Emerald Connection, December 5, 2023

By: Claire de Cordova
For the last month in 3rd grade, students have been learning about chocolate around the globe. While the topic is pretty sweet, the purpose behind this unit and subsequent PBL project is to learn about geography and countries by teaching our students about continents, landforms, and trade via the lens of chocolate. This curriculum was adapted from our larger social studies curriculum guide, “Empowering Global Citizens: A World Guide.” Students have each been assigned a country involved in chocolate production, from cacao farming to factory production. They have researched these countries and are preparing to present to other classrooms and our parent community this upcoming Friday.

Before researching chocolate production in their countries, we had students create Country Overview paragraphs, landforms cards, and export and import breakdowns to illustrate their country’s demography and geography. While they were guided through the research process with online research guides and library books, their mode of presentation was entirely determined by our students—some are creating illustrated books, others are piecing together posters, all are curious and excited about this work!

During the research process, students had the opportunity to learn from chocolate makers in Ecuador over Zoom, who spoke to our group about environmental sustainability, cacao crop production, and the welfare of chocolate growers and producers in their business. The 3rd-grade students developed panel questions for our speaker and practiced note-taking skills, both proving to be beneficial practices for their projects. I first met the Mashpi Chocolate family while studying agriculture in Ecuador, and it was wonderfully full circle to have their group speak to my students, connecting cultures and making global connections thanks to the ease of the technology at our disposal. Other hands-on learning experiences that we’ve incorporated into this unit include a cacao pod dissection and a wonderful culminating chocolate-making event with SMS parent Caitlin Kryder!