Goldfish Bowl awards funding to student projects. That is the simple description. But it is more than that. Loosely based on the television show Shark Tank, students and teachers submit detailed project descriptions about initiatives to help their schools and serve as models for others.

Named Goldfish Bowl after a smaller, kinder fish and the idea of educational competitions (think the old College Bowl television show), submissions are reviewed by senior district staff members with five being selected to move forward.

The December 10 competition found four community leaders serving as “goldfish” (or sharks). A changing panel of goldfish, this time included Cirenia Guerrero, local media professional and entrepreneur; Kathleen McEntee, founder and president of Kathleen McEntee and Associates Ltd, a marketing services company; John Hoffner, retired CEO and EVP of Jack in the Box, Inc.; and Joe Wallace, CIO of the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership (CVEP). Since the project began in November of 2017, over $70,000 has been awarded to fund projects. Goldfish decide on the amount, up to $4,000 per award, and the money is provided by LCAP funding (Local Control Accountability Plan) for innovation.

Superintendent Scott Bailey opened last week’s event by noting that projects are selected for their innovative concepts and also for replicability at other sites, specifically noting that a funded proposal from Dr. Reynaldo J. Carreon Jr. Elementary School for emergency preparedness has been implemented districtwide. He commented, “The Goldfish Bowl serves as an innovations hub that melds student voice with community engagement toward better outcomes for students.”

Student Initiatives at DSUSD Receive FundingJohn Glenn Middle School. For five years teacher Ryan Seymour and his special needs students have been operating a “coffee cart” to serve teachers. In the application, Seymour noted, “It has been a tremendous success in teaching many life skills and creating an inclusive school culture.” Students begin the school year silently handing coffee and taking the money; mid-year they are engaging in conversations; by the end of the year they remember what an individual will be ordering. Students Austin, Ismael, and Rowan spoke to the goldfish looking to supplement their equipment and supplies and take a field trip to a local coffee shop to learn from professional baristas. Awarded $2,000.

Student Initiatives at DSUSD Receive FundingGerald Ford Elementary School. Operation Safe Space would create an on-campus space where students could go to de-escalate and manage rising emotions. The concept for the project included a focus group with students to solicit their thoughts on such a space. Ford students Brenden and Liliana explained both the concept and the process to the goldfish. The idea of a safe space was well received by the judges who saw the potential in it for district-wide implementation. Awarded $4,000.

Student Initiatives at DSUSD Receive FundingPalm Desert High School & John Glenn Middle School. This combined team presented their plan to help solve the Salton Sea crisis. One of the students noted, “We want to use our voices to inform others about what we have learned and how serious this problem is for everyone in the Coachella Valley and advocate for a viable solution to the problems that the drying sea causes.” Students spoke passionately about the work they are already doing including their recent presentation at the Confronting Climate Change Forum. Funding for the project would be used to create a presentation kit to “take on the road” including  videos, speaker system, banners, air monitors, water testing kits, and brochures. Goldfish Cirenia Guerrero and Kathleen McEntee volunteered to play an active role in their media campaign. Awarded $1,000.

Student Initiatives at DSUSD Receive FundingLa Quinta Middle School. The school, the district’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) middle school, wants to create a garden. Students explained the process to the goldfish and were asked by Joe Wallace if any of the presenting students had ever eaten a vegetable fresh from the ground and received a resounding “yes”. Informing students of their award, Kathleen McEntee told them, “We think that a garden will be a huge asset to the school, especially when you integrate the key learnings in with the class (as detailed by the students).”

Awarded $4,000.

Student Initiatives at DSUSD Receive FundingLa Quinta High School. Robotics Club President Sammy Merabet spoke without notes or slides about the plan noting that the club has a waiting list of potential members. Their work with a middle school team reminded the high schoolers of their own passion for robotics and they want to prepare for and attend global “botball” competitions and educational conferences. The funding will allow them to purchase reusable materials for both practice/learning and for competitions. Awarded $4,000.

The next Goldfish Bowl will take place on March 24, 2020 at 3:30 pm at the district office. The public is encouraged to attend.



Image Sources

  • Coffee Cart: DSUSD
  • Safe Space: DSUSD
  • goldfish-5: DSUSD
  • LQHS Robotics: DSUSD