Never Poke at the Sharks


We were privileged to meet with the Educational Program Director at the Oregon Coast Aquarium on Friday for a guided tour of the Shark Tanks. We were able to walk behind the scenes and climb to the top of the tanks for a bird’s eye view. The photo below shows the view to the west, seeing the tops of the Sea Otter and Sea Lion tanks as well as the top of the Newport Bridge.


The whole tour was wonderfully informative and entertaining. They passed out Shark Teeth found in the tanks and shared how they use and store their gear. You could tell that the volunteer divers (over 130) have a deep love for these fish. 

When asked to share about our favorite part of the day – my mind went to the diver’s statement while holding a Shark Stick.  We never poke at the sharks. He showed how to use the stick,  a PVC pipe with ductape, while diving. He can hold it up to let the sharks know where he is in the tank. It gives them a boundary. He can slowly move it east to west to show where he is in the tank.

When asked about ‘training’ the sharks, the head diver smiled sheepishly with a shrug. She answered that they don’t feel like they are teaching or training sharks, but rather conditioning them.  Their food is given at certain times of day. She has a few plastic attachments that are placed on poles that allow the sharks to know when it is their turn to eat. They keep track of which foods and the quantities to know what they like. Offering many choices – they can keep track if their desires change. They can see if there is a problem by what is left behind.


The kids asked what would happen if the diver felt as if he were in danger. He again restated that there really isn’t much of a threat. The sharks are well fed. Well cared for. Their needs are looked after. They have a pattern. However, should they get uncomfortable in the tank, something unexpected, they would go forward. Towards the shark. He took the Shark Stick and spun it in a circle like a baton while stepping forwards towards the children. They all took a step back.  He said – it is good that they know the boundary is still there. That we know where the shark is and what it is doing, and that we show him – with the stick – when he should back off.


But we never, ever poke at the sharks.  And so – on this pondering first week of January, surely you know where this mama of teen boys brain wandered off to. Of Shepherds and Rods, of Shark Divers and Sticks. My job of providing what they need. Nutrition. Fitness. Social Engagements. Volunteer Opportunities. Time in the Word. Time with others talking about the Lord. Encouragement. Chores. Projects. Goals. And if time allows – some Math, Science, History, Art and Music.  Ha.

There has been talk on line. Of Teen Contracts. Are they right? Are they invasive. I’m pretty sure the only contracts that the sheep and the sharks have with their caretakers, is that the caretaker promises to meet their needs.  The rod is there, same as the stick, to help guide the wandering animals back into where they are safe and their needs are provided.

But we never. Ever. Poke at the Sharks. As my boys grow older, and they start to look out and about at the world. Wondering what their place will be, what their life will look like outside of our home I wonder how much to restrain. How much protection should be in place.

I thought of the Master Diver’s thoughts on the differences between Teaching, Training and Conditioning.  I see the excitement on the boys faces after a volunteer opportunity. After a sport training event. After mastering a new math skill. After recognizing and artist or painter. And I smile. Hopefully, my training, is conditioning them to continue this life, outside of this house.

On a side note – because I keep giggling over it – my eldest is now smart and snarky enough to outwit the volunteers. Sigh. I was embarrassed, amused, and a bit proud as he asked the questions that he himself had not found answers for.  He also found an answer about sharks. A segment of his Biology DVD that he disagreed with based on his observations. The Divers agreed with his observations. First assignment this week will be to re-watch that part of the DVD and then send the author  a little note.

As we venture into this next term of school, and learning, and training, and conditioning, and as my little sharks push back – may I remember with a giggle – We Never. ever. Poke at the Sharks.


This tufted Puffin thought he was more handsome than the Fox/Song Sparrow above. He actually chatted with hubby for quite some time while showing off his water dance skills.  Charming.

About +Angie Wright

The Transparent Thoughts of an Unschooling Family of Boys - Answering the question - What DO you DO all day?
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4 Responses to Never Poke at the Sharks

  1. kbalman says:

    What an amazing field trip I must say I am a little jealous.

  2. What a fun learning experience. I, on the other hand, would never get close enough to a shark to poke it. lol

  3. Amy Blevins says:

    I love the pictures and the post! Quite an adventure called life.

  4. Mary says:

    I enjoyed this post. One can remember the same command out of the water and out in the world – don’t poke the sharks! Love the picture of the Puffin.

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