|5th grader Levi explaining his invention|
“Like Shark Tank, only nicer!” This was the headline over several photos that our Director of Advancement, Lou Bendrick, posted on our school’s Facebook page earlier this week.
I’ll be honest, I had to Google “Shark Tank”. Call me a philistine because I don’t watch television (ok, I lie, I do enjoy the occasional English Premier League football game!) It turns out that it is the name of a reality TV program, now in its 9th season (who knew?!) According to Wikipedia, “Shark Tank” shows aspiring entrepreneur-contestants as they make business presentations to a panel of "shark" investors, who then choose whether to invest.
This was the concept behind the Invention Expo that 4th and 5th grade teachers Leigh Houser and Liz Richards dreamed up for their lucky students.
Parents, other teachers, and several of our administrative staff were invited to attend and play the role of investors at our upper elementary Invention Expo /Shark Tank. Our instructions were to listen carefully to students' presentations or sales pitches and to focus on their ideas and thinking behind their inventions.
The students were challenged to think about common everyday problems and to create a device to help solve a problem. Their inventions were prototypes made out of recycled materials, so they had to use a lot of imagination to fulfill their ideas.
As ‘investors’ we had to use a bit of imagination of our own in playing the role of venture capitalists, deciding whom we thought had marketable ideas. Our job was to offer feedback and a financial proposal to at least 3 entrepreneurs on investor proposal sheets.
The recycled innovations wowed the big crowd of would-be investors. The inventions ranged from bunny cage-cleaners to skyscraper construction safety devices, from automatic pet bird feeders to a vacuuming system that encourages you to get off the couch and exercise!
Liz and Leigh, along with their teacher candidates Pepper and Callie, have been inspiring their classes jointly in this integrated unit of study that combines science, entrepreneurism, art, travel, language arts, history, and an inventive spirit!
They have taken field trips to factories in the area, and hosted a panel of experts who discussed the role of inventiveness in business, as well as the patent process. 4th and 5th graders had to work collaboratively in teams.
At press time, I have not heard which students or which project attracted the most shark investments. I did hear however many words of admiration from all of our investors who were in attendance.