Have you ever wondered if Sharks make friends?
Why not ask one Woman inspirational zone – Jillian Morris (who has just finished a 24 day shoot working with the BBC.) Jillian is an Underwater Videographer, Marine Biologist, Scuba Instructor and Shark Advocate. Living on Bimini Island, home to the world famous Bimini Sharklab.
I’ve been lucky enough to Skype with Jillian recently, to find out a little more about her non-profit, shark education, organisation Sharks4Kids. Which has taken from both of us, a great deal of persistence, due to our commitments. In Jillian’s case, sporadic access to the internet from her home island of Bimini, nestled in Atlantic waters and part of the Bahamas, but only 50 miles away from the Florida coastline.
Jillian’s intention is to not just educate children about sharks, but to intertwine this knowledge with a fun informative lesson utilising the national curriculum. She realised there wasn’t just a website for kids and teachers and because of the way sharks are still presented, as being mindless killing machines, some teachers would feel intimidated using them as a teaching resource.
“The Goal of the presentations is to engage students and get them excited about sharks.” Sharks4kids
Finding a lot of the facts about sharks, shown on tv incorrect or inaccurate. Even on channels like Discovery. Jillian thought. ‘Why can’t I create material from my personal experiences, people I’ve worked with or those I’ve collaborated with.’
Sharks4Kids has recently come back from giving educational trips in Canada and has taught over 350 classes via skype. Coming over to the UK in the next year, Jillian hopes to make a visit to some schools on our shores.
One of her favourites was Kenya. “This little school in Kenya, had one classroom. It was filled with children of all ages. Some who were even caring for their little baby siblings and basically, somehow, the teacher had got hold of one iPad. She connects to people all over the world to teach the children. It’s in the slums in Nairobi. Skype has changed the whole educational process.”
Jillian is able to show kids images of her diving with sharks. Providing videos and photos about those experiences during her educational process. To show them that you can get in the water with them. The internet is helping change people’s perception but newspapers like the Daily Mail, still sensationalise the encounters. One she read about recently, was reported in such a way to suggest it was dangerous. But she knew the guy involved and found out it was a gentle encounter.
“If it bleeds, it leads.” Is still the mentality that Jillian thinks runs the articles about sharks in the Press. I think in the UK we do this, because we haven’t got any dangerous animals. Look at all good bonfire horror stories. As a race we like to scare ourselves.
Attitudes need to change and even when working with adults, Jillian finds peoples opinions and knowledge are ill informed. When she tells people that she works with sharks. Jillian is normally asked if she has a death wish, but Jillian has never experienced a negative encounter, since first being in the water with them, from childhood. Jillian’s passion is very clear for all to see and Sharks4Kids is a way that she can share her passion, knowledge, insight and information about these magnificent ocean creatures.
So are you wondering what to get the children interested in during summer break – why not get them checking out Sharks4Kids website and even get in contact with Jillian online.
TOP TIP: Maybe you could get a group of kids together and persuade Jillian to share her passion in a Skype lesson.
More to come about how Jillian came to work with sharks on a typical day and what scuba diving off Bimini Island is like.
“It’s very hard to care about something we don’t have a connection to. Creating those connections, makes people care about them. That’s what I’m trying to do.” Jillian Morris