Looking for an engaging and historically based lesson for Valentine’s Day? How about a study on the history of chocolate?
Hemispheres, The International Outreach Consortium at the University of Texas at Austin, has put together an excellent lesson plan entitled “Chocolate~From New World Currency to Global Addiction” as part of their curriculum unit “Explorers, Traders, & Immigrants: Tracking the Cultural and Social Impacts of the Global Commodity Trade”.
Much of the information in the lesson plans is provided through primary source documents and images of artifacts, so students learn about the evolution of chocolate (or cacao) while also practicing their analysis of historical resources. I know good lessons based on primary source documents were always highly sought after when I was teaching middle school social studies–and Hemispheres has put together some great ones! Divided into four sections, the lessons cover a variety of topics, including discussions on the introduction of chocolate to Europeans and it’s spread across Europe. Did you know that Europeans didn’t like chocolate at first!? They thought it was too bitter! Students will also learn about the role of chocolate in both Aztec and Mayan cultures and its religious significance. The last two sections of the unit look at early large scale cacao production and the current state of the chocolate business. The unit can be taught as a whole, or each of the four sections could be used on its own, depending upon your curricular needs or time constraints. You may also want to pair the lessons on cacao production with those on sugarcane production discussed in our earlier post on “Black Indians, Sugar and Slavery“.
Think you’re a chocolate expert? Check out 70 Facts about Chocolate! I think you’ll be surprised at what you learn, I was!
I may just have to re-watch one of my all time favorite movies now, Chocolat. . .