Studying cultural heritage: with chocolate, it’s better

“The greatest tragedies were written by the Greek Sophocles and English Shakespeare. Neither knew chocolate.”

Sandra Boynton

Giving away chocolate as a gift for Valentine’s Day has become a tradition throughout Europe and the world. But where does the sweet delicacy come from, how is it processed and what does it have to do with cultural heritage?

In our eLearning Resources, this topic has been explored by our Italian Partner Sapienza University in Rome. Public and private educational institutions, teachers and other educators can download the open resources, rich with digital cultural heritage objects found in Europeana or provided by partners in the Europeana Food and Drink project.

A pretty maid carrying drinking chocolate on a tray. Stipple Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images A pretty maid carrying drinking chocolate on a tray. Stipple engraving by A. H. Payne after Liotard, c. 1743. 1743 By: Jean-Etienne Liotardafter: Albert Henry PaynePublished: -
A pretty maid carrying drinking chocolate on a tray

1743. The Wellcome Library, London. CC BY 4.0

Food is culture. Food and Drink can help in studying history, or in learning about a different culture; digital cultural heritage objects can be used to increase awareness about food and drink and healthy nutrition.

These interdisciplinary learning activities can be very effective for students, especially for children. Within Europeana Food and Drink, Sapienza University in Rome created a set of open educational resources cooperating with a commercial partner: “Antica Norba”, an old chocolate factory in Italy, near Rome. Antica Norba currently organizes school visits in its “Museo del cioccolato”; teachers participating in these school visits are interested in educational resources to support their activities. “Museo del cioccolato” is in Norma, in Via Capo dell’Acqua, 20.

 How Chocolate is made

How Chocolate is made” is a lesson plan, with information about lesson topic, learning target, educational methods, educative tools that will be used during the lesson, homeworks and assessments. It is rich of digital cultural heritage objects (images, videos) found in Europeana or provided by Museo del Cioccolato.

This lesson plan aims to make students pay more attention to what they eat: to think about the ingredients, how to understand them, and how they are processed to create industrial food products.

In the first part, students learn to read the labels and packaging of chocolate-based foods, with an emphasis on identifying the various ingredients. During this phase, they will be asked to bring to school the labels from chocolate-based products they often consume at home. They will take part in a team quiz, and will be able to discuss what they have learned by looking carefully at food labels. They will be given homework on this theme, with the aim of transferring the skills they have learned into their daily routines, involving their family members as well.

Molinet, used to mix hot chocolate and old kneading machine, Museo del Cioccolato
Molinet, used to mix hot chocolate and old kneading machine, Museo del Cioccolato

In the second phase, students will learn about the production process of chocolate, with reference also to its history: when it was first discovered, who consumed it in previous centuries, and the equipment used to produce it in both the past and the present.

Students who take part in educational trips to the Antica Norba Chocolate Museum will receive this information at the museum; their learning is supported by the various exhibits (see photogallery: exhibits at Museo del Cioccolato).

At the end of this section, students can participate in a quiz, organised into two groups. Hundreds of children participated in this quiz during the ChocoDay event in Norma (LT) on the 11th of October 2015.

Chocolate pot, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain and a sample question from the quiz
Chocolate pot, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain and a sample question from the quiz

The educational resources created by Sapienza University in Rome are distributed in Italian and English language. Everyone can download them; they are published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, so teachers and educators can also modify and redistribute it.


By Emmanuel Mazzucchi, Sapienza University Rome

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