Sharks are cool

For preschool and elementary school kids enrolled in science camp, nothing is more cool on a hot summer day than studying sharks, an animal that spends its life swimming in the ocean.

Children at ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum earlier this month created detailed models of a shark's anatomy and then lay head-to-toe to see that it takes between eight and 10 of them to duplicate the length of a 40-foot-long whale shark.

With instructor Tia Lehua McClean guiding them, campers explored more about the amazing world of chondrichthyes, the class of cold-blooded, aquatic animals that includes sharks and rays.

The campers learned these animals have skeletons made not of bone, but flexible, durable cartilage, the same material that makes up the structure of our nose. And they heard that sharks have stiff fins that help them swim and a rigid tail that propels them forward.

Emma Johnston, 6, liked learning about the different fins — pectoral, dorsal, pelvic, candal and anal — which are named for their location on the shark's body. Sharks also have five to seven gill slits on each side of their head that filter oxygen from the water as it passes over them.

Lucien Muck was really anxious to touch an old shark jaw, with its numerous rows of teeth. But as he held it up to his face, he smiled almost as big as the jaw of the shark itself.

— Sally Peterson

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