West View 6th-graders use chocolate as currency to learn about culture of civilization

| Thursday, March 7, 2013, 10:03 a.m.

Chocolate was a main ingredient at the Aztec market in West View Elementary School last week.

Another was imagination.

For 76 sixth-graders, textbook lessons and other sources on Latin America's early civilizations transformed into a noisy, colorful Aztec marketplace where, instead of vendors selling wares for money, Nestle Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels served as currency. At some stops, trading was so hot, the money melted.

The event culminated a unit on Latin America in Megan Carey's classroom. A teacher in the district for 18 years, she created the project about a decade ago. Her goal was to bring learning to life.

“They get better and better. The kids take such ownership of the project,” said Carey of Ross, a North Hills alumnus.

For three weeks, students study Aztec culture and invent products that tie into it. They write compositions about their inventions, make paper ponchos decorated with Aztec symbols and create signage for their shops, which are set up on blankets in the school auditorium.

Then, with a little help from parents and siblings, they make or bake the items they will sell.

Because chocolate was such an Aztec delicacy, students peddled chocolate-covered strawberries and pretzels, chocolate-drizzled popcorn balls, brownies and cupcakes.

Kendra Richards, 11, offered chocolate-dipped fruit kabobs of strawberry, pineapple and banana. Her sister helped her skewer the fruit.

Maddie Frazier, 12, constructed edible chocolate temples, layered and hand decorated. She called her dessert stand CaCao Cupcake Heaven.

“The Aztecs had lots of temples,” she explained.

Green icing represented swamps on the edge of Aztec lands. Gold and green decorations called to mind the metal and jade that the culture offered to their gods.

Joey Veneziale, 12, crafted shields.

“It was really fun. It took me a while, but my parents helped,” he said.

Katlyn Imler, 11, marketed wooden plaques painted gold with Aztec symbols representing motion, a house, a knife and a deer, among others.

There were handmade maracas, baskets made of ice-pop sticks, dream-catchers, clay statues, fans, flutes, rain sticks, good-luck charms and lots of beaded bracelets and amulet necklaces.

Before market time was over, the temple cakes at Maddie's CaCao Cupcake Heaven sold out, and so did the 22 headdresses that Ethan Harkness, 11, created.

Each sold for 4 chocolate morsels.

“I'm surprised I sold out,” Ethan said of his construction-paper-and-feather design.

He was pleased, but said of the currency he collected in a plastic bag:

“I won't eat the money. It's been in tons of hands.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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