Skilled entrepreneurs have the vision to identify an opportunity, know when to act, and the tenacity to overcome obstacles along the way. To offer ideas for tapping into your students’ adventuring spirit, we’re featuring two middle school teachers who paired entrepreneurship with innovation through Shark Tank lesson plans based on the show.
Our students love quests–any invitation to forge a plan, labor the voyage, and find glory in accomplishing the tasks at hand. (Who doesn’t love the hero’s journey?) Hook your students with a similar adventure in entrepreneurship.
Lesson 1: Invention Projects with Venture
Teacher Feature: Mr. Travis Klabon
This year my 8th graders flexed their creative business skills through an Invention Project. We first used time during class to finish the four module Venture – Entrepreneurial Expedition program. Once finished with the digital lessons, my students were given parameters for their Inventions and subsequent “Shark Tank” style pitch presentation.
For their inventions, they’re allowed to be creative as they liked, as long as it was reasonable (no time machines for example) and could be a viable business. Students were allowed to choose their own groups of up to three or work individually. I then give my students two 45 minute class periods to prepare their presentations.
I used check-ins and status checks with my students to ensure they were on track. The key is to guide them to the right path. This type of project is a new concept and requires a lot of critical thinking for my students. They don’t often ponder all of the aspects of business, so I need to use a lot of probing questions to help them see potential benefits and roadblocks to their plan.
After their presentations to a small panel of my school’s administration, my students were assessed on the following criteria:
Business Plan: Do the numbers work? Are they accurate?
Sales Pitch: Did they clearly present the product and their business? Were they able to answer questions?
Travis Klabon is an 8th grade Social Studies Teacher at King’s Ridge Christian School in Alpharetta, Georgia.
Lesson 2: Calling All Investors with FutureSmart
Teacher Feature: Ms. Cheneil Lowe
Last April I launched a “Calling All Investors” Competition to pair with the MassMutual Foundation’s FutureSmart financial education program. My students were asked to think through any problem they see in their daily lives. As an example, I had several students propose the issue of carrying heavy textbooks, and they all had a different solution. As a Project Lead The Way educator, this project was both a FutureSmart assessment and a Gateway Design Challenge.
Each student worked solo on their project over the course of two class periods. Their goal was to design their product or service, craft a business plan using the EVERFI provided template (shared with me in advance of the pitch), and write and present a 2-3 minute pitch speech.
To ensure my students were successful, I offered many examples, including my own business plan and 3 minute speech, to ensure they knew the expectations for assessment before and during their time working on the FutureSmart program. I also showed videos examples of elevator pitches during class time, and devoted my lunch and 30-minutes after school to anyone needed extra assistance. To practice their presentations, students were asked to record themselves see and hear their own mistakes, and to present at home to family and friends if able.
For our panel of judges, I wanted volunteers who understood how a corporation operates and was familiar with investments. Luckily, two MassMutual sponsors work as investors and were able to join our class for two days of presentations. For fairness, I also removed myself from judging, but did tally the scores and announced our three winners. Each of our winners received a trophy for: Apprenticeship Engineer, Intermediate Engineer, and the top prize of Expert Engineer.
Cheniel Lowe is a Middle School Project Lead the Way Teacher with San Diego Unified School District.