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Sharks4Kids: The Journey Begins

My first classroom visit to talk about sharks, was in 2005. I immediately fell in love with the whole experience. Children have an untainted enthusiasm for the natural world and even when things seem impossible, they bring inspiration, creativity and hope for the future of our planet.

Although my career as a scuba instructor, shark dive guide, photographer and professional videographer has taken me around the world, I continue to visit classrooms as much as possible. It was always a struggle to find good educational activities for the students so I started creating my own. Through my travels, I have accumulated a wonderful collection of shark media, including images and video. I also began reaching out to friends and colleagues, who share my passion for sharks, for additional media. Years later, I now have a product I want to share with students around the world.

SHARKS4KIDS was born from my desire to increase shark and ocean awareness. Regardless of a student’s proximity to the ocean, my goal is to give them the educational information and tools they need, to become guardians of our fragile oceans. Sadly,our oceans are in trouble and shark populations are declining at an unprecedented rate. Most humans are fearful or have many misconceptions about sharks and our children offer hope. They are anxious to learn about sharks and they have the desire to fight for sharks’ survival.

Shark education can be difficult for educators. Creating curriculum, activities with media support through SHARK4KIDS’ is our way of helping support their efforts as they teach students how vital sharks are to our ocean ecosystems.

I make many personal classroom visits and with an amazing tool like Skype Classroom, I am now able to visit via the internet, which is changing the way the world is learning. Over the years, I have taken many people shark diving. Helping people experience their own shark encounter is the best way to change a person’s opinion about sharks and the most powerful weapon in my arsenal. It was now time to bring these experiences to kids. I knew I needed a team to make this happen so I reached out to two of the most amazing people I know, Duncan Brake and Dr. Derek Burkholder.

I met Derek in 2004 on a nurse shark research trip in the Dry Tortugas. It was an Explorer’s Club Expedition studying the mating behaviors of nurse sharks with Wes Pratt, Jeff Carrier and Dr. Mike Heithaus. The goal was to place Critter Cameras on nurse sharks in order to better understand their behavior and movement during mating events. We worked together on the same project again in 2005. In 2006, I headed to Western Australia to be Derek’s research assistant, assisting him in his work with tiger sharks and their role in the Shark Bay ecosystem.

Shark Tagging Western Australia

I met Duncan in 2008 through our mutual love of sharks and creating positive shark media. I took him diving at Tiger Beach, Bahamas and we have been together ever since. We share a passion and drive to change perceptions about sharks. Together, through our video and image media, we have set out on a path to share these majestic creatures and do so through education.

Duncan and Jillian shark diving Credit: Deano Cook

We all bring strong attributes to the table will continue to bring new members on board to continually strengthen our efforts. More than curriculum, it is about creating the next generation of shark advocates, who will fight on behalf of the voiceless animals, our oceans need to survive. I am absolutely overwhelmed by the support we have received thus far and cannot wait to see what the future brings.

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