Mrs. Winters summarizes her acclaimed lesson plan:
We imported cacao beans from South America and processed them into chocolate liquor which is essentially baker’s chocolate. They learned about chemical and physical changes that took place during this processing, the ecosystem of the rainforest where they are grown, how the plants are pollinated, and where in the world cacao beans are produced. The students also learned about percent composition when we looked at what classifies chocolate as dark, semisweet, milk, and white chocolate. We then explored the history of chocolate and turned our crude cocoa tablets into the traditional Aztec chocolate drink. It was great that a lot of my students were able to identify with their cultural roots.
Next we studied the biochemistry of chocolate and why it is classified as a super food. The students were amazed that cocoa has so many health benefits. To conclude this discussion we looked at scientific studies that supported the claims about chocolate and its health benefits. The PowerPoint developed for this unit was used on our school broadcasting station, Triton Talk, so that the entire school could also be aware of these amazing benefits. It was great to see the students at Pacifica High School start to eat dark chocolate as healthy snack during school, especially before tests.
Then it was time to get back in the lab and get down to thermochemistry and the crystallization of cocoa butter and we explored how to temper chocolate in the lab. They then took what they learned to their culinary cooking class and created beautiful boxes out of chocolate.
Last in the unit was the science of tasting chocolate where the students did a lab on sensory evaluation and used all their senses to evaluate the aroma, texture, flavor and finish and mouth feel of chocolate from 90% cocoa down to white chocolate. For most of them this was the first time the really thought about the taste of chocolate from a scientific perspective. They were able to evaluate it and use the knowledge they had gained from their labs on processing cacao bean and tempering to see how it effects the final chocolate product.
To conclude this project, students were given several project ideas on the various science topic related to our unit on chocolate and a rubric they would be graded on. These projects included posters involving the processing of chocolate, classification of chocolate types, and the crystallization of cocoa butter during tempering or brochures on the health benefits of chocolate.
Comments from the students have been very positive. They have said that they learned more this year than in other classes and that they were amazed at how much science they actually learned because it did not feel like they were learning it, just exploring what interested them most – food. Thanks to my students, I really understand 21st century learning.
Thank you again to the Ventura County Office of Education and Amgen for the generous grant for this project.