1st Grade tradition returns to Primary School. 

By Communications Department | Academics, Primary School, Student Life

Throughout the hallways of Primary School (PS) the energy level was high; shark week was finally here.

To prepare for their experiment with the impressive dogfish shark – this year’s specimen measured well over a foot – 1st Grade students draped their clothing with protective shirts, strapped safety goggles over their eyes, and donned plastic gloves in order to examine the body, liver, eyes, brain, and other organs.

As you might imagine, there were comments of “eww,” “yuk,” and “gross,” but there was also a lot of curiosity and exhilaration. It may be a little frightening, but it’s also eye-opening for the students, according to 1st Grade Teacher Valerie Sprunger.

“Almost always, the experience is eww, but in the best way possible. Eww, but I want to touch it. I want to feel it. It’s different. It’s not an experience they are going to have every day, so I think they are surprised when we get in there with the shark.”

Sprunger has taught 1st Grade at Prairie for six years and she says this activity is always an adventure. “Every time we cut open the sharks it’s different. This year the sharks happened to be carrying babies, which doesn’t happen every year. Some of the internal pieces seemed to be in different locations because of that. Once you get inside it’s one big adventure.”

While students have been learning about many interesting animals throughout the year, she says the shark unit takes the abstract learning they’ve gotten from books and videos and makes it real.

“We give kids so many opportunities to study these really cool animals that are outliers and have all these surprising features and adaptations, like sharks of course, but also penguins, and bats. This is our opportunity to really show the kids in a very hands-on way, what those adaptations are, what they look like, what they feel like. Of course, they’re not experiencing bats and whales when they look at the shark, but I think it really brings that message home for them that this is real.” 

Shark dissection in 1st Grade is a long-standing tradition at The Prairie School. It has been around for almost two decades.

Hear how students reacted to their dissection experience and the information they learned while guided by 1st Grade Teacher Kelsey Cassidy.