7th Grade RIS “Shark Tank” Project

by Elisia Brodeur

The popular 7th grade “Shark Tank” project requires middle school students to use skills and concepts they’ve learned in math, science, and social studies to develop a tangible product that they can make and sell at school. While coming up with ideas, they had to answer an Essential Question: “How can we, as entrepreneurs, create a viable product to put up for sale at a market that leaves a positive impact on the world?”

The project concept stems from the Genius Hour “... a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom.” (geniushour.com) In the MS, it gives students an opportunity for agency—they get to work on something they have a vested interested in.

The students had to follow a series of steps: ideating, building a prototype and getting feedback, conducting market research, producing and selling a product, and, finally, pitching that product. All of the teams get to demonstrate their idea to a series of judges, which functions as an elimination round. Six teams make it through to the final round where they get to make their pitch to a panel of “Shark Tank” judges. But only one team can win the 10,000 baht prize, which they use to grow their business and make more of their product to sell. This not only mimics the TV show but also attaches a bit more incentive to be successful.

Throughout the project, students learn about real-world topics, ranging from idea iteration to economics to the environmental impact of human-made products. Each team has to create a survey for their target market and use their math skills to analyze that data and apply their findings to their product ideation. They also collect and analyze data from the sales of their products. In addition, they conduct research, make presentations, hold board meeting discussions, and record the entire process in a journal.

They get assessed on several aspects of the assignment, covering a wide range of subject areas. During their research, for example, each team has to produce an Impact Report that details what the main ingredients of their product is made of, including the product’s packaging, and show how it minimizes humans’ impact on environment. Through their sales pitch, they are evaluated on their speaking skills, eye contact, and the clarity of their main point.

One of the project highlights is the Shark Tank Marketplace where all the eager entrepreneurs set up their impressive displays of goods. Although each item creates something unique, several of the products were related to climate change and recycling/upcycling. This was partly because the students were following the directive that their products needed to “leave a positive impact on the world,” but it became clear that our 7th graders are forward-thinking, eco-friendly, community-minded young people. Several teams also chose to donate a generous portion of their profits to charities or companies who support disadvantaged or underserved populations.

The pinnacle of the project was the live Shark Tank judging. Based on the format of the “Shark Tank” TV show, the six finalist teams had to pitch their idea in a creative way. The students talked about how their idea progressed, what problem it solved, its environmental impact, and how much money it made during marketplace sales. The competition was stiff; all of the ideas were good and the judges had a hard time picking a winner. But ultimately the makers of Mossy Balm—Pear, Jan, and Look-Pear—won the coveted prize. Their team had developed and produces a topical insect repellent that “moisturizes, soothes, and protects” as it also contains properties that soothe insect bites. Mossy Balm even comes in several scents! The team plans to reinvest their 10,000 baht winnings to make more product to sell at upcoming school fundraising events.