Connecting Teenagers to Coastal Sciences through Research and Education: Shark Fest Program

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Ocean Science and Technology


In 2010, the Marine Education Center collaborated with the Center for Fisheries Research and Development's Shark Research Program to design an educational program that combined research experiences and educational opportunities for teenage audiences. This program, Shark Fest, educates students about the sharks of the Mississippi Sound and engages them in scientific studies of shark populations and movements. This program has reached 398 participants in grades 7-12. During the program, students assist in conducting a population survey using a 152.4-m (500-ft) bottom longline with 50 hooks and fishing with a rod-and-reel. Students measure, weigh, determine sex, and identify to species all captured sharks, and tag those in good condition prior to release. Program participants also conduct water-quality sampling (salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and water clarity) at each sample site for addition to the database. Students take a pre-test and post-test to assess the level of knowledge gained during the program. Results of a paired-sample t-test on 2015 pre-test and post-test data reflected a significant difference in pre-test (mean = 6.16, SD = 2.36) and post-test (mean = 8.54, SD = 1.93) scores (t([83]) = -9.172, P < 0.0001), indicating an increase in content knowledge. Written and verbal post-participation assessments also highlighted a positive student experience. We conducted opportunistic interviews with several students 4 years after they were in the program and found evidence of retained knowledge along with positive overall impressions. Some participants stated that the experience influenced their career pursuits.

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Southeastern Naturalist



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