Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Real-World Application

Every year, our sixth graders have a unit called Shark Tank (yes, based on the show!) where they create or adapt a product or service and pitch it to the guest Sharks.

Every year, the Shark Tank unit is tweaked a bit, based on learnings from the previous year.

This year was no exception. And the tweaks skyrocketed the unit to the next level of awesomeness!

We continued to use Google Drawings as the platform for designing the required logo. The logo lesson itself has significantly evolved. We spend a good chunk of time looking at the why behind logos. For example, did you know that the Goodwill logo represents both the "g" for Goodwill, but also the smile that Goodwill puts on people's faces? Learning the lessons behind the logo design has deepened student understanding of not only how important logos are, but how important the design of a logo is, and the role it plays in a company.

In addition, because the kids have used Shapegrams multiple times throughout the years, the logos they designed reached a new level of creativity and detail. The thoughtfulness behind the logo design has added a whole new layer to this element!

Writing has been an integral part of Shark Tank as the pitch is key to landing a deal. In previous years, students published a magazine that contained articles by each product team, along with interviews of classmates and such. Students also interviewed teachers and staff members on their quest to find the perfect product or service to provide.

This year, the magazine said farewell and the door opened to website design! Students used Google Sites to showcase the Shark Tank experience. Working with the structure of the Design Thinking, their website included a page for each step of the process.

My favorite page of the site is the Empathy page. This page features all the information about the why behind the product, and added such value to the whole experience. Students had to choose a service industry and interview those that work in the chosen industry. Their goal was to listen closely to what was said and work to find a solution to an issue faced in that industry. The writing skills needed for this section pulled together many elements, including writing interview questions, taking detailed notes during the interview, and turning those notes into coherent paragraphs.

The website also included a page that defined the problem being solved, a prototype page that included images of the product being designed, each step of the way, and a page that went through the iteration from sketch to final. There is also a page for the pitch, where students chose to record a video of their pitch, or the written version.

Whatever way you slice it, the writing element required of the website ushered Shark Tank into a new era, and elevated the real-world application to the entire unit. Sixth graders designing and writing for websites? Creating logos, complete with backstory? Interview skills? Empathy and problem solving? Having to pitch an idea to judges?

The real-world application in this entire unit is one of the reasons the unit is incredibly memorable, long after kids have graduated!


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