For the second summer in a row, Chocolate University has partnered with Ms. Julia Armstrong to include a unique summer school experience for 20 middle school students through Springfield Public School’s Explore program. These innovative and ambitious explorers embraced their role as citizens of a world much larger than themselves tasting plenty of tasty chocolate along the way. Their perspective on the world grew and their knowledge of both the chocolate making process and Askinosie Chocolate’s vision as a small business enriched… like a bite of tasty dark chocolate.
One of the very first assignments for CU Explore was to take a tour of the factory then redesign their own tour based on a specific target audience.Their clever ideas and thoughtful presentations not only showed their understanding of the vision of Askinosie, but also gave the special guest members of the audience some insights into how to improve and update their tours.
The students learned the ins and outs of what makes Askinosie Chocolate unique throughout the whole summer session, but the second week of being together, we focused on what it means to be a brand. After discussing what makes Askinosie Chocolate distinct from other craft chocolate makers, the students individually created their own brand of chocolate and marketed their products to the entire class. Everything from packaging to logos to brand identity and hidden “easter eggs” were taken into consideration as the students voted among their peers to decide the best chocolate company and product.
A true highlight of the summer was connecting the CU Explorers to the farmers in Tanzania, the Philippines and Ecuador who grow the cocoa beans that Askinosie Chocolate uses in their bars. The students took part in a presentation using interactive maps and pictures that made these exotic places become personal places. Instead of just talking about farmers like Peter and Mama Mpoki, the students had the opportunity to write questions to the farmers and they received incredibly personal responses back. Chocolate University Explore student, Madison asked Peter Cruz, a farmer partner in the Philippines about the hardest part of his job. He responded, “My dear Madison. The hardest part of my job is training farmers. For them to adopt the sustainable way of farming that it is not only economic, but also environmental and social. The real problem in training them is ATTITUDE.” These farmers are essential to the idea of Askinosie Chocolate and to these students, they are no longer merely a face on a package, but a human being, maybe even a far-away friend.
For the very last week of class, the focus shifted away from chocolate, farmers, direct trade, and Askinosie and towards searching inward within the students’ own hearts. We talked about how their passions are important and that the things that make them smile now are most likely the things that will make them smile in the future. By making “Heart Maps”, the students were given the opportunity to think about their life and how they can make plans for the future that will keep their passions present and alive.
The Chocolate University Explore students of 2017 tasted yummy chocolate, made tasty truffles, toured the factory, toured a local farm, interacted with farmers across the world, built their own chocolate brands, discovered their passions, and melted their way into my heart. These students are a perfect example of the mission of Chocolate University “to inspire students to become global citizens and understand that businesses can solve world problems.”
Read more about the Chocolate University Summer Explore session popularity mentioned in The Springfield News-Leader.