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Immersion in chocolate is a lot more fun than just dipping your toes in it

Chocolate-Salvatore-Vuono-Free-Digital-Photos-ID-10019336

Having just completed nearly a week of consultancy work in a school in Wiltshire and reflecting on the inspirational experience that it turned out to be for me, let alone anyone else, I reflected on what had helped make it make an impact.

Over the four days I was there, I delivered four mornings of lessons about Fairtrade chocolate. This could have been a tedious exercise about cocoa farmers earning far too little and the fat cats at this end earning far too much but that’s not where we started.

We started by giving out chocolate. Unfairly.

The children, surprisingly, didn’t complain that much – I think they were just glad to have chocolate.

We then looked at the process of making cocoa beans into chocolate bars, a fascinating one, whichever way you look at it, and we discussed the fact that cocoa farmers receive less in wages than the average UK child receives in pocket money (that was a new one for me).

Chocolate and injustice: the children are hooked.

After a session role-playing cocoa farmers, chocolate manufacturers and retailers – and putting the world’s injustices to rights – the children were firing on all cylinders and ready to write.

Letters.

To Cadbury and Tesco and anyone else who had clout and a lot of chocolate for sale and who could make a difference to the impoverished cocoa farmers.

By the end of the morning, each child had written an empassioned letter to a ‘Consumer Relations Department’ and, by Friday afternoon, all the letters from four year groups were in envelopes, ready to post.

I really wanted to shrink myself down into one of the envelopes so that I could see the look on the face of the person who read the letters.

I shall just have to be patient and wait for the replies – which there will be, I’m sure.

So, there was chocolate and injustice – and purpose and problem-solving and role-play and action.

As I drove home and reflected, I summarised the experience under four I’s:

1)  IMMERSION: we gave the children a whole morning to scour the breadth and depth of Fairtrade chocolate and the injustices in the cocoa-farming industry

2) INSPIRATION: the range of stimuli meant all children were engaged and interested: it was Visual, Aural, Kinaesthtic and Tactile

3) INNOVATION: the children had to discuss real solutions to real problems and come up with some original ideas – these are the next generation of thinkers who will have to solve the problems that we, the adults, are currently creating

4) IMPLEMENTATION: the children were given a purpose to write and they applied knowledge, skills, experience and passion in their letter-writing

I suspect that, if it had been a morning of SATs practice questions, the children may not have been as nearly motivated.

Like I keep telling anyone who will listen: we don’t teach children to get ready for SATs – we teach them to get ready for the rest of their lives…

Image by Salvatore Vuono (courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net)