Shark Tracker with OCEARCH

By: Mary Kienstra on: May 4, 2015  in: Engagement, research

If you want to see kids that are totally jazzed about research, introduce them to shark tracker with  With this outstanding website and/or app, students can choose their own shark to track.  There’s something about the kids adopting that shark – it makes them care!  And once they care, they are naturally curious, working tirelessly to find out more about sharks in general, and specifically, their shark.

Our essential question is to find out “What factors affect shark migration?”  This is one of our non-fiction units, meant to engage students in reading and writing non-fiction, as well as to encourage kids to write questions and research to find the answers.  We started by reading articles about sharks from StoryWorks and Scholastic News.   One of these articles introduced tagging sharks for research purposes and referenced the site and the tagging of the great white shark, Katherine.


The OCEARCH web site shark tracker – dots represent “pings” that locate the sharks.

I showed my students the website and how they could track sharks.  That was all it took for them to be totally absorbed in sharks.  Next, each student chose a shark and copied its important information.  We discussed shark vital statistics such as length and weight, as well as species and habitat.  I realized my students needed a bit more background information so that they could use the correct vocabulary and extend their thinking to broader concepts. The OCEARCH site includes lesson plans with Powerpoint presentations about many topics including food chains and biodiversity which helped my students to develop this knowledge.  Social media feeds are a big part of the OCEARCH site, including Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.  My students were amazed to see updated postings about the current expedition and videos about tagging the sharks.  These social media events truly engage kids in up to the minute learning.


Students study the world map to place stickers to show the location of their sharks.

The world map has become a focal point in our classroom as students placed stickers on the map to represent their shark’s location.  The kids are learning latitude and longitude as they relate directly to locating the sharks. I think this over-sized map is helping them get a bigger picture of where the sharks are and why they live in each area.

My Students have even been tracking their sharks at home (a true measure of their interest) and reporting their latest pings and other information as they enter our class.  They have met in species groups to talk about what they know and what they’d still like to know.  I’ve contacted OCEARCH to try to arrange a SKYPE session between our class and the shark expedition, but they are in Western Australia now, so the time difference may make that impossible for now.

Tomorrow we add math to this research project.  We compiled all of the shark tracker information on a spreadsheet and will begin our data unit in math by analyzing our shark data.  I know this will make the lessons on data interpretation and graphing real to my students.

Tracking sharks on has been the most engaging non-fiction research unit so far this year.  My students have taken complete ownership of their research as they track their very own shark.  This is what curiosity in students looks like.




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