Shark Tank Summer Academy
This summer at Chatham Middle School, students made learning a business, literally! This years’ Summer Academy gave students an exciting entrepreneurial-themed academic experience inspired by the hit TV show Shark Tank. The 32 students who participated formed five business groups that competed to solve real-world business challenges and make as much money as possible, which they would donate to a charitable cause of their choosing!
For their first business adventure, the teams were given just four days to devise a way to generate cash at Chatham’s SummerFest street festival. Each group came up with a different fundraising event; from carnival-style games of skill like Ring Toss, Soccer Goal Kick, and Bean Bag Toss, to bake sales or selling Kool-Aid and lemonade. Their ventures were all successful and the students raked in several hundred dollars in just a few hours.
For their second money-making adventure, the teams were each tasked with creating a product that could be sold on the counter space of a local business. Each team was given $50 in seed money to turn their ideas for products into a reality. Each group was partnered with a local business where they could create a display and sell their products. Students designed and sold postcards of Chatham, wind chimes made from repurposed products, and decorative mobiles of natural items like pine cones. You may have seen the students' products on sale this summer at places like the Crandell Theatre, the Bank of Greene County, Logonia’s Pizza & Cafe, Bimi’s Cheese Shop, and the Chatham Book Store.
Over the summer, the students visited local businesses and enjoyed several guest speakers from the business community. Kathy Schweizer and Amy Conte (pictured right) from the Bank of Green County visited the school to talk about interest and bank accounts, while Rich Kraham from the Chatham Press stopped in to discuss logos and advertising. He also made the storefront of the Chatham Press available for the students to place their own product advertisements in.
Along with business groups, the students also formed reading groups to explore fiction and nonfiction literature relating to entrepreneurship. One favorite they read was the book Lawn Boy by Gary Paulson, about a youngster who starts mowing lawns for a little extra cash and finds himself on an upwardly–spiraling investment adventure.
Chatham Central School District is currently exploring new ways for our students to take increased advantage of technology in our classrooms, so as part of the Shark Tank Summer Academy, the students piloted Chromebooks as a personal learning tool. They used these laptop computers for research, to log journals, and share feedback with each other digitally using Google applications. The students then reported back to their teachers about the strengths and weaknesses they experienced with the devices while using them throughout the program.
At the end of July, the Shark Tank Summer Academy pooled all their profits and donated them to the Columbia County Land Conservancy. The students were proud to be able to cut this nonprofit organization a fat check for $607.16!
The Shark Tank Summer Academy was open to students entering grades six, seven, and eight and ran throughout the month of July. The program was coordinated by dean of students Cyndi Herron and instructed by teachers Mike Stead, Laura Grill, John Roloson, Kristine Mackowski, and teaching assistant Lisa Engel. Special thanks to all the local businesses that participated and helped make this program an exciting success.