Megalodon Cafe sets course for Ocean Shore’s Oceans411

This chalk drawing by Ocean Shore parent Julie Stock, done to size, looms from an Ocean Shore bulletin board and it represents the dorsal fin of the giant prehistoric shark, the megalodon. – Jean Bartlett/Pacifica Tribune


Recently, Ocean Shore Elementary students stepped back into time as they entered the parent-run Megalodon Cafe. A cafe runs every year to give students a “taste” of the school’s theme for the year’s Oceans411 event.

Formerly known as Oceans Week, Oceans411 is the school’s signature week-long program which provides students with an immersive learning experience — via small group instruction, field trips, research, presentations and hands-on activities — to gain knowledge and respect, and to cultivate stewardship for our marine environment. The “week,” which arrives after a year of prep, takes place in May and runs on a seven-year theme cycle. This year’s theme is Sharks and Prehistoric Seas. The other themes are: Coral Reefs, Deep Ocean, Marine Mammals, Polar Seas, Wave Zone and Wetlands.

A Kent Award recipient, Oceans411 has for the second year in a row received a $10,000 grant from The Charles A. Becker Foundation. Also included among gifts, grants and donations was a Family Gift from Sandy Mills in 2015, a 2010 grant from the San Mateo Countywide Pollution Prevention Program (SMCWPPP) and also in 2010, the school was named an Ocean Guardian School by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and was the recipient of an Ocean Guardian School federal grant.

Ocean Shore third grade teacher Sheila Gamble-Dorn, also a former Ocean Shore parent, is the coordinator of Oceans411.

“Every year our parent-run cafes have been absolutely incredible but I think this year’s was the best yet,” Gamble-Dorn said. “All of our students rotate through it and participate in its different activities, and they are really excited about this year’s theme.”

This year’s cafe served up some clam chowder at one of the stations. Clam chowder has been a staple at various cafes throughout the theme cycle due to the general abundance of clams, but it was quite the discovery to learn that clams were a menu staple in aquatic prehistoric times.

One station at this year’s cafe was related to pounds per square inch and answered the question: “How much of a bite do you make compared to a megalodon?” Kids’ bites were doled out in marshmallows, carrots, raisins and potato chips. The megalodon’s bite per square inch was the equivalent of a small car. What might the megalodon consider for dinner? Answer: a 30-foot-long prehistoric baleen whale.

At another station, a parent had made “fossil” cookies.

“She made a huge square that she imprinted with fossil shapes,” Gamble-Dorn said. “Then another parent sat at the square wearing a scientist’s lab coat, and with a hammer and chisel, she chiseled out individual cookies.”

At yet another Megalodon Cafe station, the students walked through time, going back millions of years ago, through the epochs, beginning now: Holocene, Pleistocene, Pliocene, Miocene, Oligocene, Eocene and Paleocene, the latter being 65-57 million years ago. The megalodon lived approximately 23 to 2.6 million years ago, and/or during the early Miocene to the end of the Pliocene.

Along with the megalodon, this year’s Prehistoric Seas subjects also include: rays, turtles and living fossils like the nautilus.

“The fossil of a nautilus is an ammonite and that existed way back then,” Gamble-Dorn explained.

This year’s theme will: provide a visit from the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Sharkmobile Outreach Program; artist Aaron John Gregory, who will present his prehistoric crustacean art; and local homeschooled middle school students who are a part of the Heirs to Our Oceans movement will present at an Ocean Shore assembly. In addition, volunteer art teacher Aprile Uhland will direct students to create mosaic waves which will run right alongside the trees planted by the Rotary Club of Pacifica, as part of the Keep Pacifica Beautiful program of the Pacifica Beautification Advisory Committee, now stretching along Oceana Boulevard across from the school.

“Oceans Week is a lot of work but the results are extraordinary for the students, the teachers and the parents,” Gamble-Dorn said, noting that one of her third graders is so excited about this year’s theme, he is constantly researching the subject at the library and has decided it has inspired his career choice — paleontologist.

Pacifica Tribune correspondent Jean Bartlett can be reached at