Authentic Learning – SharkTank Meets UN Grant

Authentic Learning – SharkTank Meets UN Grant

Improving the World One Grant at a Time

Making English class relevant is not always easy.  Knowing how to read, write, and communicate effectively are important life skills; however, this seems to escape teenagers.  English class can be made relevant through authentic learning activities and authentic assessments.  If you are looking for an authentic learning activity including Sharktank, a United Nations grant, a jury, and a solution to social issues, read on.

Project Structure

Mrs. Collier teaches block scheduled English I classes.  This means that she has 3 classes a day for 90 minutes each.  For a unit on the rhetorical triangle, Mrs. Collier decided to challenge her students with a problem-based scenario; her students were challenged to present to a panel from the United Nations offering a $4,000,000 grant to support the most innovative product to solve the social problem caused by fast food.  Think Shark Tank here.  The students were expected to apply their knowledge of the rhetorical triangle and their skills of research, analysis of information, creative problem-solving, and presentation to convince the panel that their team and their product was the most viable and deserving of the $4 million grant.

Student Research

First, students collaborated in groups of three and were tasked to read one chapter in Fast Food Nation dealing with a specific social problem created by fast food.  After reading the chapter, students had to research the social problem and come up with a Shark Tank-like product to solve the problem.  Next, the students had to create a presentation to try to convince the United Nations Grant Committee that their product most deserves the $4 million grant.

fast_food_safety global_business_effects_on_minorities how_fast_food_affects_earth lower_qualitygreater_profit

Persuasion and the Rhetorical Triangle

The students were tasked with applying the Rhetorical Triangle within their presentation to persuade the United Nations Grant Committee to choose their project idea as the most deserving of the $4 million grant.  Having had training in applying logos, ethos, and pathos students were required to utilize all three in their presentations.

United Nations Grant Committee

Authentic Learning Activity: United Nations Panel juries student presentations on solving social issues created by fast food.Then, to make the activity more authentic, Ms. Collier invited
community and district members to judge the presentations over two days.  Along with Lainie Berry, the District Director of Innovation and Digital Learning; and Caroline Mullis, a representative of the 
Coast Community Foundation of SC;  I had the honor and thrill of serving on the UN Grant Committee to judge 4 of the 8 projects.  The 4 products included a citizen watch-dog project to monitor pollution, a government-led pollution-monitoring system, a machine that detects E.coli in fast food burger meat, and a biodegradable and edible food packaging.

Jury Decision

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The Google Slides visual presentations were of varying quality as were the live student presentations.  Overall, the 3-person jury was impressed with the level of research and creativity presented by each group.  Mrs. Collier provided each jury member a rubric to judge the product, the presentation, and the rhetorical triangle and invited the jury members to ask questions for clarification before making our final decision.  We three jury members discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each group, narrowed it down to two, and finally settled on one group to receive the grant.  The winner was the biodegradable packaging to slow the pollution in the Arctic Circle.

Authentic Jury Feedback

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Finally, understanding the power of outside influence, Mrs. Collier invitedun_panel_addresses_students3 the 3 jury members to give constructive feedback to the teams.  This particular team was powerful because one member is a former high school English teacher, one deals with budgets and deciding longevity of a project, and the third deals with grant applications daily and knows what to look for.  The feedback given to the students included standard points about body language, confidence, volume, diction, and eye contact.  After that, the jury explained the strengths of each group’s idea.  Finally, the jury explained how important it is to cover all of the research thoroughly, and that knowledge of the subject matter is what ultimately gave us the confidence to grant one group $4 million.

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Authentic Learning Take-Aways

This experience raised the level of engagement for the students because they had an authentic audience.  Mrs. Collier did a fantastic job creating a real-world scenario with a real-world issue.  Kudos to her and her students for their hard work and dedication to learning.

If you are interested in creating more authentic experiences for your students, I recommend heading to YouTube for a basic search.  We found plenty of examples that served as an outline for what we wanted to do.

If you have participated in authentic activities with your students, please leave a comment to start a discussion.  I’d love to hear from you about how things went and what we can learn from one another’s experiences.

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