Dipping salty pretzel rods in warm, melted milk chocolate, a group of fourth-grade girls carefully twisted the pretzels around to make the perfect treat.
The key — not to get too much chocolate on the pretzels — the girls said in unison after some time spent making the confections they plan to sell next week to other Wapakoneta Elementary School students.
Also important are speed and neatness, which don’t always go hand-in-hand in the candy-making business.
Movin’ Grovin’ Chocolate Company is an economics lesson brought to life by several teachers and approximately 70 fourth-grade students at the school.
“We are learning how to do math, how business works, what entrepreneurship, labor and capital are,” Courtney Battista said as she filled a mini-muffin cup with melted chocolate and peanut butter for a peanut butter cup.
As the chocolate dribbled along the tablecloth, Kirsten Flora said the hardest part of the job has been not eating the finished product.
“It’s so tempting,” Kirsten said.
Students each invested $4 to start the company and then must take part in every aspect of the business before eventually selling the candy they have made and receiving what they hope is $1 return on their investment in the end.
At 50 cents a bag, the peanut butter cups, peanut clusters, chocolate-covered marshmallows, chocolate-covered pretzels and chocolate-covered marshmallows the students make from melting 150 pounds of chocolate, have sold out every year to date. This year, the chocolate-covered treats are being sold by appointment to classes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday or until there’s no candy left. Proceeds from the sales go toward the school’s service learning project helping the Ronald McDonald House.
“For economics, we learned about the factors of production, we teach the fourth-graders things they are supposed to learn, but it doesn’t make any sense until they actually see it,” said teacher Connie Ferenbaugh, who has headed the annual project for years.
She said for example, operating their own candy business teaches students about consumable versus capital resources and risk and reward, lessons that can be hard to understand when just reading about them in a textbook.
Students are involved in the business process beginning with filling out a job application, voting on a company name and deciding on advertising slogans, them working every part of the production process, including making each type of candy, quality control, and packaging the treats before they are sold.
Ferenbaugh said economics lessons concluded with a test the day before the candy making began, but the business also incorporates lessons in language arts and other curriculum in different components of the business.
She said many of the students when reflecting on the day also will have learned that they want to go to college and work hard in school to get the best job they can as they have learned how hard manual labor can be.
Lessons learned aren’t always about school subjects either. Ferenbaugh said some of the most important lessons students figure out is how to work well together, follow directions and take pride in their work.
Mothers, fathers and grandparents come in to help with the project and can be heard throughout the day talking with students about lessons they are learning. Many of the students also will then go home and talk about it with their parents there.
“I know I will have to work hard when I get older,” Kaitlin Krebs said Thursday as she made candy. “This is hard work.”