Bringing Non-Fiction to Life

By: Mary Kienstra on: April 28, 2016  in: Engagement, non fiction, reading

When kids care, it changes everything.  Engaging kids in non-fiction reading is all about bringing the topic to life.  The trick is finding an issue to make them care.  Tracking sharks and learning about the ocean is just that issue.  And brings it to life.

This week my students met Chris Fischer, the founder of Ocearch.  My students had written questions for him and he answered each question with great passion and knowledge.  Chris talked to my students like they were the most important people in the world.  When asked his favorite part of his job, Chris responded, “Talking to kids like you, teaching you about the ocean!”


Chris Fischer met with my class via Skype to teach them about the shark research at Ocearch.


4th Graders on the edges of their seats as they learn from Chris Fischer.













My students each “adopted” a shark from Ocearch.  You might think they chose a shark to research, but the way they talk about their sharks, I think you could say they’ve adopted them.  They know these sharks as if they’ve been friends forever.  Every morning when these kids enter the room, they check the shark tracker to see where their sharks are.  Their chatter is amusing as they report any news from the ocean.


Ocearch shark tracker map

The Ocearch site provides lessons for students of all ages.  My students learned the zones of the oceans, the food chain, and the ocean ecosystem from the PowerPoint presentations embedded in the Ocearch site under the Education tab.  The site also includes videos and pictures and engages followers through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. These different media all teach kids about sharks and their environment in the most intriguing ways.

Next, kids worked in groups to research their shark species through articles, websites, and books.  They watched videos on the Ocearch site and tweeted questions to @OCEARCH.  We’ve all enjoyed the shark cam on the National Geographic website allowing us to watch life under the sea up close.

ocearch ed1

Be sure to check the Education Tab on the Ocearch site.

Getting to know these sharks has made learning personal to my students.   Studying sharks through Ocearch has helped them answer our essential question, “Why should we care?”  We heard the passion in Chris Fischer’s voice and felt the excitement in tracking our favorite sharks.  Learning about sharks with Ocearch ignited the kids’ devotion to learning more about our world.  And isn’t that the point?



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