Manatees and Mermaids

article by Cheryl Bullow , photos by Alamy

Learning intention:  

I am learning about different aspects of a visual text so that I can use them effectively in my designs. 

Success criteria: 

  • I can identify elements that should be included in a reward poster 
  • I can arrange information in a way that draws attention to the most important points 
  • I can make a visually appealing design to grab people’s attention 


Essential knowledge: 

More information about how representation affects our ideas can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Representation. 


Read the article and watch the English Textual Concepts video Representation. Discuss the fact that people have different ideas about what mermaids may look like and how our experiences shape those ideas, including sailors that would often mistake manatees for mermaids.  

Explain that popular fiction often influences the way we picture mythical creatures, such as mermaids, and ask students if they can think of any examples. This may include anything from the beautiful singing mermaid, Ariel, from The Little Mermaid to the aggressive, territorial merpeople from Harry Potter.  

View the video Israel Mermaids, and discuss the different Kiryat Yam residents’ views on the existence of a mermaids as well as the feelings of wonder and excitement it has brought to the area. 

Instruct students that they are going to design a reward poster for the city of Kiryat Yam. Ask students their ideas about what information should be included on the poster, such as: 

  • The reward amount (1 million dollars) 
  • A picture of a mermaid (the student’s representation) 
  • What is required (photographic proof of a mermaid) 
  • How they can claim their reward (submit their proof to the Mayor’s office) 

In designing their posters, students should consider how to arrange the information. Highlight as an example that the goal of the poster is to grab people’s attention and encourage them to find a mermaid and take a photo. Ask students which information they think will be the best way to motivate people (the one million dollar reward). Explain that for this reason, they should make the reward money stand out on the poster and there are a variety of ways to do so (e.g. large writing, thick font, different colours).  

They should also consider that people need to know what they are looking for, so they will need to make their picture highly visible and should consider how to frame it in a way that allows people to see it easily (e.g. large size, centred, not cluttered by writing). 

Once students have completed their posters, they can be displayed for a reflective discussion on the different representations of mermaids that are shown in the various designs.