Gasps and cries of "Whoa!" rose from 300 elementary school students Thursday as marine biologist Mile Brosas unveiled the massive jaws of a great white shark.
The gaping jaws, wide enough to swallow youngsters whole, and jagged rows of teeth captured the students' attention and imaginations instantly. Still, Brosas pointed out, despite sharks' fearsome appearance and reputation, the students had little to fear: They seldom attack humans.
"You have a better chance of getting struck by lightning or getting hit by a falling airplane part . . . or getting attacked by a pig," he said.
Brosas, a Sea World shark expert, visited 600 students at Mitchell Elementary School on Thursday as part of a program designed to bring the ocean to students when the reverse would be impractical.
During a 45-minute presentation, Brosas said that 90% of shark species are harmless but that "sharks have a bad reputation because of what they look like."
Children learned that sharks have no bones but instead have skeletons made of cartilage and that the largest species--whale sharks--can grow to be 40 feet long. Students, who all wore shark masks during the program, also got to touch real shark skin and teeth, and they viewed a video on the aquatic predators.
"I touched the teeth. They were smooth and sharp. It was kind of fun to see sharks," said Carrie de la Cruz, 8.
Sergio Reyes, 11, praised the program and said he was most impressed with the great white shark's jaws: "It was humongous. It was weird. Reading about (sharks) in a book wouldn't have been as great."