“Shark Tank” Style Think Tank Offered at Hononegah

ROCKTON — Hononegah students can look forward to getting some real-world business experience with the launch of a new program this fall: Incubator.

Designed like the TV show “Shark Tank,” students will create business models based on a product or idea that they will develop over the course of the semester with business owners in the community. At the end of the year, students present their projects to the class and members of the community.

“It is an opportunity for students to immediately develop their skills and directly apply them,” said Executive Associate Principal Chad Dougherty, who is helping spearhead the program.

The optional class began Wednesday and is the eighth think tank program in the country. It is based on a curriculum created out of Barrington School District. Dougherty said administration has been working with representatives from Barrington to establish the program.

The class held its orientation last Monday night when parents, students and several community members interested in being a mentor came to hear presentations on the program.

“Overall we got good buzz and a good response from students and parents,” said Jason Brunke, the class instructor and coordinator for Career and Technical Education. “It’s a different way of looking at education. People seemed really fired up about the opportunity that their students may have the chance of doing something different and special.”

Brunke said he worked to bring the program into the school because he wanted to take a fresh look at teaching business innovation and saw the presentations from the Barrington school district.

“I went and saw it and knew that it was what I was looking for,” he said. “I knew it would be impactful for not only the students, but also the school and the community.”

And the classroom is nothing shy of high tech. With 60-inch HD televisions, computers and more, the classroom is designed to encourage interaction and stimulate the flow of ideas.

“The room is really designed for collaboration among the students,” Dougherty said.

There is even a conference table that doubles as a ping pong table.

“When they hit a road block, they can get a couple of strokes in on the ping pong table,” Dougherty said in a presentation to the full board at its regular monthly meeting.

Brunke said he hopes this class will help students to push beyond their comfort zones and gain confidence in their ability to design a business plan. And although the program is still in the initial stages of development, Brunke said the first day of class went well and he looks forward to the semester.

“Regardless if they end up with the next great thing, they’ve learned the process and overcome obstacles,” Brunke said. “Not everything is black and white in education; there are different ways of doing things and different options career-wise. It’s important to learn to find your passion and chase it.”

Incubator is part of the Strategic Plan to advance academics at Hononegah and elevate opportunities for students, said Lynn Gibson, superintendent for the school.

“This is our year and this is our time to move forward,” Gibson told the board. “We have the administration and we have the staff to do it and we’re looking forward to the school year.”

Gibson also hinted at a similar work-in-progress think tank for faculty in the second semester.

“So get ready for that,” she said with a smile.

Program coordinators continue to seek resources from the community, whether it’s donating time or money to support the classroom. If you’re interested in donating or becoming a mentor, contact the school district at 815-624-2070.

This is a story written by Jenifer Tranmer for the Beloit Daily News. The original can be found @ http://www.beloitdailynews.com/news/illinois/shark-tank–style-think-tank-offered-at-hononegah/article_3c86324c-2c66-11e4-ae46-001a4bcf887a.html