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Ocean Kickstarter of the Month: Meet Norman the Nurse Shark

In this book kids learn about sharks and the oceans as they travel with Norman on his adventure through the Bahamas.

Sharks4Kids First Book: Meet Norman the Nurse Shark

Sharks4Kids is an educational non-profit based in Florida that produces curricula and media designed to teach primary-school age kids about sharks and shark conservation. They also conduct Skype-in-lessons, classroom visits, field trips, and shark tagging camps. For their first Kickstarter campaign, they’re producing a book, targeted at elementary-school students.

Sharks matter, according to my co-author who uses the handle WhySharksMatter, and ocean outreach literature targeting younger students is often light on solid educational content. Online media is great, when available, but not everyone has reliable access to the internet. One of the campaign goals is to distribute this book to schools in the Bahamas, which is a major benefit to a region where persistent, high-bandwidth internet is not always a given.

Onward to the Ocean Kickstarter criteria!

1. Is it sound, reasonable, and informed by science? Sharks4Kids has a solid tract record producing entertaining and scientifically literate content that appeals to a younger audience. I have no doubt that Norman the Nurse Shark, though necessarily anthropomorphized, will provide fact-based, pseudoscience-free information about nurse sharks. 

2. Is there a clear goal, timeline, and budget; and are they partnering with the people who have experience hitting those marks? $8500 is a reasonable goal for producing 1100 childrens’ books, especially if the design and layout are being done in-house. They clearly have the skills to produce the content. The sample art looks great! There are some red flags for this one: The target ship date of January 2016 seems optimistic, but is dependent on how much work has already gone into production. If the book is mostly complete and just needs a printer, I’d say that deadline is tight, but doable. More likely, I’d expect the ship date to be pushed back several months, which is fairly standard for a first-time Kickstarter and not a major cause for concern.

3. Do some of the parties involved have a successful record with other crowdfunding projects and experience delivering on rewards. As a 501(c)3, Sharks4Kids survives on donations and has experience raising money from the community and delivering on its promises. Traditional non-profits have tight requirements for accountability. That being said, this is their first Kickstarter, so caveat emptor. The reward levels reflect a general inexperience with how people respond to crowdfunding campaigns (when you’re making a thing, it’s generally best to have one low-level “support this thing” option, then go straight to whatever the cost of the actual product is, rather than a bunch of small sticker/pin/t-shirt/thank-you options). However, they’re taking the correct approach for a first time Kickstarter: it is a small, manageable project by a reputable organization, making something in a well-developed industry (publishing a book is significantly lower risk than, say, building a piece of tech that has never existed). I predict the chance of this project failing if they receive full funding is extremely low, though do manage expectations regarding a January 2016 ship date.

The Sea-Factor: There aren’t a ton of great books geared to kids about shark conservation, and those that are are often light on facts. I like that they have a vision to deliver to under-served communities, particularly in the Bahamas where I still have ties to some of the communities that would benefit.

Updates from past recommendations.

The Ocean Collection – Recycled Fishing Net Sunglasses finished an extremely strong campaign, topping out at over $180,000, more than 600% of their funding goal. I ordered a pair of Newens, which are scheduled to ship this month. No updates since they sent out the shipping survey (which is neither a positive nor a negative, as they’re probably just chugging along stamping out sunglasses).

OpenROV Trident – An Underwater Drone for Everyone is crushing Kickstarter, bringing in over $600,000, 1200% of their goal with 3 weeks to go. They’ve released several new perks, including a Buddy Pack for you and a friend and a $10 option to join the first telerobotic beta-test group. I was one of the first early-bird backers, and will be getting my Trident next year.

Do you have an Ocean Kickstarter you’d like me to look at?

Email me at [email protected] with the subject heading: Ocean Kickstarter: Your Project. This isn’t limited to Kickstarter, projects on IndieGoGo, RocketHub, GoFundMe, or any other site are eligible for an Ocean Kickstarter of the month. We will review based on three criteria:

1. Is it sound, reasonable, and informed by science?

2. Is there a clear goal, timeline, and budget; and are they partnering with the people who have experience hitting those marks?

3. Do some of the parties involved have a successful record with other crowdfunding projects and experience delivering on rewards.

As well as the less well-defined Sea-Factor. Feel free to send preview links for projects that haven’t launched yet. I will respect the privacy of those links and not share until the project launches (however, I may pass those links along to specific experts if the subject of the project falls outside my scientific expertise).  Finally, though I will personally read all e-mails in a timely manner and thoughtfully consider each project, I will not respond directly to any project creator. Do not expect a response and please do not send multiple follow-ups. I can only pick one project per month. The next selection will happen in early November 2015.


Deep-sea biologist, population/conservation geneticist, backyard farm advocate. The deep sea is Earth's last great wilderness.


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