Yesterday at our regular Tuesday Learning Centre day, I led my first solo session with the kids. We newbie members of the LC are encouraged to sit back and simply get to know the kids for as long as it takes (no pressure the first year!) but it felt somehow like the right time to take a session on; I really enjoy our LC kids and feel at least somewhat connected already after these first few months.
Based on feedback later, I'd say it went well. My session was on Chocolate Making...what's not to like about that!???! I had seventeen kids in my session, from ages 5 through seventeen. It was loud and chaotic and I panicked a little on the inside when I saw how many kids walked into the kitchen to participate (there was a writing session running concurrently, and I'd thought a few more of the older kids would attend there), but it was a lot of fun. Thankfully a few other moms stuck around to help out!
As the kids came in, I gave them each a cup of homemade hot chocolate (topped with fresh whipped cream). While we gathered around the huge island in the kitchen of the church where we meet, we sipped hot chocolate and talked a bit about the history of chocolate (which began with an early form of hot chocolate), where/how cacao trees grow, about the geography of the industry, and about the slavery and child trafficking issues that are prevalent on West African cacao plantations. My goal was that we cover a bit of learning in a few different areas: History; Geography; and Social Justice. Then we talked about cacao production, from bean to the final cocoa and cacao product...I'm not sure what area of academia this would fall under!?
Then, of course, we got into chocolate making! The ingredients we used were mostly raw and/or organic, and my goal was that the kids learn that there is a healthier version of chocolate than what we see in the stores.
The kids did great! From younger to older, they mixed their chocolate (using raw cacao, coconut oil, raw honey, etc) and made either bark or molded chocolates with it. I had strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, roasted pumpkin seeds, roasted sunflower seeds, orange segments, coconut, and cranberries for the kids to help themselves to in the making of their chocolates. I also brought along one junky ingredient: Candy canes. Some of the kids loved pounding candy canes into smithereens and adding it to their chocolate - a nice way to think in terms of the upcoming Christmas season, too. The kids in one group put blueberries inside of raspberries and put those into the molds with their chocolate! And another group made a deep golden caramel on the stove-top, using raw honey, butter and vanilla; they poured this hot mixture on top of the chocolate in their molds for a decadent treat (my personal favourite version).
Later in the afternoon, after the chocolate had hardened, I chopped all of the chocolate into sample-sized bites and all 30+ members of our Learning Centre group got to sample...and sample...and sample. There was one young girl who kept coming back, and back, and back into the kitchen to sample the variations; I'm sure she ate close to her own body weight in chocolate! But hey, if you're going to indulge, you may as well do it with a version of chocolate that's as healthy as possible!
All in all, I think it went well. I was tired at the day's end because the session required a fair bit of prep, and lugging things to and from home, but it was one of those best kinds of tired when you feel satisfied about something. I'm already thinking about a follow-up session sometime before Valentine's Day!