The tradition of giving Easter eggs is rooted in the Christian festival that celebrates the resurrection of Christ. Originally the Christian Church forbade the eating of eggs during the holy week leading up to Easter Sunday. Eggs were saved and decorated and given to children as presents. As the tradition evolved, the decoration became more elaborate and eventually the first chocolate eggs were produced in France and Germany in the 19th century.
Nowadays, just as Christmas is associated with Santa, Easter is unavoidably linked with the Easter Bunny and children eagerly await this festival and all the chocolatey treats that come with it. But do they know where all those millions of eggs come from every year, how they are made and where they get their chocolatey flavour?
HOW IS CHOCOLATE MADE?
Explore how chocolate is made and where cacao comes from.
- Show the children a selection of chocolate Easter eggs and some video of Easter eggs being produced. Tell them that you are going to learn about how chocolate is made.
- Show the children some photographs of cacao trees and explain that chocolate is made using cocoa beans that are taken from inside the pods that grow on these trees. Use a globe to explain that the cacao tree only grows in hot countries near the equator - for example, Ecuador. Show some photographs of equatorial rainforests. Ask what the weather might like in a rainforest. Point out Britain to show the children where we are in relation to equatorial countries. What is the weather like here? Do the children think it would be possible to grow cacao trees in Britain? Why? Why not?
- Show the children some pictures of the cocoa beans being dried and roasted. Explain that beans are then broken up into small pieces and the shells are thrown away. The middle of the bean (the nib) is the only part that is used. Show the children some cacao nibs and allow them to smell and touch them.
- Explain that the nibs are ground down to make a thick cream called cocoa liquor. Put some cacao nibs in a pestle and mortar and grind them down. Pass it around for the children to have a turn. Encourage them to describe what they can see and smell.
- Explain that the cocoa liquor is separated to make cocoa powder and cocoa butter, the main ingredients in chocolate. Show the children some examples and pass them around for them to touch and smell. Allow them to dip their fingers into the cocoa powder and taste it. What do they think? What does chocolate taste like? Does cocoa taste anything like chocolate? Why not? Does it taste bitter or sweet? What do the children think needs adding to make the cocoa taste better?
- Explain that other ingredients are added to make chocolate. These include milk, vanilla pods and sugar. Pass around some samples for the children to smell and taste.
- Finally, explain that it is various combinations of ingredients that make different types of chocolate. Share out the chocolate eggs to taste. Compare and describe the different colours and flavours.
Visit a chocolate factory if possible. What could be better than going to see the real thing? The following are open to school groups and offer educational tours:
- Cadbury World in Birmingham, www.cadburyworld.co.uk/schoolandgroups/schools
- The Chocolate Factory in Swansea, www.thechocfactory.co.uk/tours/primary_school_tours.html
- The Caffrey's Chocolate Warehouse in Dublin, www.chocolatewarehouse.ie/chocolate-workshops/school-tours.
Otherwise, do you have a local chocolatier or confectioner in the area? Perhaps they would be happy for small groups of children to visit and have a look behind the scenes.
CL: Extends vocabulary, especially by naming and describing.
UW: Uses senses and explores by linking together different approaches - looking, smelling, feeling, grinding and tasting.
UW: Talks about why things happen and how things work.
FAIR TRADE BAKING
Find out about fair trade and bake cupcakes using Fairtrade ingredients.
- Work with small groups of six children. Explain that you are going to make some chocolate Easter cupcakes using Fairtrade ingredients as follows: 100g margarine, 100g Fairtrade caster sugar, 75g self-raising flour, 25g Fairtrade cocoa powder and 2 eggs.
- Invite the children to help measure out the ingredients, pausing to point out the Fairtrade logo on the sugar and cocoa powder packaging.
- Help the children to cream the margarine and sugar together. Then add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of flour. Finally, sieve in the remainder of the flour and the cocoa powder. Gently fold the mixture together and divide into 6 cupcake cases.
- Bake the cakes for 20 minutes at 180degsC.
- While the cakes are baking read But I Do Know All About Chocolate by Lauren Child (Puffin Books). This Charlie and Lola book produced in aid of Comic Relief is a good starting point for introducing young children to the concept of fair trade.
- Show the children a range of Fairtrade chocolate products and look for the Fairtrade logo on each.
- Explain what makes these products fair trade: the cocoa farmers receive a fair amount of money for their cocoa and a share in the money made from selling the chocolate produce.
- Take the cakes out of the oven and leave them to cool while making the butter cream. Help the children to cream together 50g of softened butter with 100g Fairtrade icing sugar, 1 tbsp Fairtrade cocoa powder and 1 tbsp milk.
- Invite the children to smother their cakes with the buttercream and decorate them with Fairtrade chocolate buttons.
PSED: Shows sensitivity to needs of others - such as other communities around the world.
CL: Is able to follow directions; can listen and do for a short span.
M: Uses everyday language to talk about capacity.
UW: Talks about why things happen and how things work.
SONGS, RHYMES, GAMES
Easter egg hunt
Set up a chocolate Easter egg hunt. Make a set of colourful patterned card eggs and write a positional clue on the back of each egg.
The children should be able to search for the eggs all over the setting and each time they find one the clue should take them to the next. Leave a basket of mini chocolate eggs for them to discover at the end of the trail.
If you fancy a trip out, the National Trust is hosting Cadbury's Easter egg trails at properties all over the country. For more information, go to www.eastereggtrail.com.
Michael Rosen performs his story poem Chocolate Cake on his website at www.michaelrosen.co.uk/myfamily_cake.html. This video is a fantastic example of oral storytelling with sound effects that make the mouth water.
- Make cornflake cakes and explore melting and setting chocolate. Turn them into Easter egg nests by adding some small colourful chocolate eggs.
- Play counting games and make patterns with Smarties, M&Ms or Mini Eggs.
- Have a drink of hot chocolate.
WHAT TO READ AND WATCH
- An animated video about how the cacao tree grows is at www.kew.org/video-galleries/cacao-tree.
- See what happens inside a chocolate factory at www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/18778746.
- Find a photographic explanation of how chocolate is made at www.teachingideas.co.uk/themes/chocolate/howischocolatemade.htm
- For Fairtrade teaching resources, see http://fairtradewales.com/resources.
Chocolates and Sweets to Make by Rebecca Gilpin - simple recipes involving chocolate.
Chocolate: from bean to bar by Anita Ganeri - information book telling how cocoa was discovered and how chocolate is made.
How It's Made: a chocolate bar by Sarah Ridley - information book with a focus on the production of Fairtrade chocolate.
Peter Rabbit Easter Egg Hunt by Beatrix Potter - with liftable flaps and pop-ups.
Love Monster and the Last Chocolate by Rachel Bright - Love Monster finds a box of chocolates on his doorstep.
Little Book of Chocolate by Sarah Kahn and Stephen Lambert - information book with recipes and facts about chocolate.
The Story of the Easter Bunny by Katherine Tegen and Sally Anne Lambert - picture book telling the story of how the Easter Bunny came into being.
Easter by Jan Pienkowski - the story of Easter.
How is chocolate made? Milk; vanilla pods; sugar; pestle and mortar; selection of milk, dark and white chocolate Easter eggs; find videos showing the production of chocolate Easter eggs at www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/how-easter-eggs-are-made/6837.html and www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0979 X6ALPY; source pictures of cocoa trees and equatorial rainforests from books and the internet; buy reasonably priced cocoa beans from www.healthysupplies.co.uk and cocoa nibs and cocoa butter from www.melburyandappleton.co.uk.
Fair trade baking: ingredients listed above, large mixing bowl, wooden spoons, cupcake tin, cupcake cases, Fairtrade chocolate bars, buttons, chocolate spread, cocoa powder, cookies, ice cream, drinking chocolate and Easter eggs.
Marianne Sargent is a writer specialising in early years education and a former foundation stage teacher and primary and early years lecturer.
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