constantly involved in outreach - giving talks and presentations to school children, organizations and companies about the shark’s plight, attending conferences as a speaker, and also manning a booth at local and national fairs and trade shows. We have been at several fairs recently – many of them Asian in the hopes of getting the word out about Shark Fin Soup.

Though, since I have been in South Africa, I haven’t had much opportunity to give classroom presentations or get out into the community – and most importantly reach its children – in a larger scale effort. So, I was thrilled when Alison asked me to come with her to speak to a classroom of 30 third graders about sharks.

Funny… She wasn’t. I think I found Shark Angel Alison’s kryptonite. Calm, cool, collected, incredibly knowledgeable and completely factual Alison can be flustered by children! And, this Shark Angel can be easily intimidated answering questions about a shark’s biology, behaviors and variances in species in front of a brilliant scientist!

But, the two of us had an absolute blast and quickly got swept up with enthusiasm. We were supposed to speak for ½ an hour, and two hours into it, Alison finally sent up a white flag asking for relief – though she was doing a great job! The kids were captivated and I got to relish in their passion and innocence just a bit longer than I had planned. I just hope one of those kids just might grow up to be a Shark Scientist like Alison. Or a conservationist. Or a science teacher. But I am certain at least a few will grow up with an appreciation and compassion for sharks.

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