Most first-, second- and third-graders don’t need much encouragement to eat or play with chocolate.
That is the principle behind “Chocolate-Ology,” one of several courses offered during this year’s summer enrichment camp at Rivermont Collegiate in Bettendorf.
The weeklong classes are open to all Quad-City students and cover a variety of topics, from traditional academic pursuits, such as math, science and art, to courses about mythical creatures, graphic novels and Harry Potter.
On this day, the 10 Chocolate-Ology students are gathered around a large table with pieces of white paper in front of them. Teacher Courtney Seffrood and camp director Lisa Gogel put small paper plates of chocolate and vanilla pudding on the table for the students to use as finger paints.
But first comes a reminder.
“Let’s not lick our fingers and stick them back in,” Gogel says.
Soon the students are at work, painting faces, flowers, hearts and even a portrait of Santa Claus and his sleigh, complete with vanilla pudding stars.
Occasionally, some of the kids can’t resist the urge to lick the pudding “paint” off their fingers.
But the students don’t just eat chocolate. Other lessons in the class include the history of chocolate, using their problem-solving and math skills to determine how much aluminum wrapping is in an entire bag of Hershey’s Kisses, learning about the melting points of chocolate and a project that includes coming up with an idea for their own candy bar, making it and marketing it.
The idea is to use chocolate as the jumping-off point to teach the students a variety of lessons.
“It engages them so much more when it is something all kids like,” Gogel said.
Ryan Springborn, 9, of Davenport, said he is taking classes about animals and art this summer, but he has been particularly enjoying learning how chocolate is made and, of course, eating it.
Olivia Schroeder, 8, of Bettendorf, said she is taking classes about art, cultural food, animals and “Physical Adventures with Mr. Pillow,” the school’s physical education teacher.
Olivia said she found it interesting to learn that cocoa melts better in hot water than in cold.
Rivermont spokeswoman Rachel Chamberlain said keeping the lessons fun is key to the success of the camp.
“The kids are learning,” she said, “even if they don’t know they’re learning.”