It’s the middle of August, which means it is Shark Week, and to mark the 25th anniversary of the popular show, the education arm of the Discovery Channel has a gift for teachers.

The present is in the form of lesson plans — for grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 — that are linked to videos that have been shown during the past quarter of Shark Week broadcasts, which each year draw millions of viewers.

Discovery Education is making its videos about sharks — which are produced with scientists from around the world — available to schools and giving them the lesson plans for classroom use. It is the latest example of media companies taking content produced for large audiences and using it in schools.

Here is a sample lesson plan for high school students:


After completing this lesson, students will be able to:

· Understand that sharks exhibit a wide variety of adaptations that help them survive in their habitats;

· Describe common characteristics of sharks;

· Compare and contrast different species of shark;

· Use new vocabulary words in a variety of contexts.


· “Great White Shark: Hunting for Food” from PLANET EARTH: Shallow Seas on Discovery Education Streaming;

· “What Fuels a Great White Shark’s Appetite?” from Great White Appetite on Discovery Education Streaming;

· “Great White Shark Eats Nearly Twenty-Five Percent of Its Body Weight” from Great White Appetite on Discovery Education Streaming;

· “Deciphering How a Shark Captures Prey” from Great White Appetite on Discovery Education Streaming;

· “Hammerhead Sharks” from Oceans Blue with Philippe Cousteau: Red Sea on Discovery Education Streaming;

· “Shark Teeth: Varied in Design and Purpose” from The Ultimate Guide: Sharks on Discovery Education Streaming;

· “Common Characteristics of Sharks” from The Ultimate Guide: Sharks on Discovery Education Streaming;

· Cash Cab: Shark Week Edition on Discovery Education Streaming;

· Computer with Internet access.

Classroom Connections

Describe the environment in which great white sharks thrive.

What is an apex predator?

Explain how a hammerhead shark uses its unique head shape to locate prey.

How many rows of teeth can some sharks have?

Describe the similarities and differences between sharks and bony fish.

What do the size and shape of a shark’s eyes reveal about where it lives?

How do sharks remain buoyant in sea water? How does this vary between different species of shark?

What are dermal denticles? What is their purpose and how do they function?

Compare the different types of shark jaws and teeth. Describe the purpose of each type of jaw/tooth structure.

What is the body adaptation that most greatly affects the speed of a shark?

Describe how each of a shark’s five senses function in their search for prey.

Classroom Activities

After viewing select video segments from the Sharks Content Collection on Discovery Education Streaming, tell the class that they will create and play a game called Classroom Cash Cab: Shark Week Edition. Split the class into groups of three or four. During class, each group will research sharks and compile a list of twenty trivia questions about sharks. The groups will then submit their list of questions to the teacher. To begin the game, pick a group to come to the front of the classroom. The teacher will act as the host, asking the questions. Begin asking the group the twenty questions, one at a time. The groups will have thirty seconds to answer each question. If a group gets three questions wrong before they reach the end of the list, they are eliminated. Be sure to shuffle the trivia questions so that you do not ask the group the questions they wrote. The group that answers the most questions correctly without being eliminated wins the contest.

After viewing videos about sharks on Discovery Education Streaming, provide the students with reading material and other information about the dangers of sharks and shark attacks. Facilitate a class debate by separating the class into two groups. Group one will argue that sharks are curious creatures that are not generally aggressive towards humans. The second group will hold that sharks are dangerous animals that deliberately attack humans when the opportunity arises. During the debate, each group should present evidence to support their opinion. The groups should consider the number of recorded shark attacks over time, human encroachment on shark habitats, and how these two factors affect one another. The groups should also think about what sharks normally eat and the habitats they normally live in. Allow each side to present their opinion before allowing questions or retorts.

As a final assignment, instruct each student to choose a particular kind of shark to research. Students should write reports on their sharks, describing adaptive features that make the sharks successful survivors in their particular habitats.


adaptation – modification of an organism or its parts that makes it more fit for existence under the conditions of its environment

apex – the highest or culminating point

cartilage – a usually translucent somewhat elastic tissue that composes most of the skeleton of vertebrate embryos and except for a small number of structures (as some joints, respiratory passages, and the external ear) is replaced by bone during ossification in the higher vertebrates

dorsal fin – a median longitudinal vertical fin on the back of a fish or other aquatic vertebrate

habitat – the place or environment where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives and grows

pectoral fin – either of the fins of a fish that correspond to the forelimbs of a quadruped

predator – one that preys, destroys, or devours

serrated – a formation resembling the toothed edge of a saw

shark – any of numerous mostly marine cartilaginous fishes of medium to large size that have a fusiform body, lateral branchial clefts, and a tough usually dull gray skin roughened by minute tubercles and are typically active predators sometimes dangerous to humans

species – a category of biological classification ranking immediately below the genus or subgenus, comprising related organisms or populations potentially capable of interbreeding, and being designated by a binomial that consists of the name of a genus followed by a Latin or latinized uncapitalized noun or adjective agreeing grammatically with the genus name

*By permission. From the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary by Merriam-Webster Inc. (

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