I love using picture books in my high school classes. People often tilt their head and look at me with a concerned face when I mention this but picture books are a fantastic way to introduce mentor texts and complex topics in a single class period. I often use picture books to inspire my students to think about nature and Jess Keating’s Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist is the newest book I’m adding to my classroom pile.
A visit to the Battery Park Aquarium in New York City at age nine inspired Eugenie Clark’s obsession with sharks. She spent the rest of her life studying these fear-inspiring creatures even when she hit roadblocks. Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist is the inspiring story of a female scientist who broke through gender barriers to follow her passion and in the process helped dispel many myths about sharks.
I teach at a STEM-focused high school located near the Jersey Shore and I think Eugenie Clark’s story will inspire some of my students to pursue their passions. Sharks are always a hot topic during beach season and many of my students still believe the myths about sharks that dominate pop culture. Keating’s book can help my students learn more about the sharks that live off our coast (even though we like to pretend they are not there!) while also inspiring some of my female students to continue studying STEM. It’s so important for female students to see themselves in books about science and there is a sad lack of these stories told by major publishers. Keating’s book fills a glaring hole in the picture book canon and I am hopeful that there will be more female scientist-focused picture books published in the future!
(Not sure about using picture books with secondary students? Check out this post for some ideas).