Tennessee students take business proposals to ‘Shark Tank’

BRISTOL, Tenn.; (AP) – One by one Tuesday afternoon, about a dozen Holston View Elementary fifth-grade students stepped through a curtain into a dimly lit room and gave their best product pitch to a steely-eyed panel with questions aplenty.

It marked the opening day for Holston View’s version of “Shark Tank” 2022, complete with theme music from the popular TV show. The project was the creation of fifth-grade teachers Jill Berthold, Diana Bush and Victoria Lamkin.

“We started this a few years ago when Bush went to a target-based learning session, ”Berthold said. “This group of kids was given a rubric and sent on their way. These projects are their inventions and innovations – they are all theirs. It’s something to them. ”


Products pitched include everything from a smart phone, a jacket with a solar panel to keep the wearer warm , a cool pillow and a device to draw or sketch on a tablet or computer and project the image onto the ceiling.

Student Jackson Walden went so far as to display the design of his “magno ball” basketball on the t-shirt he was wearing.

Jackson said his biggest takeaway was the confidence he gets from giving his presentation.

“When we first started, I thought I would do horrible. But after I presented, I thought I did really well, ”he said.

Students were tasked with creating a product idea, designing a prototype to show and develop their entire presentation which includes a request for money and a business plan, Berthold said.

“They worked on real life skills. This is something we don’t get every day, but we can include every single subject: math, science, language arts and social studies . You saw those subjects included all day today. ”

Two rounds were held Tuesday and two more were held Thursday. All students were graded.

“We are grading them on their work ethic. Work ethic is big these days and these kids gave 110% and they deserve to get a grade for that, ”Berthold said. “Normally this is something we do after testing. It’s still after testing, but we can grade it because it includes all our basic core courses. ”

The first first “Shark Tank” project in 2017, Bush said.

“The first year we started small with six local sharks but now we’re up to 34 celebrity sharks,” Bush said.

Nearly 60 students and 34 “sharks” from the community including local business, restaurant, boutique, real estate executives, CEOs, IT supervisors, public service employees, nonprofit agency founders and successful business owners from the greater Tri-Cities.

“I feel like we’ve expanded on the presentation, creation, elaboration on how the prototypes are created – and the rigor of it. They can be asked any kind of questions and they need to be ready to respond, ”Bush said. “We have been so impressed with students that they are really capable of doing life and showcase what they are capable of doing.”

“Of the adult, I don’t think I could do what they’re doing. I can teach children, but being in front of adults is difficult, ”Berthold said. “And they don’t know who they’re presenting in the front of; that’s another intimidating factor … It’s not like presenting in front of teachers. They’re presenting in front of somebody who they’ve never met before. That takes a lot. ”

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