Shark Tank with Elementary Minnows By Jon Konen

If you have ever seen the popular television show, Shark Tank, you understand the power of executing an idea off the ground to fruition. In much the same manner, Jared Brown and I took that concept to build an elementary version of Shark Tank.

Our goal was two-fold- 1) nurture and build strong student leaders and 2) connect business partners with schools.

Now finishing up our second year, we have created a pretty successful model that other schools in our community, as well as other communities outside of Great Falls, MT can follow.

Jared Brown, an idea man and CEO of Pathwise Partners (an investment firm in Great Falls) came to me over two years ago with an idea of empowering students.

First, he wanted to be able to donate money to our school- with one caveat-let students decide on how that money would be spent.

Second, he asked if students could report back to the donors of how the money would be spent. Thus, Shark Tank was born!

Using his premise, Jared and I really wanted to instill leadership skills of elementary students and get them interested in how they can impact not only the school, but their community as well.

Below is a basic outline of our process:

  • Develop a research question or topic that meets an overarching goal of the school.
  • Decide who the stakeholders are and create a survey to collect data.
  • Analyze the data and develop proposals that meet the overarching goal.
  • Practice and prepare proposals for presentations back to donors.
  • Present presentations in a Shark Tank format and possibly meet with more connected donors.
  • Support the implementation of the proposals through follow-up.

Here are the first three research questions our student (minnows) developed for Shark Tanks:

  1. What do students need in our school in order to be successful?
  2. What do teachers need in our school in order to be successful?
  3. How can we build grit with students who have mental health needs?

The following is a partial list of student-driven accomplishments successfully implemented at Lincoln Elementary:

  • Increased literacy through book donations
  • Flexible seating
  • Instructional resources for teachers
  • Buddy bench
  • Calming kits to combat stress and anxiety

We are looking for more schools to participate as the two of us are able to connect students with other interested businesses and community members in Great Falls. We can also help with development in other interested communities.  We can’t wait to partner with you!


Jared Brown 406-952-0096
Jon Konen 406-781-1515