Saturday, August 23, 2014

Shark Week: I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916!

When my dad got his BA back in the 70s,
he was probably imagining that one day
he'd have a daughter who'd have to
free-hand a large shark.
This Spring, Sara at YA Librarian Tales and me both had the same idea for a summer program: playing into the wild success of the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis at our libraries! We had a discussion on Twitter about it that many librarians joined, including the kid-culture-programming maven Angie at Fat Girl Reading. The conundrum: Which book could I feature that meets this criteria: 1) is exciting, and  2) will not bum out everyone attending, especially the adults.

The three that were definitely out for me right away were The Attacks on September 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina, 2005, and The Battle of Gettysburg, 1863. After a pretty rousing discussion on Twitter, Sarah and I came to the same decision: to tackle The Shark Attacks of 1916. If anything, my decision was dependent on 2 factors here: 1) sharks are cool, and it is super-interesting that they were once thought to be as docile as a bunny rabbit; and 2) the death count was relatively low, so the chances that someone in attendance would say that a family member died in these incidents was slim, nationally.

I mean

There are some great ideas on Tarshis's website for teaching resources that can be adapted for libraries.I decided to take literal approach, and make stations based on real ways to help you survive a shark attack.
Here's how it went;

1. Read pages 54-58 of the book I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis. I actually bought this for my Kindle to make sure I was able to get it in time. These titles are around three bucks a piece. Before I read the pages, I caught everyone up by telling them the main parts of the story up to that point.  Because I had read it already. And you should, too.

2. Shared my top three most assuring and least terrifying facts about shark attacks I could find. These were:
SHARK ATTACKS ARE VERY RARE: Of the 350 known species of sharks, only four have been known to attack humans: the great white shark, bull shark, hammerhead, and tiger shark. Sharks don’t mean to attack humans, but they will if the human is playing around, trying to annoy it. Then, they mistake humans for seals and other stuff they actually eat. Once they realize their mistake, they usually swim away, because humans don’t taste very good.

The state with the most shark attacks is Florida, with an average of only 30 a year. There have never been any shark attacks in Wisconsin. And besides, sharks would hate our fresh water and cool temperatures.

There are a few things you can do to survive a shark attack like Chet, and we’ll be practicing those today. These things are: Never swim alone, keep your eyes on the shark at all times, hit the shark in the eyes and the gills, and stay as still as you can.

3. Set them loose on the stations after explaining them. Each was based on a skill you could use to survive a shark attack. They were:

Never swim alone: This wasn't so much a station as it was a suggestion that everyone complete the tasks in pairs or groups rather than on their own.

Keep your eyes on the shark at all times: I "hid" pictures of sharks around the Children's Room. When they found each picture, the kids had to "hit it with a tranquilizer", a fancy way of saying that I found some old SLP stickers and was able to get rid of them as well as giving them a "found it!" accomplishment. We talked about tranquilizers the previous week.
Hit the shark in the eyes and gills. That hand-drawn shark up there? I had the kids throw pool noodles at it, aiming for its eyes and gills.

Stay as still as you can: I had the kids try to balance a Styrofoam bowl on their heads, while their swim buddy or a teen volunteer filled it up with ping-pong balls. The record was, for real. 23.
The stick figure visuals really make the posters, I think.

This was a really fun program to do, and left the attendees, as well as the teen volunteers and myself (doing it twice in a row), completely exhausted. I'll probably revisit this or another I Survived book again this school year.


  1. Wonderful Program Idea! The "I Survived" series is flying off the shelves in our library. I might borrow this...

  2. This sounds fantastic! I especially like the reasoning behind your choice of book to focus on.

    I will probably be borrowing this idea from you at some point!