The Chocolate Museum in Paris, called Choco-Story, is a wonderful multisensory learning experience. Start with the video to get the virtual field trip experience.
The history of Chocolate begins in Central and South America. Choco-Story uses Playmobil to make dioramas showing people using chocolate (there’s another lower on this page). We love Playmobil for home and classroom, so we thought that was a great idea. In any case, dioramas give opportunities for creative use of research, so consider making dioramas as the culmination of your chocolate unit.
Check out an Aztec recipe for chocolate in the image below (click to enlarge). Chocolate was for drinking in those days, not for eating, and it was mixed with many other ingredients. Have students do some research to identify the ingredients. You could gather up the fruits, vegetables, and spices and try out the recipe!
If you want to eat chocolate in Central American style, you’ll need to grind some roasted cocoa beans. Choco-Story has some of the ancient tools for this process:
Tools made of stone were used to crush the cacao beans.
More recently, people in Central America used tools made from gourds to scoop up the chocolate drink:
Wooden whisks or molinillos are still used in Mexico to make chocolate drinks frothy.
Jump to France in the 1700s and you’ll still find chocolate as a drink, not a food. Chocolate was very popular at court.
Queen Marie Antoinette was a big fan. She had a special chocolate service made just for drinking hot chocolate.
Special hot chocolate dishes were very popular at the time. There are small differences in dishes made for coffee, tea, and chocolate — but chocolate was first. Coffee and tea came later. The fancy cups below were intended for drinking chocolate.
Centuries later, chocolate bars were invented. Choco-Story has a timeline of chocolate history. Have students add the dates to your classroom timeline.
We still enjoy drinking hot chocolate, but now we are more likely to eat chocolate. Choco-Story has lots of chocolate in their shop, including chocolate in the Aztec style and many special candies and cookies. They have the special chocolate sticks for pain au chocolat, a very popular after-school snack for French children. A stick of chocolate is put into a roll of bread, like a chocolate sandwich. You can try these in your classroom.
We also got to make chocolates. A professional chocolatier showed us how to fill a mold with melted chocolate, add praline centers, and close the mold with another layer of chocolate. He had years of training and lots of special equipment, so he made it look easy. We tasted chocolate from different places, too. It was interesting to notice the differences between chocolate grown in Africa and in South America.
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