Chen and Morelle join the Sharks

October 19, 2017 — by Jay Kim and Elaine Toh

After looking over feedback from her graduating students last year, Economics and AP Government teacher Hana Chen noticed that many of them wished there was at least one major project in the class. Taking this into account, Chen, as well as fellow Economics and AP Government teacher Margarita Morelle, decided to let their students participate in a “Shark Tank” project, a competition started in teacher Kirk Abe’s classes in recent years.

“For kids that see business or entrepreneurship in their future, this is a good sort of real life taste of developing a plan start to finish,” Chen said. “I thought it would be cool to get people from the outside business world to come in and be real with our students and tell them what was good or not so good.”

The project is based on the hit ABC TV show “Shark Tank.” Students will mimic the show by coming up with a business idea or proposition, creating a full business plan from beginning to end and mock-presenting it to a group of “Sharks,” who are parents or other community members with experience in business leadership.

“The sharks who are coming to our class in December will decide whether they would, if [the proposition] was real, invest in these students,” Chen said.

While other teachers, such as Abe, incorporate multiple projects into their curricula, Chen has typically shied away from doing so in the past.

Since it is both Chen and Morelle’s first year conducting the Shark Tank project, Abe walked them through the exact process of it, discussing the benefits from its broad range of creativity and responsibility for the students.

After their discussion, the teachers improved and clarified the deadlines for the project.

“We changed the timing of it, a little bit. It used to fall upon right around that December application deadline, and it was too stressful for kids,” Chen said. “We pushed it back a bit and tried to build more structure, having due dates throughout the semester, so that kids didn’t feel like they did the whole project the night before.”

Along with the stronger structure, Morelle believes that Shark Tank will provide advantages to the curriculum.  

“I think it’s a great way to break up some of the more lecture-form and give kids an opportunity to apply everything,” Morelle said.