Shark Tank feeds creation, collaboration, and communication skills

In this time when information is so readily available, simply knowing "stuff" is becoming synonymous with irrelevance. With more and more employers recruiting potential employees who are curious by nature, more cognizant of what they don’t know, and driven by questions as opposed to answers, the Chappaqua Central School District takes great pride in nurturing young minds that will create, innovate and question the world around them.

Students in Eileen Kenna's 5th Grade English class at Bell are using project-based learning to enhance an argument writing TC Unit of Study. They are currently collaborating in small groups to develop a product or company around a shared interest or real-world problem.

Taking full advantage of the flexibility of the Bell Learning Lab, students took their ideas through the design process. They began by presenting their focus with an emphasis placed on how they brainstormed to come up with the idea. The students then shared how their original concept changed after receiving peer feedback via Padlet and finally discussed how they overcame challenges they encountered along the way. Then, high school students served as mentors asking questions, discussing product viability, providing feedback, and helping solve production issues with the prototypes. As a culminating activity, the students' argument writing, along with reasons and evidence to support the need for the product, will be presented in a pitch to a "Shark Tank". 

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During the 2015-16 school year, Alison Guerra led a faculty book club and for their second book, they selected Classroom Habitudes: Teaching Habits and Attitudes for 21st-Century Learning by Angela Maiers. When Alison passed away in February 2016, Ms. Erin Posner's class started to incorporate Habitudes into their classroom work as a way to honor Mrs. Guerra.

This work continued to grow with Erin's class the following school year. "I began to take each of the habitudes--Imagination, Curiosity, Self-Awareness, Adaptability, Perseverance, Courage, and Passion—and "pop-out" a different hands-on interactive project to better understand the benefits and importance of each habitude, not just for the fourth grade, but for life," Erin explained. "As the District moved toward project-based learning and the MakerSpace initiative, our classroom habitudes work fit nicely."

Each year, Erin holds an "Imagination Tank" to help her students define imagination. Using the Chappaqua Design Process as a guide, they began the 5-phase process:

Phase 1: Brainstorming -- Feedback (in the classroom)
Phase 2: Planning -- Feedback & Redesigning (in the Fourth Grade Commons)
Phase 3: Building/Creating/Making & Rebuilding/Recreating/Remaking (in the MakerSpace)
Phase 4: Final Presentation (in the Second Grade Commons)
Phase 5: Reflection & Celebration

Students did the research, made a promotional video, and worked with Art teacher, Sara Cury, to create a prototype. On November 19, three "Sharks" visited Westorchard to see the class presentations and then select the business or idea that they felt was unique and would be most widely used.