Bring Shark Week Into the Classroom

4 min read

| By Gale Staff |

Each July, for more than 30 years, the Discovery Channel has captivated Americans with its high-drama, documentary-style programming about sharks. Whether you’re an armchair marine biologist or are just seeking the thrill of fear before your trip to the beach this summer, Shark Week is both educational and undeniably fascinating. With this in mind, why not bring Shark Week to your elementary classroom?

This July, elementary school teachers can leverage the resources housed in Gale In Context: Elementary to create Shark Week-themed lesson plans and activities. Young researchers can explore two different portals, and both promise the accessibility and reliability you expect from Gale databases. Let’s slip on our flippers and take a dive into these two valuable resources to consider how you might integrate these tools into your classroom.

Learn All About Sharks

Shark Week first debuted in 1988. Originally, the Discovery Channel launched the themed week of shark-related content as a marketing tool. Viewership tended to lag during the summer season, and producers thought that airing scientific—and somewhat frightening—specials about sharks might captivate additional spectators. Over the decades, the content during Shark Week has included titles like Monster Under the Bridge and Serial Killer Extinction and featured celebrities like Mike Tyson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Snoop Dogg in their specials. But Gale In Context: Elementary takes a different approach by focusing on the real celebrities of Shark Week—the actual sharks!

Elementary‘s general shark information portal includes scientific facts and information about conservation efforts. Our elementary-level shark summary is written in a way to minimize the fear that people tend to have toward sharks. Your students will learn to appreciate these sea creatures for their size, their strength, and their incredible ability to adapt and survive.

Once your students get more familiar with the basics of sharks as a species, they’ll find plenty more to explore. They’ll have access to easy-to-read articles from KidsPost and CNN and will discover fascinating stories. Read about a shark who lived to be 400 years old or about people who have survived shark attacks. Students will also learn how vital sharks are to the ocean’s health and how important it is that we protect them.

Activity Idea: There are hundreds of different types of sharks in our oceans, but it’s challenging to learn about them all. Have students select one kind of shark for a special research project. Students can find information on everything from tiger sharks to mako sharks to whale sharks. Ask students to create a poster that highlights their shark’s habitat, physical description, and diet. They can include images and fun facts that they learn as well.

Dispel Fears About the Great White

While no doubt a dated reference for your young learners, the movie Jaws made the great white shark a legend but also an enemy. By far the best-known shark in the world, we’ve dedicated an entire portal to this ocean giant. Our special great white shark summary will introduce your students to a number of captivating truths. For example, great white sharks can travel thousands of miles and reach speeds of 35 mph!

While great whites have been known to be aggressive toward humans, great white shark attacks are exceedingly rare. Marine biologists try to track these elusive swimmers to help warn summer beachgoers when sharks are nearby. By encouraging your students to study these creatures and learn the facts, they’ll develop a whole new appreciation for them.

Activity Idea: Teach your students how important it is to keep an ecosystem’s food chain in balance. Using Gale’s great white shark collection, have students illustrate a simple ocean food chain. The great white shark eats the seal, the seal eats the larger fish, the larger fish eats the smaller fish, and so on. Discuss as a class what consequences could happen if one of these populations disappears.

Get Support When You Need It

At Gale, we know that learning isn’t just for students. That’s why we’ve launched Gale In Context: For Educators, a special platform for teachers. This resource features tip sheets and training videos to help you get the most out of Gale products. Gale’s support portal even houses special collections called Content Specific Training Materials. You can leverage the resources in these themed compilations to help you plan lessons and classroom activities for special observances and holidays throughout the year.

Help your students take a bite out of Shark Week! They’ll have so much fun learning about sharks while developing the valuable research skills they need to succeed. This summer, the Discovery Channel is hosting Shark Week from July 11, through July 18. There’s no need to adhere to that timeline for your lesson plans though, especially if your school is not in session during the summer. After all, sharks have been around for more than 400 million years. They can stick around for a few weeks until school is back in session.

If you’re not an active subscriber, reach out to your local Gale representative to request a product trial. And for the latest updates or to watch old episodes from previous Shark Week seasons, visit the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week website.

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