Project-based learning is an important concept in today’s world of education. Students are asked to think beyond the daily lesson and to explore how the concepts they are learning find a place in the world around them.

Desert Sands Unified School District’s Goldfish Bowl does just that. Using concepts found on the popular television show Shark Tank, a group of “goldfish” listen to the proposals of five groups of students and teachers to consider the merits of the projects based on innovation, student input and participation, the potential benefit to the district’s LCAP (Local Control Accountability Plan), sustainability, and if the project can be replicated at other schools or classrooms. Cash awards of up to $4,000 per project are then available for the goldfish to distribute to the Goldfish Bowl competitors.

Goldfish Bowl was first initiated in October 2017. The second edition was held in late February. A total of 17 applications were received with a review of the submitted materials by senior staff at Desert Sands Unified School District. The field was narrowed to five and the real  education challenge began.


Brandini Toffee in Palm Springs

Four of the  goldfish returned from the October competition. DSUSD parent Tim Bradley, Jr., world champion boxer and local restaurant owner; Brandon Weimer, La Quinta High School grad and owner of Brandini Toffee; Bianca Rae, local newscaster and founder/CEO of the Bianca Rae Foundation; Joe Wallace, chief innovation officer, Coachella Valley Economic Partnership; and Kathleen McEntee, founder and president of Kathleen McEntee and Associates. They were joined by former Jack In The Box executive John F. Hoffner.

First up was La Quinta High School student Liam with his Soothing Hearts education project. The creation of hearts to place within the incubator of newborns at Desert Regional Hospital is Liam’s Eagle Scout project and he was seeking funding to create additional product while also asking for assistance in creating a foundation. His project was funded at $500 with the additional benefit of working with Bianca Rae to create his foundation, Kathleen McEntee with an offer to help create a marketing plan, and John Hoffner’s promise to assist on a business level.

Teachers from the district’s Adams Early Learning Center were next with a cadre of little people showing the judges just want they were asking for – “Sensory STEM” playground toys that provide different levels of sensory experience. Adams was formerly an elementary school site and the playground materials are just a little bit too big and too “old” for the little ones who now play there. A number of classrooms at Adams are for special need students with unique abilities and playtime requirements. The deal was definitely sealed when Tim Bradley got down to play with the children and the proposed new educational and sensory building materials! The project was funded at $4,000.

Third project to be a part of Goldfish Bowl was “Fashion Forward” presented by Indio High School.