Choco Mania: Fourth-graders in business

What better way for fourth-graders to learn about business than getting their hands a little chocolatey?

Letting out a deep sigh as she paused just a second to push her hair back off her forehead, Olivia Woten says candy making is “way harder” than she thought it would be.

Only an hour into the morning long activity, Olivia said she had already burnt herself seven times. The rubber gloves they had to wear while they were working with confectionary treats made her hands sweaty and the melted chocolate stuck to them and was hard to get off.

It is a job Olivia said she would never want to have when she gets older.

“What did we get ourselves into?” Haley Kantner said out loud. “I thought it would be a lot funner than it is. It’s a lot of work.”

The 75 fourth-graders at Wapakoneta Elementary School  who created their own candy-making business — Choco Mania — realized the importance of what they were learning in class and how those lessons apply to real life on Thursday as they made the candy they would sell.

“It helps show you what it is really like having a business,” Haley said.

Before students could even get their hands into the 120 pounds of melted chocolate used to make the candy, they filled out job applications, voted on a business name and made a contribution of $4 each to buy materials. They studied the economic terms they would apply on the job and will be tested on those today, after the candy making is over.

They plan to sell the treats on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to younger students for 50 cents a bag. Typically, they sell out, with proceeds going toward the school’s service learning project  — the Ronald McDonald House.

They take turns doing the different jobs of getting ready to sell the chocolate and making it, as well as selling and then counting up the profit.

“If demand is good, we get our money back,” Haley said.

The students made a variety of candies and convections — smores, chocolate-covered oreos and pretzels, worms in mud, chocolate-covered marshmallows and crispy cups. This year, in addition to the milk chocolate students have been using to make the treats, they also added white chocolate.

With so many peanut allergies in the school now, the fourth-graders also did away with all the treats they made before which contained peanuts or peanut butter and instead are focusing on some new products.

“We are trying five new different kinds,” said teacher Connie Ferenbaugh, who has headed the hands-on learning project for eight years. “Next year we will narrow it down to which ones sold the best.”

Ferenbaugh said this year, a $500 McDonald’s grant provided for the purchase of some of the necessary supplies — crockpots, mini muffin tins and chocolate — which should allow profits to climb even higher.

With last year’s candy making business earning $600, Ferenbaugh said she is aiming for $1,000 this year. If business is good, students should earn not only the $4 back that they contributed to the project, but an additional $1 in profit sharing.

As students made the candy (some trying hard not to eat it), then packaged and prepared it for sale Thursday morning, they learned about work ethic and what it means to do a job and do it well, Ferenbaugh said.

“They also understand profit,” Ferenbaugh said. “Just because they get money from a customer doesn’t mean it is all profit.”

She said when it comes to tough topics like economics, bringing concepts and terms to life makes it much easier for the students to understand, and it is something they look forward to from the day they enter the fourth grade.

“They actually have to be patient and work together,” Kim Harter, a mother helping with the activity, said. “If they waste chocolate, they lose profit. They have to practice safety or they could get burnt. They are learning the whole time, but having fun.”

Only half-way through the candy making, Isaiah Daniels said it was exhausting and he didn’t know how people do work like this.

Working with his buddies, Wezley Grimm said if even one of them doesn’t do the job right, all their jobs could be in jeopardy and all the candy they made wrong or not look nice.

Mistakes like that could could lead to a business closing, Alex Kohler said.