Sunday, August 28, 2011

Chocolate-covered Saturday

    Hershey’s, Godiva, Ghiradelli, Wonka, Cadbury, Nestle-- all this and more, laid out before me for my tasting pleasure.  No, it wasn't a dream, it was school.  Really.  A few weeks ago I asked what my children most wanted to learn about this school year and my younger children all answered with subjects they knew I planned to cover.  I heard, “astronomy,” “writing,” and “reading.”  Then, I turned to my oldest for her answer.  She smiled and said, “Chocolate.  I want to learn about chocolate this year.”  She may have been joking at the time, or testing to see what my reaction would be, but who am I to stand in the way of my children’s academic interests?  If the child wants to learn about chocolate, then let her have chocolate…. 
    I told her she would have the wonderful privilege of diving into all things chocolate and leading her willing, anxious (and, very possibly, salivating) family along the sticky, sweet path along with her.  She was to put together a unit study on chocolate.  I wanted to know the history of chocolate, the science of chocolate, the geography of chocolate.  I wanted to see her reading chocolate literature and writing essays about chocolate.  She has happily taken up the challenge.  First, we scoured the library shelves checking out books with titles like Chocolate: A Sweet History and The Official M & M’s History of Chocolate.  She has taken notes and made fabulously delicious discoveries and some not-so-appetizing ones as well.  Did you know the first chocolate consumed, was in a drink that was thick and bitter? 
    As part of her research, she insisted we had to have a taste test.  Yesterday, I took her along on my weekly shopping trip and together we picked out 10 different types of chocolate.  As long as we were going to sample chocolate all evening, I figured we might as well make it a chocolate themed night.  So, we also picked up some mole, a Mexican sauce made of unsweetened chocolate, and the old Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie.
    Once home,  my daughter sat down and wrote out a survey for us all to fill out as we taste tested all the wonderful chocolate.  With her dad’s help, she created an Excel program to tabulate the results.  After our lovely dinner of Chicken mole, which all the kids (but the ever-picky littlest one) enjoyed, we turned the kitchen table into a market research facility and commenced with the sampling.  I went first and was surprised by the difference in flavors and the ultimate results.  Who would have thought I’d like the plain old Hershey’s milk chocolate bar better than all those fancy expensive ones?  The whole family took their turns eating chocolate and filling in their paperwork, and the results were processed.  Then (after a quick family walk around the block to promote a healthy balance in life), we sat down to watch our movie in a state of chocolate bliss.  Here are our final overall scores:
     She has just begun her unit study on chocolate but already my daughter has learned so much.  She has collected information, organized her plans and ideas, and conducted a well planned research project.  She has learned about the Mayan and Aztec cultures, read about the first explorers to visit South America, found out about rain forests where cacao trees are native, the difficulty of growing the fragile trees, and the challenge of introducing them to different parts of the world.  She has read about the process of turning the bitter cacao beans into sweet, rich chocolate, and found out the countries that produce the most.  She has sampled the wonderful results of the long process of chocolate production and shared the yummy-ness with her family.  And, I’m pretty sure she has learned that education can be a deliciously rewarding process.

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