Something sweet is cooking at Ridgewood’s I.S. 77.
The Greater Ridgewood Youth Council (GRYC) has introduced a flavorful after-school educational program called “From Bean to Bar to Business,” where kids at the middle school learn the ins and outs of producing high-end chocolate creations and the process of learning to create their very own business plan.
The program, which is being funded by the New York State Expanded Learning Time Program, is offered to all the students at I.S. 77. The GRYC has several after-school programs at the school that are funded through New York City.
Rhonda Kave, owner of Roni-Sue’s Chocolate Shop in Manhattan, has teamed up with Rob Monahan, director of education at The GRYC and owner of “Professor Chocolate,” to bring kids this tasty hands-on experience.
“We wanted to do something different with this program,” Monahan said. “I used my background studying chocolate making and chocolatiers to bring the program about. The kids have loved it.”
Over the course of the program, the students have learned all about the cacao bean and how to grind it down in order to make chocolate. They have made chocolate lollipops for Valentine’s Day and Easter, and are currently in the process of making their very own chocolate, which they will mold into bars and be able to taste.
“My favorite part is the way [Rhonda] explained things step by step and learning about chocolate and not just tasting it,” said Stephanie Hernandez, 8th grader at I.S. 77. “I’m excited to see how the chocolate turns out.”
“The most important thing that we learned is that making chocolate is a talent. There is a lot of trial and error,” said Arianna Villanueva, 6th grader at I.S. 77. “I can’t wait to taste our own chocolate because it is the first time we made something step by step. I think it tastes better when you make it yourself.”
Over the next month, students will learn a basic business model, teaching them the intricate process of opening and running a business.
“As part of the program, students are learning about valuable business related skills such as budgeting, ethical workplace practices, branding, promotion and distribution models,” Monahan said. “They are also being exposed to some of the unsavory business practices that exist in different parts of the world specifically related to the cacao trade, often referred to as “The Dark Side of Chocolate.””
This will allow students to see how much work goes into making a chocolate bar from start to finish, then how to take that bar and brand it, market it and sell it.
“I didn’t know how it would be working with kids,” Kave said. “But, they just seemed to really take to it.”
The success of this program at I.S. 77 has inspired Monahan to try and bring it into elementary schools in Elmhurst and Middle Village, he said.