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Misconceptions: What do school children aged 7-11 really think about sharks?

During my previous So What? blog entry, I recounted a series of incidents which led me to believe that some school children are still developing serious misconceptions about sharks.  This included the belief that UK waters do not contain any shark species at all, and the perception that sharks still present a real threat to the well being of people around the world. 

My initial blog was based upon the 30 school children whom I teach at Navigation Primary School, Manchester.  However, I was interested to find out more about what some of the other school children at Navigation Primary School thought about sharks.  More specifically, I wanted to find out whether they too viewed sharks as a real danger to human life?  Did they think that sharks could not be found in UK waters?  Did they know of any threats facing sharks in the wild?

Therefore, I decided to carry out a small-scale questionnaire at Navigation Primary School, Manchester, to investigate further what the school children there really thought about sharks.  Through the questionnaire, I wanted to find out: 

• What did the school children really think about sharks?
• How knowledgeable were the school children about sharks?
• In particular, were the school children aware of the threats facing sharks in the wild?


After analysing the results from the questionnaire, I believe that these following points are worth highlighting. 

• “Scary” accounted for 10% of the words generated by the school children to describe sharks.
• 47% of the words generated to describe sharks were deemed “unfavourable” words.  Whilst this might not seem a particularly large amount, it is noticeable when you compare it to the fact that only 8% were deemed “favourable.” 
• The number of people kids thought were killed by sharks annually ranged from 0-51,000,000.
• Out of 5 possible choices, sharks were deemed to animal likely to pose the most danger to humans.
• Out of 137 school children, 62% did not think sharks could be found in waters surrounding the United Kingdom. 
• A surprising number of school children listed the use of shark fins as a major threat to sharks. 
• The school children were able to list a large number of global shark species.  Unsurprisingly, the great white shark made up a large percentage of the children’s answers. 

In my opinion, the questionnaire’s results have provided some interesting insights into what school children, aged 7-11, really think about sharks.  In addition to this, I think it illustrates the importance of educating people about the true nature of animals from an early age. 

Whilst the school children thought of sharks in a negative way and did not know that they occur in the seas close to where they live, the school children did demonstrate a good understanding of what shark species occur around the world and the major threats facing them.  This division in knowledge, good in some areas, not so good in others, could possibly be due to the lack of specific education these school children receive about the natural world close to them versus what they absorb from TV providing information about nature from the rest of the world.  The results show that whilst school children have a great interest in nature, could it be that they need to learn more about what is happening in their backyard?

To read the full report documenting the results from the questionnaire, see the News/Blog section within the So What? website

Matthew Payne

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Categories: Kids for Lions

Posted by Chris Macsween at 10:43

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