By Lisa Carolin
Beach Middle School sixth-graders recently competed in a “Shark Tank” style product pitch. They were working on an outdoor learning space project that involved research, development, and writing product pitches.
The driving question students focused on was: How can we design an outdoor learning space that students and teachers will like for $750 (from the Chelsea Education Foundation)?
To answer that question, they had to accomplish the following tasks:
- Create a survey for surveying peers for needs assessment and then analyze the results.
- Research furniture based on durability, price and needs assessment.
- Create an authentic budget to maximize their spending power while focusing on the long-term needs of the outdoor learning space.
- Develop a blueprint to scale with a strong spatial understanding of the area and topography.
- Write a persuasive product pitch and presentation for peers as well as teachers/principals to convince the class that their ideas should be implemented.
“After the teams completed their survey, research, budget, and blueprint, they competed in a “Shark Tank” style product pitch of their outdoor learning space,” explained teacher Mike Lott. “Each group wrote a persuasive two-to-three minute speech to try and convince the class that their ideas were well thought through, practical, and answered the driving question.”
Students’ pitches were expected to be professional, and the goal of the presentation was to prepare students for a real world experience where they could win a $750 contract to build their design.
The sixth-grade blue team presented their projects to peers, who voted on the six most viable projects, those they believed would be the most successful designs.
The six winners then presented to a panel of adults including Beach staff members Lott, Amy Doma, Lisa Zocharski, Dennis Strzyzewski, and Beach Principal Nick Angel.
“The ‘Teacher Tank’ panel chose a winning design based on the presentation and what would be feasible for Beach Middle School,” said Lott. “In the end, the outdoor learning space created by Teresa Smith and Olivia Hancock won the design challenge. Teresa and Olivia worked incredibly hard throughout the entire process and spent a lot of time reworking and evolving their project based on the different audience needs.”
Lott said the outdoor learning space related to sixth-grade curriculum, specifically math and geography.
“The design project was also closely tied to the Chelsea School District’s goal of enhancing student critical thinking this year,” said Lott. “Students were asked to investigate a challenge, analyze evidence, solve authentic problems, and make accurate judgments and decisions, and then try to justify their decisions to a public audience in a professional way.”
Lott said that this kind of authentic learning gives students a strong sense of accomplishment, and that the payoff will come when Teresa and Olivia’s outdoor learning space gets unveiled at Beach.
Lott added, “This entire project would not have been possible without the grant from the Chelsea Education Foundation, and we are thankful in their funding for this great opportunity.”