Wearing yellow shirts, second-grade students at Brookside Elementary School delivered a sweet pitch to district officials to invest $85 in their lemonade stand business — in the true spirit of the popular TV show Shark Tank.
The students called themselves Second Aide Entrepreneurs, raising money for the national organization Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
In their classroom, the students have been learning about business development, financial literacy, marketing and advertising. They used their new-learned skills to present a slide show of their proposal, displayed marketing materials — a flyer and brochure produced via the graphic design platform Canva — and made a commercial to sway the four district officials, or Sharks, to invest in their business.
The event took place at Brookside’s gymnasium in Baldwin, kicking off with an introduction video of the Sharks. Acting as the Sharks were Baldwin Schools Superintendent Shari Camhi; Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Anthony Mignella; Brookside principal Anne Marie Squicciarini; and PTA president Raquel Stephenson. A group of students, divided into three departments — advertising, marketing and graphic design — pitched their business to the Sharks.
“We stepped back,” second-grade teacher Kristin Maldonado said about her role and the role of the other teachers. “We let the kids come up with the name, come up with the fundraising. Even when we wanted to make the decision, we kept our mouth shut.”
Students researched products and estimated the costs needed to keep their business running, which is how they arrived at $85. With a civic-minded goal, the students also researched a charity that they could support. With no influence from their teachers, the students voted to work with Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
One of the students explained to the Sharks that the organization started in 1996 to help Alexandra Scott raise money to fight her pediatric cancer.
“When Alex, who was diagnosed with childhood cancer just before her first birthday, was 4 years old, she told her parents she wanted to set up a lemonade stand in their front yard,” according to AlexsLemonade.org. “Her plan: to give the money to doctors to help them find a cure. Her first “Alex’s Lemonade Stand” — held with the help of her older brother, Patrick — raised an astonishing $2,000 in one day.”
The organization raised more than $1 million by 2004, but Alexandra unfortunately died from the disease at 8 years old. The mission of the nonprofit is to raise awareness, change the lives of children with cancer by funding impactful research, and to help find the cure for cancer. Students at Brookside wanted to pay tribute to Alexandra’s legacy by creating their own lemonade stand.
One Brookside second-grader, Ariel Vidal, said that the most important lesson she learned from the event was “how money worked.” She and her classmates developed real world experience with their business venture. After pitching the stand to the Sharks, a new group of second-graders, who were sitting behind the first group, stood up and answered any questions that the Sharks asked.
Squicciarini asked the students: “What will you do if we lend you that $85 and invest in your company?” One student responded that they would need to buy the products to sell lemonade, such as lemons, cups and a lemon squeezer.
“We didn’t script them. We didn’t want them to read off of anything, and they answered the questions from what they learned in here,” Maldonado said while pointing to one of her students’ head.
After the students eloquently answered all of the questions, the Sharks huddled and discussed whether they wanted to invest in the business. After deliberating for a minute, Squicciarini and Camhi said they would each invest $25. Mignella and Stephenson split the difference of the remaining $35, giving the students exactly what they requested.
The students cheered after the Sharks said they would indeed invest in their business. They brought a lemonade stand with them and encouraged their parents, who were in the audience, to put money in the tip jar to support their stand.
“My overall impression of this event is nothing but pride,” Camhi said. “I have immense pride in our kids, teachers and principal.”
Camhi said that the skills the students learned would make them better citizens. She added how proud she was that the kids in Baldwin are learning to be civic minded at a young age. Her goal is for all the students to eventually graduate from Baldwin High School with the intention of making the world and their community a better place.
“I was most proud about how the students did their own research,” Camhi said. “They identified multiple causes and then worked together to select one cause to work with.”
Camhi expressed hope that the students gained “independent and entrepreneurial thinking” from the Shark Tank event. With Camhi’s future-focused initiative called “Baldwin 2035,” she added that events like these would continue throughout the district.
Camhi mentioned that the path to teaching students to be more creative varies from building to building, but the end goal of producing high school graduates with a sense of independence remains the same.