I designed The Master Toy Maker Project with the intent of reinforcing the Design Thinking Process that 4th graders had just practiced in the City X Project.
Additionally, I was tasked (by the Administration) to teach the Microsoft Suite of products to the 4th grade: Word, Excel, Publisher, and PowerPoint. The Master Toy Maker Design Workbook, then, requires them to create a unique company name and logo, write a letter to the US Patent and Trademark Office to secure their trademark, create marketing and packaging materials, and keep track of expenses on a spreadsheet.
Midway into the project, Master Toy Maker evolved into Shark Tank. Students still did all of the Microsoft software but the innovations became more important to them when the idea of making money was involved -- even making pretend money. I was amazed when I asked if they had heard of the television show Shark Tank and they jumped out of their seats: "I love that show!" "My dad and I watch that show together!" "It's my favorite tv show!"
Students innovated "pocket toys" that were 3D printed, board games (one made on wood as you see on this page), card games, stuffed animals, and other delightful toys. Our Sharks "funded" all of the projects but asked the tough questions, too.
An interesting dynamic happened with this project toward the end when I was going to introduce the idea of "Mergers and Acquisitions" to the students. Before I could begin my M&A lesson, students came to me to ask if they could join their companies together because they were innovating similar toys. They had already divided portions of their companies. Some of them had combined company names to give everyone a feeling of ownership. It took my breath away.
This project was SO successful that parents of 5th graders (some of whom were our "Sharks") asked me to recreate the Shark Tank project for their then-5th graders who would not otherwise have the chance to experience this learning. (See the 6th Grade Shark Tank project and download the Design Workbook on this page.)
Now the 4th grade teachers teach their unit on Business Organizations simultaneously with our Shark Tank project to reinforce that part of the learning that we do not have enough time for in the IDEA Lab..