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Finding a SWEET way to learn
by Elyse Carabello Press and Journal Staff : 3/9/2011

        The fourth and fifth grade students of Cynthia Strachan’s learning support class are excited. You can see it in their smiling faces and you can hear it in their enthusiastic expressions. When Strachan asks the class what ingredients are used for making cookies, one eager voice replies: “Sugar, baking powder and… vanilla abstract.”
        The reason these children are so motivated is because of their current, hands-on entrepreneurial project—The Chocolate Delight Bakery. In short, the children are taking a risk by putting forth a lot of time and money to sell cookies, and ultimately give back to their community. The idea came from Jim Doyle, a graduate student at Shippensburg University. The past couple of years, Doyle taught in Japan. That’s when he came across the book “My Cookie Business,” by Dianne Linderman. Doyle had the class read the book and try the project for themselves. When he came back to America, he met Anna Smith, a guidance counselor at Robert G. Reid Elementary School and discussed the project with her. Smith liked the idea immediately, and decided to implement the program with the fourth and fifth grade learning support class.
        In the beginning, there were some roadblocks the teachers and children faced. They had no idea where they would make the cookies. For a while the teachers were even willing to do the baking themselves. Then the school’s principal, Earl Bright, found a solution. He talked with members of his mother’s church—Wesley United Methodist. The ladies of the church were happy to help out, and soon the church became the kids’ cookie factory.
       “It was overwhelming at first because we had to come up with money, decide on what kind of cookies to make, what logo to have, and who we were going to sell our cookies to,” said Samuel Coughlin, a student in the class. However, the children and teachers overcame these problems together, one step at a time. They began by voting on a name and logo, which the teachers placed on T-shirts so the kids could have “uniforms” for their business. Then they decided to sell their cookies to teachers, staff, and administrators at the school. They made flyers and sent out letters advertising their business, and even managed to obtain a discount on chocolate from the Wilbur Chocolate Co., in Lititz.
        The kids will observe the cookie-making process at the church, but they will package and sell the cookies by themselves. The children decided to make 75 dozen Snickerdoodle and Chocolate Chip cookies, which will be sold for $4 a dozen, or $2.50 for half a dozen. The profits will be donated to the Humane Society. The teachers and aides noticed the overall attitude of the students during this project was high excitement. “The children are all really into it, and it is nice for them to be able to talk to their peers about being a part of something,” said Strachan. Some of the kids said they felt proud of themselves for having their own business, and that it was something new that they got to look forward to in the school year.
        One of the most important aspects of this project was that it allowed the students to work on a variety of skills, officials said. Math, reading, speech, and penmanship were just a few of the skills used. Teachers said it was a fun way for the children to study and get hands-on experience. Coughlin, thinking ahead, said, “This is great because now we have some ideas of how to start a business for the future.” Because this was a multifaceted project, the children were required to research and study a specific career that interested them. The subjects they chose were diverse - professional wrestler, veterinarian, pediatric nurse, teacher, real estate agent, policeman, and musician.
        The teachers are extremely proud of their entrepreneurs, and they feel like it has already been a rewarding experience. “We want to try and continue this next year, and see if we can get the parents a bit more involved,” said Smith. Overall, the Chocolate Delight Bakery seemed to be a sweet way to learn.

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