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Swimming with Sharks

Learning Module


This learning module is intended to provide students with a fundamental understanding of sharks. It will cover basic attributes of this creature and also focus on specific types of sharks. After completing this learning module students will understand the history of sharks, common misconceptions and their biggest threat.


Sharks, Science, Fish, Predator



This learning module contains learning material that solicites ubiquitous learning with writing assignments, viewing videos and working on a group project outside of school hours. My experience with this course material is striclty as an advid learner of Earth and its creatures, I have no formal traininig on this subject and have put this learning module together on research that I have conducted online. Sharks are one of my favorite creatures and wanted to construct a learning module with examples of what I think learners would like to learn regarding them. I based my group assignments and activites on the "Designing Effective Group Activities: Lessons for
Classroom Teaching and Faculty Development" publication attached below.


Intended Learning Outcomes

The target audience for this learning module are learners in grades 6-8 with assumptions that the students possess a basic understanding about sharks. Curriculum standards are aligned with Common Core Standards and are outlined in the "Teacher Side" of each update. The duration of this learning module was designed to be 9 days long (1 day per update). The only materials required to complete the coursework are as follows:

  • Laptop or computer with internet access
  • Notebook and pen/pencil for notes (or can be accomplished digitally)


The purpose of this learning module is to teach students about sharks and their role in the ecosystem. Lessons will be comprised of reading text, watching videos, completing activites, group discussions and finally a quiz in the end. Specifically, students will learn:

  • First Appearance of Sharks
  • Bull Shark
  • Tiger Shark
  • Great White Shark
  • Hammerhead Shark
  • Megalodon
  • Common Misconceptions on Sharks
  • Beggest Threats to Sharks Today
  • Quiz

Classroom activity: How much do you already know about sharks? Students will complete the sheet below by indicating whether each statement is true or false. After the teacher collects all the sheets he/she will read the statement out loud and ask who thinks it is either "true or false", then reveal the correct response. Discuss the correct answers with the students while also asking why they answered the way they did. Was it based of public perception or science?


Answer sheet:


Classroom Activity II: Watch the videos below before class in order to gain a basic understanding on the material that we will be covering in class.

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Media embedded October 11, 2019



First Appearance of Sharks

For the Student

Believe it or not but sharks have been around since around 450 millions years ago. That means that they were around before dinosaurs roamed the earth! Look at the chart above and you will see that for at least 100 million years, sea creatures dominated all life on earth.

Paleontologists are able to determine this by studying the fossilized shark teeth that they left behind. Without them it would have been nearly impossible to determine how long they have been around since their skeletons were comprised of cartilage, which is softer, more flexible and less likely to fossilize. The oldest fossilized evidence found ironically did not come from their teeth but rather fossilized shark-like scales that have been dated back to 455 million years in Colorado.

One unique fact about sharks is that they have survived through all five mass extinctions (Ordovician Mass Extinction, Devonian Mass Extinction, Permian Mass Extinction, Triassic-Jurassic Mass Extinction, and Cretaceous-Tertiary (or the K-T) Mass Extinction) that have occurred during the past 439 million years. One theory suggests that the sharks may have javoided extinction by just swimming deeper in the ocean. Paleontologists at a dig site in Southern France found fossilized teeth from a tiny shark relative within sediment from a Cretaceous Period ocean floor. As told by researcher Guillaume Guinot in Geneva, Switzerland, "It changes our view of how dramatic this extinction event was, the find suggests that there may be many more fishes living in deep ocean sediment deposits that haven’t been found yet, and that may indicate that the "extinction wasn’t that dramatic for cartilaginous fishes."

But what did they look like? Well, they actually looked a lot different than the ones we see today. The picture above is an example of a Cladoselache. This four foot shark had most of the same characteristics as modern day sharks, however, they had their mouth in front of its head instead of at the bottom like today's sharks. They also lacked tooth-like scales that would have provided protection and allow muscles to attach to the skin more strongly.

Watch the video below for more information regarding the origin of sharks.

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Activity: Conduct your own research on a prehistoric shark and provide details as to how they have evolved. What has changed? What has remained the same? Be sure to include the name of shark, key characteristics, time period (if available), pictures (artist renditions) and known locations (if known)  and be prepared to present your findings to the class.

Learning Target: Conduct research, resent findings in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, and details.

For the Teacher

Notes: The point of this exercise is to let the students find examples of ancient sharks and share their findings to the class. Ensure that the students understand the requirements of this assignment and utilize multiple resources. For this exercise they should be able to present the facts on a prehistoric shark.

Curriculum Standards:



Some examples of what the students could research are:

  • Ctenacanthus
  • Stethacanthus
  • Helicoprion
  • Ornithoprion
  • Sarcoprion
  • Edestus

Bull Sharks

For the Student

The Bull shark is considered to be one of the most aggressive sharks out there. They typically grow to be between 7 to 11 1/2 feet long and live near high populated areas like tropical shorelines which increases the chances of interactions with humans. They got their name not only because of their aggressive behavior of head-butting before attacking but also their short, blunt snout appearance. Bull sharks can be found hunting mostly in shallow warm ocean waters and wil eat just about anything from fish, dolphins, and even other sharks.

Unlike the majority of other sharks, the bull shark has the unique distinction of being able to survive in both fresh and salt water. They are able to do this because of their advanced ability to osmoregulate (maintain a constant concentration of water in their bodies despite changing salinity levels in water). Aside from the bull shark, there are at least five species of "river sharks" that have been observed swimming in freshwaters located in South and Southeast Asia and Australia.

There has even been sightings of a bull shark in the states. For example, in 1937 two fishermen caught a 5 foot bull shark more than a thousand miles up the Mississippi River near Alton, IL. Bull sharks have also been sighted in North Carolina's Neuse River possibly due to their pursuit of dolphins or as a preferred location for a nursery of their babies.

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Activity: Watch the videos below and be prepared to discuss your impressions regarding the Bull shark with the class tomorrow.

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Learning Target: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

For the Teacher

Notes: Pose the following questions to the students and allow a group discussion to ensue. Act as a facilitator and only intervine if tensions build or students get off topic. After you are satisfied with the amount of opinions expressed proceed with the next question.

1) After reading about and watching the video, what is your impression of the Bull shark?

2) Based on the known fact that Bull sharks tend to swim near warm shorelines, how much fault should be blamed on humans that are attacked?

3) What do you think we could do to minimize or even prevent Bull shark attacks?

Students should be able to verbalize their opinions regarding the Bull shark based not only on facts but beliefs regarding a person's personal accountability. The open discussion is also so that students can be exposed to the opinions of others and learn to see things through "another" lens.

Curriculum Standards:




Tiger Shark

For the Student

Tiger sharks get their name from their similar stripped appearance to a tiger. The dark stripes on its skin is very apparent in their youth, however, they fade as the shark grows older. These sharks can grow up to 18 feet long and weigh up to 2,000 pounds, making them the fourth largest shark. They are known to eat just about anything but typically eat: fish, mollusks, crustaceans, dolphins, sea turtles, and seabirds. Beause of their enormous appetites they are not afraid of biting anything they see, and scientists have found non-edible objects in their stomachs such as trash and license plates. Here is a short video with 5 amazing facts about Tiger sharks.

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These sharks are found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. In the western hemisphere they can be seen between the east coast of North America to the east coast of Brazil (to include the Gulf of Mexico). In the eastern hemisphere the oceans of China, India, Africa, Japan, and the Pacific Islands.

Activity: Review the questions below and watch the video above about a shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina that is consistently surrounded by dozens of Sand Tiger Sharks.

1) Why might sharks be attracted to a wreck? What is special about a wreck on the sea floor?     

2) Why might a number of sharks be attracted to the same spot?

3) Do all sharks have the same kind of teeth?

Learning Target: Demonstrate ability to receive information and take notes. Sharing answers with class and acknowledge new information expressed by others and, when warranted, modify their own views.

For the Teacher

Notes: Engage in a group discussion and discuss the answers to the questions below and those on the attached PDF. This group discussion is aimed at ensuring that the students received the information provided in the video and share their answers with the class. Some of the answers to the questions below lend themselves to interpretation so the discussions also could bring out different possible answers.

1) Why might sharks be attracted to a wreck? What is special about a wreck on the sea floor?

  • The vegetation that grows on wrecks attracts fish to eat which in turn could attract Sand Tiger sharks to feed on

2) Why might a number of sharks be attracted to the same spot?

  • Possible mating site
  • Possible eating site (lots of school of fish)

3) Do all sharks have the same kind of teeth?

  • Discuss with the class the difference between the Sand Tiger shark and others (serrated vs. pointy, needle-like)


Curriculum Standards:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.1.C Pose and respond to specific questions with elaboration and detail by making comments that contribute to the topic, text, or issue under discussion.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.1.C Pose questions that elicit elaboration and respond to others’ questions and comments with relevant observations and ideas that bring the discussion back on topic as needed.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.1.C Pose questions that connect the ideas of several speakers and respond to others’ questions and comments with relevant evidence, observations, and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.1.A Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.1.A Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.

Acknowledge new information expressed by others and, when warranted, modify their own views.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.1.A Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.

Hammerhead Shark

For the Student

The Hammerhead shark is an aggressive hunter that feeds mainly on smaller fish, octupuses, squid, and crustaceans that got its name because of its unique appearance. They grow anywhere between 13 to 20 feet and can weigh up to 1,000 pounds. Their unique eye placement gives them a greater visual range to locate their prey. Hammerhead sharks live in temperate and tropical waters across the world, both far offshore and near shorelines.

Scientists have also recently discovered that Hammerhead sharks spend a lot of time swimming tilted sideways, watch the video below to see why.

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Activity: Print the PDF document below and label all the body parts outlined. Also, pick 2 body parts to focus on and explain their purpose.


Learning Target: Students will demonstrate the ability to correctly identify the 8 parts of the shark in the attached document and effectively explain the function of 2 body parts

For the Teacher

Notes: This activity is meant to let the students research the main body parts of a shark and how they are used. Students will learn that even though some sharks have distinct characteristics, they all share the same standard functioning body parts.After conducting their research they should have a basic function of each body part.

Ampullae of Lorenzini: The ampullae of Lorenzini are modified parts of the lateral line system and primarily sensitive to electrical fields (they can help a shark sense prey by detecting the electrical fields generated by activities of the prey).

Pectoral Fin: Each of a pair of fins situated on either side just behind a fish's head, helping to control the direction of movement during locomotion. They correspond to the forelimbs of other vertebrates.

Gills: The paired respiratory organ of fishes and some amphibians, by which oxygen is extracted from water flowing over surfaces within or attached to the walls of the pharynx.

First Dorsal Fin: Also known as the “cranial dorsal fin,” is the fin most people think of when they think of sharks. The first dorsal fin is the fin that Hollywood movies always portray as cutting through the surface of the ocean like a knife. The first dorsal fin is located on the top of a shark’s back and is used to stabilize the shark in the water. Lined with strong, flexible dorsal fibers, the first dorsal fin keeps a shark from rolling on it’s back and helps it make sharp turns while swimming fast.

Pelvic Fin: Paired fins, which occur further down the body, closer to the tail. They are on the ventral side (or underneath) of the shark and act as stabilisers to prevent the shark from rolling to the left or right.

Second Dorsal Fin: Much smaller than the first dorsal fin. The second dorsal fin is located on the back of the shark midway between the first dorsal fin and the tail. The second dorsal fin, much like the first dorsal fin, helps to stabilize the shark in the water. The second dorsal fin helps the shark swim steadily and maneuver the back of it’s body more easily.

Anal Fin: Not present on all shark species. On the sharks that have anal fins, there is usually only one anal fin located on the underneath side of the shark right before the tail. Anal fins are generally small and shaped like dorsal fins. Also like dorsal fins, anal fins help aid in stability in the water.

Caudal Fin: The caudal fin, or tail fin, is the fin located at the top of the tail. The caudal fin is used for propel the shark forward, increasing or decreasing speed, and thrust. The caudal fin is broken down into two parts, the top half known as the dorsal portion and the bottom half know as the ventral portion. On sharks the dorsal portion of the caudal fin is always larger than the ventral portion because the spinal column runs through the dorsal portion, allowing for more muscle development and use. On some species like the Thresher Shark, the caudal fin is also used for defense and to help kill prey.

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Curriculum Standards:






Great White Shark

For the Student

Known as the world's largest predatory fish, the Great White shark uses its 300 serrated triangle shaped teeth to, not chew, but rip into their prey into mouth-sized bites to swallow. It is capable of swimming up to 15 miles per hour, growing bigger than 20 feet, and weighing more than 2.5 tons!  It is most recognizable due to it's bloated torpedo body shape and contrasting pattern of dark blue, gray or brown on their backs. Of all the shark species, the Great White shark accounts for more than 1/3 of attacks on humans. They are found mostly deep in the ocean, however, they have been seen in cool coastal waters throughout the world such as the Gulf of California, Southern Chile, the Galapagos, and Coastal East Africa.

While newborn Great White sharks feed on fishes and other sharks, the adults' diet typically consists of sea turtles, seals, sea lions, porpoises, dolphins, and even small whales! They often ambush their prey by rushing them and inflicting a massive fatal bite then retreating to wait until the prey succumbs to the bite and dies. The speed of thier ambush "rush" is so great that If the shark misses its target it sends the shark out of the water (breaches).

Here is a short video covering 5 facts about the Great White shark.

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Activity: Great White sharks are some of the most feared animals on the planet, but they are vital to the food chain. Ask yourself, what would happen if they disappeared? Print out the attached document below and make a case for sharks (how they are important predators) and be ready to present to the class. In addition to filling out the attached document, further illustrate your point by including multimedia content (slides, video clips, pictures) to use during your presentation.


Learning Target: Students will conduct their own research and present evidence (backed by references) to support their position regarding the importance of Great White sharks.


For the Teacher

Notes: Students should find facts about the Great White shark and why it is important that they do not go extinct. Building on the research techniques used during the "First Appearance of Sharks" section of the learning module students should be able to competently conduct the necessary research to build a case as to why the Great White shark is vital to the food chain.  Below are some resources to give you an idea of what the students will be talking about.

Curriculum Standards:






For the Student

The Megalodon is a member of the extinct species of megatooth shark that was the largest ever discovered. It's name is Greek meaning, "giant tooth". Fossilized remains have been found in the coastlines of all continents with the exception of Antartica. Using the size of the fossilized teeth found, Paleontologists are able to estimate that an average adult size would have been between 33.5 feet to 58.7 feet long!

To give you an idea of that size, look at the image above that compares the size of a Great White shark's tooth with that of a Megalodon's. Notice that they both are similar in that they are both triangular, serrated and symmetrical. The force from the Megalodon's jaw has been calculated by scientists to be strong enough to crush a car!

The images above give you a better idea of just how large this ancient predator was. that mysteriously went extinct about 2.6 million years ago. Scientists have different theories as to what happened to them, however, none that could be backed by scientific data. Below is a video with one theory.

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Activity: Some scientists believe that the Megalodon is actually still around today! Conduct your own investigation and gather as much evidence as you can to support the idea that they still live. Be sure to provide at least one article that supports your findings to the class.

Learning Target: Students will, through their research, be able to distinguish between facts and opinions regarding the possibility of the existence of the Megalodon. They will present their findings and share the evidence that supports their stance.

For the Teacher

Notes: This activity is meant to have students work on their researching skills and gather data to support their point of view. During this research activity the student will be able to prove or disprove whether or not the Megalodon reall exists. It will also build their competence of gathering sufficient evidence and provide valid reasoning to support their claim. Below are some resources (in case they need a little help).

Curriculum Standards:





Common Misconceptions on Sharks

For the Student

Growing up I remember being deathly afraid of sharks after watching "Jaws" and even developing a quasi phobia about getting into any lakes and expecting to be attacked by a shark. The fact is (besides the unlikelyhood of sharks being in fresh waters) sharks do not attack humans as often as we think. Look at the graph below and notice that the odds of being killed by a shark are 1 in 3,748,067. On average, there are between 70-100 shark attacks worldwide every year and of those 5-15 result in death.

Sharks are also not "man-eaters" and most attacks are due to a mistaken identity. While hunting, sharks are looking for sea turtles and sea lions so when surfers are paddling while on a surfboard  they present an eerily similar silhouette (see image below) to the shark.

For a long time it was also believed that sharks were able to smell blood from miles away. Their sense of smell is very good and can detect blood about 1/4 mile away but it doesn't cause them to go into a killing frenzy as portrayed in movies. Sharks are able to distinguish their prey by the smell of the blood and generally will not attack if it does not recognize the scent.

Here is an interesting video where Mark Rober explains what we think we know about how sharks react to blood in the water by conducting an experiment.

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Activity: Participate in a group discussion and share one misconceptions you had on sharks. Also, Print out or share (via Google Drive) with the classroom one article about what some organizations are doing to help educate people and clear up the negative perceptions and "bad raps" that sharks are getting (think Shark Week).

For the Teacher

Notes: Allow each student to share at least one misconception that they had regarding sharks. Be sure to write down each unique misconception and see if it was covered in this learning module, if not incorporate it into the next version. Ask the students:

1) What can we do to change the public's misconception(s) on sharks?

2) What can we do to change the negative perception on them to positive?

Give them a chance to discuss among themseves and only intervene to move the discussion along or add ideas.

This activity also forces students to become critical thinkers and working together to seek a solution to a problem. Sharing ideas and collaborating are some key takeaways from this session, with the teacher injecting though provoking questions or follow up questions to some possible student let solutions in order to continue the discussion and ensure that the students have thought their ideas through.

Curriculum Standards:





Biggest Threat to Sharks Today

For the Student

So what is the biggest threat to sharks today? It is humans. Sharks are apex predators, meaning that they are at the top of their food chain, but their existence is threatened by a species not in their food chain. The delicacy known as shark fin soup has been around since the 14th century in China when the Ming dynasty would eat it as a sign of power and wealth, however, it is now a popular cuisine. According to the Smithsonian, every year 100 million sharks are killed for their fins. Fishermen catch the sharks, cut off their fins while they are still alive and thrown back into the ocean where they slowly sink to the seafloor and either drown or die from blood loss.

In Asia, shark fin soup is used as traditional medicine that is thought to help prevent cancer, heart disease and lower cholesterol even though there is no scientific data to support the claims. Even as countries have signed laws making shark finning illegal, only about 6% of luxurious hotels in the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shenzhen and Fuzhou have stopped serving it.

Look at the graphic below, which one of the statistics upsets you the most?

Activity: You will be broken out into groups to research a shark species that is either vulnerable or endangered and present your findings to the class. At a minimum you will state: shark species, current approximate population, chart detailing the declining population (if available), possible effects if it becomes extinct (think food chain). Use the attached worksheet to document your data and generate a slideshow to present in class. For this activity you will be graded by another group, please reference the grading rubric below so that your presentation covers all required areas.


Learning Target: Using the research skills that students have been cultivating throughout the learning module, they will use different technology mediums to present facts regarding their shark species, and current state of population.

For the Teacher

Notes: Be sure to go over the grading rubric with the students and answer any questions that they may have regarding each graded area. Breakup students into groups and then assign a different group to assess their presentation (i.e. group 1 grades group 2, etc). Ensure you print out your own evaluation sheets for every group to ensure that the students are grading each other objectively.

Curriculum Standards:








For the Student

Activity: Take the following quiz in class. It is a closed book, no notes quiz.



For the Teacher

Notes: Administer the quiz and grade using the attached answer sheet.




450 Million Years of Sharks. (2019). Retrieved October 9, 2019, from

Bull Shark. (2018, September 21). Retrieved October 10, 2019, from


Shark Myths vs. Facts. (2015, February 20). Retrieved October 9, 2019, from

Subbaraman, N. (2013, October 29). Prehistoric sharks escaped mass extinction by diving deeper. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from

Ornell, C. (2016, August 25). Could a Shark Live in a Lake? Retrieved October 10, 2019, from


Hammerhead Sharks. (2018, September 24). Retrieved October 12, 2019, from

Rafferty, J. P. (2019, February 15). Megalodon. Retrieved October 12, 2019, from

Edmonds, M. (n.d.). Shark Facts vs. Shark Myths. Retrieved October 12, 2019, from