Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Production of Chocolate: A Sweet Social studies Lesson

By Christine La Rue 

Part of the University of Illinois European Union Center’s 2012 Summer Study Tour included a visit to Barry Callebaut in Belgium, which is the largest chocolate factory worldwide. The production begins with the cocoa bean to the finished chocolate product. Our visit began with coffee and a taste of their delicious chocolate. As I sampled their fine chocolate, it reminded me of the many lessons I have done on the history of chocolate, and how it relates to many socials studies areas. Our hosts were enthusiastic and very knowledgeable about their company. Barry Callebaut has "a truly global manufacturing footprint with forty production facilities worldwide."

The European Union is committed to making globalization work for developed and developing countries with transparent and fair trade rules. Barry Callebaut’s managers provided us with many details of their production. This company is a good example of globalization according to the European Union’s standards of fairness. Globalization is extremely important in solving the sovereign debt crisis of the euro zone area because it helps to raise the GDP of the euro area nations.

As a teacher of AP World History and AP European History, in addition to lessons on globalization, I also teach about the “Columbian Exchange.” The history of chocolate works especially well here. “The story of how chocolate grew from a local Mesoamerican beverage into a global sweet encompasses many cultures and continents" ("History of Chocolate"). Be sure to end the lesson with a piece of chocolate (European if possible) for each student!

Helpful links:

Barry Callebaut

All About Chocolate

History of Chocolate

The European Union and World Trade

A Brief History of Chocolate

Christine La Rue teaches AP World History, AP European History and AP Art History at Elgin High School in Elgin, Illinois. She was the supervising teacher of the winning team at the 2012 Euro Challenge Midwest competition, earning Christine and the four students on the team a spot to compete this past April at the semi-finals of the national competition in New York (press release). You can find more teaching resources and accounts of Christine’s international travels on her personal web site.

This article is one in a series of blog entries authored by teachers who participated in the University of Illinois European Union Center’s 2012 Summer Study Tour: Seeking Sustainable and Secure Connections in Food, Energy, and Governance. The tour to Belgium and Luxembourg was supported by a Getting to Know Europe grant from the European Commission.


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