Shark education at St. Mary Central

MARTINS FERRY – St. Mary Central students are participating in an innovative new Shark Education program. The program was designed by marine wildlife scientist Dr. Guy Harvey to teach students about the migration patterns of mako, tiger, sand and oceanic white tip sharks, and St. Mary Central has the honor of being the first Midwestern school to participate.

Shark Education was created by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. Initially it was implemented only in Florida schools, where thousands of students are already being taught Shark Education. However, Dr. Harvey decided students located far away from the ocean could benefit from the program as well. John Bell, Dr. Harvey’s publicist and a former St. Mary Central student, suggested the Martins Ferry school for a trial run.

“Most of these children may not have even seen the ocean, much less have seen a shark, however, Dr. Harvey strongly believes that it is their generation that will ensure the conservation of our oceans and the various animals, including sharks that inhabit those oceans,” Bell offered.

The Shark Education program has supplied the students at St. Mary with posters illustrating 19 shark species, documentaries and a tutorial Skype session. St. Mary students will receive their Skype session with Dr. Derek Burkholder, a research associate at Nova Southeastern University, on May 2. In addition to tracking migration patterns online, students are being educated on the threats to endangered shark species, such as overfishing and and the Eastern market for shark fin soup. They’ve also picked up on the role sharks play in sustaining a balanced marine ecosystem.

Science teacher Paul Stecker said the students have enjoyed learning about sharks, and that they found the documentaries especially interesting. This year’s program will continue through mid-May, and Stecker predicts it will be repeated next year for at least one science class.

Students are liking the change in pace, as marine biology is usually more of a footnote than a focal point in Ohio science classes.

“It’s cool to see how they move, and each day they’re in a different spot,” said student Anna Cermak.

“I like seeing where the sharks have been, and where they’ve been closest to us,” added student Katherine Eberhart.

In late March, members of the Guy Harvey Research Institute caught 12 mako sharks off the coast of Isla Mujeres in Mexico. One was named St. Mary in honor of the school before they were all tagged for study and released back into the ocean.

St. Mary Central may be the first, but there are opportunities for other schools to implement Dr. Harvey’s Shark Education program. Contact John Bell at to learn more. Students or anyone else who may be interested can view the Guy Harvey Research Institute’s interactive website at to follow tagged sharks’ migration.

Warner may be reached at