Over the past month, 4th graders have explored entrepreneurship through a Shark Tank-simulated competition. Their specific challenge was borne from our real world situation of following COVID-19 guidelines and protocols while on campus and, in particular, during recess where no more than two students can share equipment. This situational barrier has created a unique opportunity for creativity. In small groups of three or four, students were tasked to solve this challenge: How can you improve recess while maintaining COVID-19 guidelines?
To begin, students identified specific ways to improve recess by developing a product to serve as the solution to their issue, and they created a prototype of their product through a rapid design process using scrap materials and their imagination. With a timer set to fifteen minutes, 4th graders worked hurriedly to design their product on paper and to build a 3D prototype using toilet paper rolls, tape, styrofoam, and other materials. The room was abuzz with excitement and a sense of eager competition as students rushed to beat the clock while maintaining the integrity of their design.
The following week, students created business plans. They researched prices of similar products, brainstormed business names, and finalized marketing strategies. Each phase of this work was necessary to prepare students for their collaboration with our very own Upper School entrepreneurship students. We are grateful to Rob Michelson and Zachary Chien and the Upper School juniors who mentored the 4th Grade students as they began writing the scripts for their final pitches. The juniors connected with our students and used language that was engaging, memorable, and convincing. Our 4th graders were so excited to work with the older students and learned a great deal from their experience.
Throughout the process, students imitated the process of creating both a product and a business, while practicing their collaboration, innovation, and presentation skills. At the end of this unit, students will present to a board of “investors”—a goal that spawned creativity and great interest from the very beginning of the project. Students have had a wonderful year of financial education and project based learning. Stay tuned to see who wins our very first Shark Tank: COVID-19 Edition competition!