Shark Tank Meets HISTORY Class?!

As far as engaging learning activity tricks go, I’ve got to admit . . . . I have a soft spot for Shark Tank.  Simulating this “reality-TV-meets-business-board-room” has all the stuff I love about a great teaching/learning setup: collaboration, performance, speaking/listening, competition, role play, application, and authentic audience.  Typically, though, I see Shark Tank utilized in camps or classes with business-related content.  So you can imagine I was quite intrigued when our fabulous Caitlin King (7th grade history) mentioned she needed some Shark Tank judges for her students.  Of course I volunteered.  I mean, it was Shark Tank. 

Wait- what?! You don’t know Caitlin? Okay real quick- Caitlin King is one of those first year faculty whom within two weeks it felt like she had been here forever.  She has one of those “let’s jump in and roll up sleeves and contribute” kinds of personalities.  She doesn’t have time for nonsense.  And she cares about supporting kids in a host of ways.  Basically she is a CATCH and we are lucky to have her. Here’s her face.  Go say “hi” if you haven’t.

Okay back to Shark Tank.  So here’s the set up: the kids had been learning about the questionable trickle-down impact of diamond production, particularly in developing nations.  They were asked to propose a solution, Shark Tank style. To prepare for the big day, they were given potential questions ahead of time and also watched a few episodes of the original Shark Tank.  

The kids worked in jovial groups; clearly they had chosen friends to work with.  They walked out to Shark Tank music (a crucial move by Shark King) and had elaborate “walk up” moves featuring scripted out rhymes and poses sure to impress.  I sat up straighter in my chair.  Clearly I was not prepared for what was about to ensue. 

The solutions ran the gamut, from training and education to utilizing other materials and marketing them for consumption instead of diamonds. Then, follow up questions from a very tough panel of judges followed, along with allocation (or lack of allocation) of funds. Important to note: Shedrick Rodgers is a savvy shark.  Don’t let his kind smile fool you.  That guy knows what he is doing.  Second side note: I thought I understood Shark Tank before being a judge, but it turned out I had no idea what I was doing.  There is wheeling and dealing involved along with numbers.  And words like “equity”, “stake”, and “contingency.”  Next time, I promise to be ready.

Speaking of being ready, Caitlin King most certainly was.  She sent us a rubric and questions ahead of time.  Check them out; they give you some good teacher hints on how to set something like this up . . . and more importantly how to set kids up for success.  Caitlin explained: “I got some questions about spending so much time making that rubric… But let me just tell you that the time it saved me grading on the back end was great! That 20 minutes of prep saved me hours grading. Plus, there was no way students wouldn’t understand their grade.”

I left Caitlin’s classroom that day with a few takeaways:

(1) I need to watch more Shark Tank before I volunteer to host again. 

(2) Diamonds are evil.  Good thing I didn’t have to feel guilty because I lost my engagement ring like 13 years ago in a river somewhere. 

(3) These seventh graders GOT INTO this. More Shark Tank please.

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