Sixth graders pitch original toy concepts at Ada Harris

Although their ages would still make them considered guppies in the fish world, these sixth graders at Ada Harris Elementary School just might be ready to swim with the sharks — on TV's "Shark Tank" that is.

About 100 students, aged 11 and 12, working solo or in teams, pitched about 50 toy ideas to the visiting public on Dec. 21. The students’ professionalism and clever ideas made them easy to compare to the competitors on the ABC show, where innovators attempt to sell ideas to investors.

Alex Loffredo, 12, perked up as he presented his Fidget Watch, which is for both adults and children, worn on the wrist, tells times and has different buttons people can press when they're anxious or bored.

Alex compared the gadget to this year's "hottest selling toys," the fidget spinner and fidget cube.

Janelle Scheftner, the principal at Ada Harris, said the project — which the school has assigned to sixth graders for five years — combines different skills the students are learning in school.

During the three months it took the students to develop their projects, the children had to price their toys based on market research by applying mathematics skills, as well as develop prototypes and diagrams. In their pitches, the students also utilized public speaking abilities.

"This project showed me how to present," Alex said. "It taught me how to research a toy, get my creative juices flowing and know how to make a scaled drawing. I've never done anything like this before, so it let me practice pitching ideas to people from a real perspective."

Down the hallway from Alex, Ana Cabrera, Maryam Hosseini and Genevieve Fortuna showed off their Garden Pets concept.

The toy, aimed at young girls and inspired by popular toys like Shopkins, is a small, collectible animal in a pot of soil that only gets released with a shovel wrapped in decomposable paper.

Ana, 11, said the girls came up with this concept to get kids interested in playing outdoors.

"We think kids should explore the outside world," she said. "If they have to make a little home for these toys out of a pot and get outside to put that shovel in the dirt, we think it will make them more aware of all the cool things outside."

Scheftner said each year, the students develop better and better concepts. She said she believes the effort could help them in their adult lives.

"This really grows their imaginations and empowers them to feel like they really can do anything they set their minds to," Scheftner said. "Some of these toys, you're going to wish they were in production and that you could buy them. It's at that level."

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