"The Shark Lady" -- Females and Minorities in Science
Through the use of video and calculation, students will build an awareness
about public attitudes toward women in certain careers in the field of
mathematics and/or science. Students will experience for themselves the
stereotyping that exists in our culture by creating and collecting data through
surveys. The models in this Futures video or any other Futures video
provide positive examples that erase the typical stereotype images of
particular genders for specific careers. Students use their mathematical and
scientific skills to collect data, organize data, and create mathematical models
illustrating public opinion and gender bias. Presentation of these
mathematical models in class followed by class discussions provides many
opportunities for paradigm shifts.
This is an especially interesting video for the students because of the
discussion of sharks. Students seem to be fascinated by the scary and powerful
attributes of sharks. And a lady bordering on the age of seventy
swimming alongside whale sharks is a scene that can shift anyone's paradigm
about weak females. Dr. Eugenie Clark, the Shark Lady, in this video is a
dynamic model who encourages the youth of today to take advantage of the
many choices in careers in the sciences which are also supported by
Futures: #24 Ocean Exploration with Jaime Escalante
Students will be able to:
- Present a two-minute, persuasive public service announcement to recruit
females and other minorities into science and/or math careers, utilizing
collected data about public opinion on gender bias or minority bias.
- Make a graph showing percentage of genders in the oceanography careers.
- Interpret data in order to draw conclusions about gender bias.
- Formulate questions to challenge the gender numbers in science/math
Per group of 4 students:
- stop watch
- graphing paper (optional)
- color markers
The teacher may borrow and wear a scientist's white lab coat to get the
students' attention. Use props such as a clipboard, glass beaker, stethoscope,
microscope, etc., to solicit a range of guesses, and ask, "What profession do
you think I'm in?" (Chemist for beaker, physician for stethoscope and so on.)
Introduce the lesson by telling the students that there are many careers for
men and women in the sciences or other professions that require knowledge
of mathematics. In the past, some careers were limited to either only women
or only men. Ask, "Can you give examples of each?" (Nursing was seen as a
female career, while being a physician was seen as a male-only profession.)
Use a two-circle Venn diagram to record student responses. One circle will be
"men's" careers, while the other will be "women's" careers, and the
intersection should include careers that the students feel are suited for either
men or women.
Explain to the class that when we fix labels to someone by one characteristic
alone, such as gender or race, rather than personal qualities or skills, we are
stereotyping. Challenge the students to examine their thinking on how we
see men's and women's roles in the oceanography video about to be viewed.
Keep this diagram posted for reflection after the postviewing activities. Ask
them if they want to change any of the documentation on the Venn diagram.
Hopefully, the students' awareness will now be such that they will not
stereotype as much as before.
The video's topic is oceanography, and this is one area that has numerous
opportunities for science and math careers. (To help break the stereotype of
males only in technology, assign a female student to be your assistant with
the handling of the TV and the VCR. At a later time, ask the students to
reflect or comment on the teacher s choice of an assistant. Ask them if their
honest reaction reflects stereotyping.)
To give students a specific responsibility while viewing, give instructions on
the process for recording the oceanography careers and the tasks of each job
and tallying the gender of each speaker. Students will record observations
made while watching the video. Have them record each career depicted in the
video and give a short description of that job. Indicate the gender of each
speaker. (Optional: It is my suggestion that the students first see the entire
video all the way through to get the whole sense of oceanography and its
careers.) The simple tallying that they will do at this time is not distracting to
the point of losing the whole idea of the video.
The underwater scenes are beautiful, especially the one of Dr. Eugenie Clark
swimming alongside the whale shark. The role models in the video sell the
idea of both genders being accepted in this area of science. A list of the
scientists and technicians in order of appearance is included in the lesson
packet. After watching the whole video, check the tallies and the list of
speakers in the video on the list provided. Give the students a couple of
minutes to comment on the number of male and female professionals in the
video. Solicit opinions on their expectations compared to the results.
To give students a specific responsibility for viewing a second time, tell the
students that gender bias may show up in the amount of air time given to
each gender. Put the students in groups for the second viewing, and assign
the tasks of recorder, timer and observer to the team members. If the groups
have four members, you assign the tasks of materials person or reporter to
the fourth member. Each group needs instructions on how to operate the
stopwatch. Practice starting and stopping the timer to check for
understanding. Instruct the teams to record the time each scientist or
technician is on the video visually or audibly.
The data collected will be interpreted to determine if the amount of air time
given to one gender vs. another is significantly different. The student timer is
to start and stop the watch for the amount of time each speaker is highlighted
on the video. The observer is to make sure the time recorded is credited to the
corresponding scientist by calling out his or her name. The recorder
documents the time and other data.
Each group organizes and studies the data in order to make conclusions about
the significance of the data. The teams also present at least one question to the
class about the messages we send to each other about gender in certain careers.
The reporter will report the group's finding to the class at the end of the
PLAY the video again, fast forwarding to the point where Philip Ray first
appears. (Pause and replay any speaker segment if the students wish to
doublecheck the time recorded. Pauses are left up to the teacher's judgment or
the ability of the students to keep up with the data collection.) View the first
five scientists, up to the point where Dr. Meyers says, "Everybody has their
own angle on what they are most interested in."
PAUSE in the next frame as Escalante appears again. Ask, "What types of
careers have appeared up to this point, and what type of tasks does each job
seem to have?" (Answers may vary, but the physical oceanographer measures
waves, tides; the chemical oceanographer may measure pollution or water
temperature; the marine biologist is concerned with fish, plankton or perhaps
whales; and the geologist studies rocks, mountains, volcanoes, or even the
beaches.) Accept any logical answers.
RESUME the video.
For a segment to reinforce mathematics, PAUSE where
Escalante says, "I went too deep." The frame shows Escalante at the
chalkboard. Ask the students to comment on why Escalante says,
"Mathematics is the language of the sciences." (Scientists use math formulas
as a language that can communicate relationships that exist in the real world.
Also, it is almost impossible to collect, organize and interpret scientific data
RESUME the video and observe Dr. Clark.
PAUSE the video when she says, "I
like to dive with sharks; they don't scare me!" You should see a shark
displayed as you pause. Ask the students to guess what career the Shark Lady
has. (The video does not provide this information. Any guesses the students
make, like a marine biologist or oceanographer, are acceptable.)
RESUME the video.
PAUSE at the Dr. Clark segment when she says, "The
deeper you go, the more there is to learn that has never been studied before."
Ask, "What does the Shark Lady mean by this statement?" (Answers may
range from "there are unexplored areas and new species to be discovered" to
"different depths have different ecosystems.")
RESUME the video and play all the way to the James McFarlane segment.
PAUSE as he says, "We have these vehicles that can roam the depths of the
ocean." The picture goes from the pilot to an underwater scene. Focus the
question back to the speaker's career and the job's tasks. Ask, "Why does
James compare his career to that of an explorer?" (McFarlane goes into areas
not yet visited by man, and he discovers and collects new species.) To tie in
the technology, elaborate on the tools used by the pilot. The pilot mentions
the camera, sonar and robot arms.
RESUME the tape. Listen to Matsumoto, Lewis and Light describe their jobs
related to oceanography.
PAUSE after Karen Light says, "I really like my job."
You may freeze on the next frame showing Dr. Gonzales. Ask, "What is
Light's profession and what does she study?" (As a marine biologist, she
studies kelp and sea urchins.) Probe the students further by asking, "Why
does Light use the phrase 'kelp forest'?" (A connection should be made to the
visual picture of large branches of kelp growing in great numbers, as trees do
in a forest.) Assist the students in seeing this as an ecosystem like a forest on
RESUME the video and observe Dr. Gonzales describing his job.
PAUSE after he
says, "That's the way you measure the waves as they come by." The last frame
should be Dr. Gonzales displaying the gauge for this function. Ask, "What are
his profession and job tasks?" (He is an oceanographer who measures
earthquakes and tidal waves and charts their occurrence.)
RESUME with Dr. Clark speaking in the video.
PAUSE to make a strong point
about gender equity after Dr. Clark says, "Any of you can be a scientist." Ask,
"What is the meaning of this statement?" (Hopefully, the students will hear
that her message is "Either male or female can do the job, as long as you set
your mind to do it.")
RESUME the video and play through the treasure segment.
PAUSE after Dr.
Stone shows the probability graph and says, "Early on in the plan they
discovered a contact." Again, ask the class to identify his profession and his
tasks in the world of oceanography. (This scientist is a mathematician
integrated into oceanography because of his graphing skills and ability to plot
coordinates and create a probability map.)
RESUME the video to where Dr. Schartz says, "It has become a laboratory for
deep sea life.
PAUSE on the next frame showing the control room. As project
director, Dr. Schartz has several professions that would apply to the treasure
search. Ask, "What is his profession?" (Accept any reasonable responses, such
as a manager, oceanographer, banker. His tasks are more of a managerial
nature, along with knowledge of underwater exploration.) Ask, "What does
Dr. Schartz mean that there were two treasures found?" (The students may
judge new discoveries of life under the sea as more valuable than the coins.
Research on these new life forms could give us a food source for the future,
new medicines or sources of energy.)
RESUME the video up to the end where
the credits are displayed. As the credits roll, listen to Dr. Clark continue to
inspire and challenge the students.
STOP the video for the last time as she says, "We know more about the surface
of the moon than about the bottom of the ocean." Ask the students to think
about and comment on this statement. Ask them to think about future
careers in oceanography. (Students should see that since the ocean is 70% of
the planet, there is a great potential for further study, and there may be jobs in
oceanography in the future that have not even been created yet, such as
Weave through the classroom as students talk about the ocean as a resource
that we need to protect. Convey that we need qualified persons that care about
the environment to have the knowledge and skills to find methods of
exploring and researching without destroying. It is going to take all of us, both
men and women.
Ask the students to add up the airtime for each speaker, and make a bar
graph or circle graph to illustrate the amount of time given to the males or to
the females. (If the time segments are in small fractions, computations may be
encouraged with a calculator. Remind the students that seconds are to be
converted to minutes.) The students may color-code the graph by gender. An
example on a bar graph could be that the women's bars could all be green, and
the male bars could all be red. The quantity could be assessed visually with
the aid of the colors. The student groups should elaborate on the conclusions
and the questions that they may want to raise before the entire class. The
teacher may wish to share some of the figures from the statistics available on
gender performance in math and science found in other publications.
Each group is to take a survey in the school or neighborhood on gender bias
in math and science. The survey may be student-created. This data is to be
illustrated with a mathematical model and presented to the class and
displayed throughout the school building.
The survey may bring about awareness in order to plan campus activities to
affirm both genders in math and the sciences. For example, the school may
invite a female astronaut or other minority scientists to speak to the student
body or to individual classes. The students and teacher sponsors may organize
a math and science careers fair in their school or for a particular grade level.
Students may write to scientists via e-mail, perhaps even to one of the
scientists in the video who are located at the Monterey Aquarium.
Invite speakers of both genders from local museums or aquariums to
encourage both genders to take more science and math classes in high school.
This same lesson focusing on equity for minorities in math and the sciences
may be done with any of the Futures videos by FASE.
Create math problems, using the figures from the video, such as the
- Make a circle graph to show the percentage of water and land that cover the
- If the deepest part of the ocean is 36,000 miles, what percentage of this
distance has Dr. Eugenie Clark traveled down into the ocean?
- Find the average size of the whale shark. How many students would it take
to make up the size of the whale shark in length or perhaps in weight?
- Use a two-circle Venn diagram to show oceanography careers that deal more
with math and the ones that deal more with science. The intersection would
have careers that require about the same amount of competency in math
- Use a Venn diagram to show the math and science degrees or training that
can be earned in local universities and schools compared to those that can be
earned in out-of-town schools.
Speakers in the Ocean Exploration Video Futures by FASE:
(In order of
- Philip Kay: Senior Systems Operator, Monterey Bay Aquarium
- Dawn Wright: Marine Geologist, A&M Ocean Drilling Program
- Frank Gonzales, Ph.D: Research Oceanographer, NOAA
- Audrey Meyer, Ph.D.: Marine Geologist, A&M Ocean Drilling Program
- Dr. Eugenie Clark: The Shark Lady
- James McFarlane: Chief R.O.V. Pilot, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
- George Matsumoto, Ph.D.: Marine Biologist, Monterey Bay Aquarium
- Lynn Lewis: Research Technician, Monterey Bay Aquarium
- Karen Light: Marine Biologist, Monterey Bay Aquarium
- Barry Schartz: Project Director, S.S. South America Project
- Larry Stone, Ph.D.: Mathematician, Metron, Ill.
- Jim Schumacher, Ph.D.: Oceanographer, NOAA
Master Teachers: Terri Salas and Francisco Morieda
Lesson Plan Database
Thirteen Ed Online